Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

DEVS401 Theories of Development

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
Find out which papers are available and how to apply on our COVID-19 website

The study of development theory and the development industry, particularly since World War Two. Modernist, Marxist, neo-liberal, grassroots and ‘post-development’ perspectives are used to question the strengths and weaknesses of development processes.

In this paper we examine the many strands of development theory and how they have changed across time and space. While initially development theory focused on how ex-colonies, or the developing world, could modernise and replicate the experience of the Western world, in the contemporary era there are now a whole range of different theoretical perspectives that we can use to understand the experiences and aspirations of people living in the global South. Contemporary global challenges include issues of inequality, environmental sustainability and empowerment. In this paper, we focus on case studies that examine the role of development theory from the perspective of gender, expert knowledge, participation and environmental management among other debates.

One of the most interesting things about a paper in development theory is that we are drawing from a range of different disciplines in order to understand different ways of approaching the subject matter. The paper is designed to be accessible, and by the end of it students will feel comfortable reading across the interdisciplinary field of development studies.

Paper title Theories of Development
Paper code DEVS401
Subject Development Studies
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2019, expected to be offered in 2020
Domestic Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for 2019 have not yet been set
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

^ Top of page

72 300-level points
Limited to
MA, PGDipArts
Teaching staff
To be advised.
Paper Structure
The paper begins with an overview of the different traditions in development theory, including an introduction to post-development, which has emerged over the past two decades as one of the most interesting and exciting approaches to thinking about people, power and the development industry.

The paper is based around one 2-hour seminar session per week. The sessions will alternate in style but will usually follow an informed discussion-style format. Students will be expected to undertake research and/or readings each week before the sessions and contribute their perspectives within class. Self-directed research for the assessment exercises will need to be conducted outside class time.
There is no set textbook for this paper. Instead, there is a course reader that contains recommended readings for each week. A range of other resources will also be utilised throughout the paper.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global Perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Research, Self-Motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will
  • Be introduced to the background debates that have informed contemporary development theory
  • Explore how we might deploy development theory to understand a range of different areas, such as gender, economics, participation, environmental management and the global justice movement
  • Develop communication, research and writing skills

^ Top of page


Not offered in 2019, expected to be offered in 2020

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system