Bader International Study Centre


at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.



at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.

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DEVS 240/3.0 Culture and Development

Instructor: Dr. Barbara Holler

Course Description

This course explores how development practices and ideas are embedded in cultural contexts across the globe.  A core argument is that the development industry is historically and culturally entangled in Western conceptions of progress, rationality, and the individual.  From this viewpoint, culture, as tradition, has often been understood to impede development.  However, a more critical strand within social science, and development theory, has long argued that the dominant Western ideas about individual maximisation, and technocratic solutions exacerbate the inequalities and poverty that make development necessary in the first place.  The course seeks to look beyond development as wealth creation, to consider the different meanings that are brought into the development arena, and the way these inform orientations and interactions ‘on the ground.’  Questions of power and cultural relativism inevitably arise: what happens when different interests and commitments collide, and who or what determines the course development interventions take? 

Expected Learning Outcomes

In this course, students will develop:

  • an awareness of different theoretical approaches to culture
  • an awareness of the relationship between culture and development
  • knowledge of anthropological contributions to development 

At the end of the course, students will be able to:  

  • critically evaluate and analyse texts, and identify key debates 
  • understand the implications for policy, academic work and social activism that different theories of development imply in the context of debates around culture
  • explore the power relations-local, national and global-that shape the creation and further the propagation of the concept of culture
Field Studies

Field studies include a visit to the Brighton Royal Pavilion and Art Gallery in Brighton. Exploring the contested nature of ‘culture’ is at the heart of this course. During WEEK ONE I am asking you to consider the following idea that in order to better understand the tensions and varied understandings associated with ‘culture’ there is a need to firmly place the term into a specific time period. While notions of cultural superiority have existed throughout time and space emerging global processes of white Anglo-Saxon assumptions about other cultures can be explored first-hand in the Brighton Royal Pavilion. While it has been described as an oriental fantasy its history and connection to understandings of ‘culture’ are more complex. It at once embodies ideas of the ‘other’ that are in some instances to be found in contemporary discourses on global development. At the same time the use of the Pavilion as a temporary, military hospital for Imperial Indian Army during World War I further highlights its storied and complex history. Here you would be engaged with deconstructing the various shifting meanings of culture and be able to understand ‘culture’ not as a static concept but a process. Examining ‘culture’ visually and through material culture you will be encouraged to allow theory become part of your daily engagement with concepts and cultural processes.

The second field study will take place in WEEK THREE of the term. Here students will participate in a workshop conducted at the Mass Observation Archive located at the Keep, Brighton. The Mass Observation Archive is made up of various types of material collected both in the early period (1937 to mid-1950s) and the current project (1981 onwards). Here you will be encouraged to explore the various implications of culture in the context of development. For example diary entries dealing with war and development, gender and development, etc. are all part of the collections at the MOA.  You will engage and work with original research material connected to a variety of culture-specific contexts that will further your understanding of the theoretical concept and will help you to engage with the topic in a less abstract manner.

Primary Research Expectations

Students in DEVS 240 are expected to engage critically with the reading material provided for this course and contained both in this document and located on Moodle. While lectures and readings provide a broad theoretical framework in which discourses of global development are placed, seminar discussions and field visits encourage an in-depth exploration of practical implications of these theories. Because Global Development Studies is a truly inter-disciplinary course a central requirement is a focus on reading a wide range of background information covering a broad range of subjects, including, History, Gender Studies, Anthropology, Economics, Political Science and Sociology. The use of primary research material located both in the Royal Pavilion and the Mass Observation Archive in Brighton will provide students with the possibility to learn how to analyze and evaluate primary research data.


Students are required to attend all lectures and seminars. 

Learning Diary: This is an ongoing account of both experience and understanding of the issues raised during the course. The intention here is that students reflect on the process of learning as it happens and therefore learn not only more about development studies but also more about critical learning processes. The learning diary is due at the last day of class in the Winter term. The weekly journal entries are not to exceed 600 words. The learning journal constitutes 60% of the overall grade.

Field Studies Assignments: There will be two field studies assignments, namely a report to be prepared in the Winter term 2014. The due date for Field Study report 1 is Week 2. The second Field Study report is due in Week 4. Each Field Study report will constitute 10% of the overall grade, making for a combined total of 20% of the overall grade. Each field report will not exceed three double-spaced pages, excluding bibliography. Each report can be presented in written form or as a prezi, powerpoint, infograph, map, etc.

Attendance and Participation: Students are expected to attend all lectures and seminars. Students are also expected to read the week’s required readings in preparation of each weekly lecture, and be prepared to discuss these during the seminars. The mark in this area will clearly reflect degrees of participation and critical engagement with the readings and with fellow classmates. This will make up 20% of the overall grade