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    Examines the different approaches to development theory and the development industry, since 1945. Modernist, neo-Marxist, neo-liberal, and ‘post-development’ perspectives are used to assess strengths and weaknesses of contemporary development processes.

    GEOG 401 is one of three required papers in the 180 point, 12 month Coursework Master of International Development and Planning. In this course, 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 modernize 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 low and middle income countries. Contemporary global challenges include issues of inequality, environmental sustainability and empowerment. In this course, 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. The paper is also available to first year students taking other MA and Postgraduate Diploma programmes.

    About this paper

    Paper title Theories of Development
    Subject Geography
    EFTS 0.1667
    Points 20 points
    Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,448.79
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

    The content of this paper assumes that students will have completed a degree in Social or Environmental Science or another relevant degree.

    Please contact Associate Professor Douglas Hill for more information on the recommended background for this paper.


    Teaching staff

    Course Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Douglas Hill

    Paper Structure

    Course introduction 

    Part 1: Genealogies of development theory 

    • The discursive construction of development in low and middle income countries 
    • Development theory, neoliberalism and post-development 
    • Poverty reduction, Empowerment and Participation 
    • Gender and Development Practice

    Part 2: New Zealand's Development Cooperation in the Pacific  

    • Aotearoa as a development partner Development  
    • Partnerships in the Pacific 
    • Decolonisation and locally-led Development 

    Part 3: Issues in Development Policy and Practice: 

    • Planning Cities  
    • Water and Urban areas 
    • Housing  
    Teaching Arrangements

    The paper is taught through weekly seminars and discussion based on published literature, internet sources and video sources.


    Textbooks are not required for this paper. Directed reading and a detailed list of key sources will be given prior to the first meeting.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Global perspective, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    On successful completion of GEOG 401, students will:

    • Demonstrate an understanding of the background context for debates that have informed contemporary development theory and how these have translated into contemporary development policies and practices
    • Be able to analyse how development theory impacts upon how development professionals and policymakers respond to a range of different issues such as gender, economic policy, participation, urban planning, housing, and environmental management
    • Have advanced communication, research and writing skills


    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Wednesday 14:00-15:50 9-13, 15-22
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