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Political Science 260

Decolonizing Development: The Politics of Progress

Credits: 3

Length of Course: 14 weeks

Classroom hours per week: 4 hours

Prerequisite: PSCI 100 (Introduction to Political Science) or PSCI 202 (Introduction to Comparative Politics or SOCI 250 (Comparative Ethnic Relations)

Corequisite: English 100

Text: Development as Freedom. Sen, Amartya. 1999. Oxford, UK

North and South in the World Political Economy. Thompson, William R. 2009. New Jersey, USA

Democratic Trajectories in Africa: Unravelling the Impact of Foreign Aid. Resnick, Danielle. 2013. Oxford, UK.

Poverty and Governance in South Asia. Parnini, Syeda. 2014. New York, USA

Course Description:

Who, what and where is the “third world”, the “developing” world, the poor? Stories of the “third world,” or of the “global south,” paint a grim reality of: corrupt politicians living off of foreign aid in countries starved by drought, state-sponsored land mafias threatening farmers to give up their properties, informal settlements (slums) burned down to make room for luxury condos, and Indigenous and rural populations displaced for extractive resource projects. This course will trace the historical origins of the gap between the rich and the poor back to the era of colonization and empire. Has colonialism really ended? What happened to the dreams of national liberation leaders, such as Bhagat Singh, Amilcar Cabral or Frantz Fanon, of building a society where the poor and the vulnerable will be taken care of? How are communities of the Global South taking care of their own needs, how do they understand progress? This course will provide basic training in post-colonialism as a research approach and other qualitative methods in political science to help you explore how colonial histories of violence continue to shape the landscapes, political structures and relationships of the present. We will center the voices, stories, histories and political critiques of post-colonial peoples, the “subjects of empire”, as authorities of defining what is development/progress. This approach will also help you map the stories that brought colonialism to African, South-Asian and Latin American shores onto present-day discourses of bringing development and progress to the “third-world.” 

The course has 4 major sections: 1) Methodology, 2) Historical Context, 3) Setting up the Problem in a Modern Context and 4) Decolonial/Grassroots Approaches to Development. Building on the ideas and concepts introduced in previous courses, this course will introduce students to the foundational concepts and theoretical underpinnings of the history of European colonialism, the ideology of progress and the politics of development. Every week, there will be an interactive opportunity for students to learn and apply basic interpretative/qualitative methods in political science to different types of political discourses to deepen their critical thinking and writing skills.The breadth of course content will examine dominant paradigms/models in development policy, their historical origins and critical challenges from a bottom-up perspective. In the final section of the course, students will examine how post-colonial societies frame development and progress in response to contemporary problems of governance, sustainability and inequality caused by the north/south gap.  In addition to traditional methods training, students will experiment with different mediums such as social media marketing/content design, policy briefs and NGO grant writing/proposals to explore different dimensions of the field of development as a career.

To support students in critically engaging with the different discourses on development, this course train you in:

1) Interpretative/qualitative methods in political science (discourse analysis, content analysis and archival analysis) and
2) Post-Colonialism as an approach to research. We will be applying these methods throughout the course to analyze state-level discourses (policies, speeches, political documents etc.) and the writings/actions of political actors (revolutionary leaders, presidents, NGOs, civil society, social movements etc.) 

Course Outline:

PART 1  Methods
Week 1 Learning Methodologies and Post-Colonialism as a Research Approach
PART 2 Historical Context
Week 2 The Era of Empire (16th Century-20th Century): Industry and Progress in the Context of Colonization (Case: British Raj + The Scramble for Africa)
Week 3 Decolonization and the Era of National Independence (World War II-1950s)
Week 4 Democratization, International Foreign Aid and Post-Conflict societies
PART 3 Setting up the Problem: The Global/South Gap
Week 5 Competing and Complementary Narratives: From First/Third world, to Core/Periphery, to Urban/Rural to Global South/North Gap
Week 6 Capitalist Development and Democracy
Week 7 Inequality, Violence and Insurgency
Week 8 Development as Freedom
Week 9 Comparative Development and the Role of Institutions
PART 4 Participatory and Decolonial Grassroots Approaches to Development 
Week 10 Inclusive Development: Migrant Workers, Borders and Refugees
Week 11

Social Movements, Peasant uprisings and NGOization of feminism in the Global South

Week 12 Indigenous Peoples Resistance to Extractive Resource Projects
Week 13 Sustainability, Climate change and the Global South
Week 14 Final Exam


In-Class Group Work/Participation 10%
Project 20%
Assignments 25%
Midterm 20%
Final Examination



Matt Wadsworth, PhD (ABD); MPA

Transferability: see