Through development studies, we seek to bring a critical perspective to applied real world problems, and the policies, programmes and practices behind these. We particularly aim to understand the interconnections between global, regional, national and local processes of change.
Because real life is complex, development studies brings together diverse disciplines. With roots in anthropology, economics, sociology, politics and geography, it may also combine with others such as psychology, law, management, natural science, history, agriculture or engineering.
Development research aims to build partnerships between the people most directly affected by social, economic, technological and environmental change, and academics, policy-makers and practitioners. Equitable collaboration between those based in the global South and global North is particularly important. Working in partnership leads to more insightful and creative theory and more sustainable and equitable practice.
The BRP recognises that Development Studies is a heavily contested field, and we seek ways to progress the discipline by providing a space for ongoing and inclusive dialogue and debate about the complex nature of development – what it is, what diverse actors think it should be, and how to get there.Characteristics of Development Studies Program:
Development Studies is oriented towards improving the tools, practices and policies of development in a normative and intentional sense, as well as towards critique of these tools, practices, policies and of the broader processes of change. Development Studies also entails critical reflection on the goals of development and the way it is implemented in aid of better policy, approaches and outcomes.
Development Studies is interdisciplinary, co-constituted through disciplines such as Law, Anthropology, Sociology, Gender, Economics, Political Science and International Relations, Human Geography, Critical Historical Studies, Environmental Humanities, Indigenous Studies, and Decolonial and Postcolonial studies as well as some of the technical and natural sciences. Engagement across these disciplines adds to the methodological and theoretical rigour of Development Studies.
Development Studies is contested not least because development is contested. The project of development has been used, among other things, to justify colonial rule, through the expropriation of lands and other resources, and has been integral to the expansion of economic structures that have benefitted the Global North at the expense of the Global South. At the same time, the Global South has resisted aspects of development, for instance through a South-South Cooperation agenda. Overall development interventions have increased human well-being on a global scale (although unevenly), while ongoing inequality, deprivation and suffering still demand action. The heavy toll of development on the environment, including land, forests, water, plants, animals and the climate, has become a critical concern in Development Studies.
Development raises questions of power. Power is recognised in Development Studies as not just material power but also embedded in knowledge and practices. BRP provides space for dialogue to continually rethink and extend our understandings of the political and social nature of development.
Genuine partnerships are critical for Development Studies, which necessarily starts from an acknowledgement of the unequal power relations between the Global North and Global South and relations of solidarity within the Global South. Partnerships are not limited to North-South relations and have always included South-South cooperation and multi-scalar exchanges within both high and low-income countries. Development Studies aspires to the production of knowledge in collaboration with people and organisations.
Development takes place at different geographic scales, from bottom-up, small-scale projects in local communities, to larger-scale projects of national significance, through to multi-national initiatives. These may involve small, localised groups of community members, state or national governments, national or international non-government organisations, through to bi-lateral and multi-lateral organisations. Development practitioners and development studies academics work at all of these locales and scales.
To deal with the complexities of development processes, graduates in development studies should be able to carry out policy and practice focused analyses and academic research on a range of topics, using appropriate conceptual frameworks. They must apply concepts and methods from relevant disciplines with scientific rigor.
Graduates must be able to select and apply relevant methods for collecting, interpreting and assessing (qualitative and quantitative) information on development processes and their impacts, including knowledge and experience from a range of sources. They must be able to operate intelligently and ethically in situations of incomplete or inaccurate information.
They must be able to communicate the results of their research and their methodology to audiences ranging from academics and policy makers to local communities and civil society organisations. They also need to consider how to engage these stakeholders in following up the research.
Why does economic growth so often bring greater inequality?
Can standards of living improve without costing the earth?
What will happen to jobs in the digital revolution?
How does race, gender, age, ethnicity or sexual identity make a difference to the impact of policies or programmes?
Why is authoritarian nationalism on the rise, and what can be done about it?
How should international migration be managed?
If these are the kinds of questions that interest you, then development studies might be the subject for you.