University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Postgraduate Course: People First: The Anthropology of International Development (SCAN11027)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryMuch of international development is approached in terms of what organizations can do to help people living in precarious and impoverished circumstances. From development theories and policies to organizational forms and product innovations, the complexity of approaches makes it easy to lose sight of the human element. How are development projects understood and experienced by their participants designers, leaders, implementers, and recipients alike? What are the ethnographic realities in which these interventions play out? In what ways do people seek to improve their own lives and livelihoods?

In People First, our primary objective is to understand the structural contexts and contingent elements that surround the making (and unmaking) of development projects around the world. To do so, we will bring key anthropological concepts from patronage, expertise, and power to money, gifts, and debt to bear on practices of state-led development, market-driven approaches, and third-sector endeavors. The ethnographic readings in the course offer a pathway for students to understand development from an emic perspective through the eyes of people who experience poverty, inequality, and exclusion. These materials will force us to confront the question of: How do our views of development change once we view the industry from the perspective of people who are its objects and targets?
Course description 1. Academic description
This course will introduce students to perspectives on development from anthropology, sociology, critical feminist studies, and geography, and to studies of development projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. The course is built around weekly ethnographic studies drawn from diverse global contexts and focused on specific examples. The course will use a variety of research-led teaching and learning techniques, applying critical pedagogical approaches and building key skills to apply innovative research methods. Weekly interactive workshops will encourage lateral analysis across themes and across ethnographic contexts and will encourage team building across the cohort.

2. Course structure
Week 1: Introduction to the Anthropology of Development: Why are People Poor?
Week 2: Place and Space: Where does Development Happen?
Week 3: Money and Debt: Is it Even a Question of Money?
Week 4: Marginality and Exclusion: Why do Some People Struggle?
Week 5: Work and Labour: Why do People Work?
Week 6: The Market: Can I Sell It?
Week 7: The Gift and Moralities of Exchange: Why do People Give?
Week 8: Discourse and Knowledge: Why are Some People Experts?
Week 9: Materiality and Technology: Is Technology the Solution?
Week 10: Ethics: What Makes Development Good?

3. Student learning experience
1-hour lectures will introduce the weeks key anthropological concepts and their application. They are driven by a central question, such as: Why are people poor?, Where does development happen?, and Is technology the solution? These questions will be explored through analyzing up-to-date news items in international development. They will be grounded in a key ethnographic text that explores the perspectives of people targeted by development programs. Each week will also identify a key methodological point important for research in development contexts, which the students will be asked to reflect upon in relation to their own future dissertation projects. App-mediated crowd sourcing of key concepts and questions during lecture will identify the content for discussion in each weeks workshops.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  100
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1. Short essay 25%, 1000 words. Book review of any one of the courses key texts.
2. Long essay 65% 2500 words). Analyze a real-world development project of your choice, using a minimum of three anthropological concepts from the course.
3. Wiki posts/participation (10%): Short paragraphs (100-200 words) analysing a key concept per week, generated in groups during weekly workshops and uploaded to the courses wiki.
Feedback Feedback for the short essay will be returned online via ELMA.
Feedback for the long essay will be returned online via ELMA.
Feedback on group wiki posts will be provided on a weekly basis.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critical awareness and extensive knowledge of key concepts and debates in the anthropology of development
  2. In-depth understanding of the power relationships and socio-structural features that underpin poverty and inequality in micro and macro contexts
  3. Ability to critically analyze and evaluate development projects initiated by governments, international finance organizations, development agencies, social enterprises, NGOs, and rural communities
  4. Ability to identify and effectively navigate methodological and ethical complexities of research in the field of international development and of applied anthropology in development
Reading List
Ferguson, James. 2015. Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution. Durham: Duke University Press.
Li, Tanya Murray. 2014. Lands End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier. Durham: Duke University Press.
Schuster, Caroline. 2015. Social collateral: women and microfinance in Paraguays smuggling economy. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Yeh, Emily. 2013. Taming Tibet: The Gift of Chinese Development. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

(Draft syllabus available for review)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students will be equipped with new skills in:

1. Synthesizing and analyzing empirical and theoretical materials from a variety of sources, with particular emphasis on lateral thinking.
2. Examining, using, and assessing evidence in support of explanatory and normative claims.
3. Developing and evaluating arguments that take different kinds of social complexity into account.
4. Exercising informed independent thought and critical judgment.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Juli Huang
Course secretaryMiss Kate Ferguson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5122
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information