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Gender, Imperialism and International Development (SO923)

‘Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance’

(Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General).

How is the concept of gender invoked? When is it collapsed to mean just women, with or without paying attention to differences between women? And when is it used to refer to both men and women, with or without the problematic idea that men are the ‘standard’ that women have to be brought up to? As the UN HeforShe campaign, launched by Emma Watson, makes clear, men are the new resource being targeted in the name of gender equality, so we’ll be asking what does this all mean? This module will foster your comprehensive, critical and advanced knowledge of theoretical approaches to gender and development. We will take apart the concepts of gender and of development, looking at the debate and challenges that they pose, and thinking about what they mean to us.

This module will help you to locate gender and development within a history of colonialism, imperialism and orientalism, asking how gender relations have shaped and been shaped by colonialism; how contemporary forms of western imperialism invoke ideas about gender; and how far western feminism has been able to resist orientalist ideas about a ‘modern’ west and a ‘backward’ east. We will also look critically at some of the measures of gendered development today, including the GDI, GEM, Millennium Development Goals and the new Sustainable Development Goals. As well as practising interpreting statistics, you’ll ask who decides what counts enough to be measured and how it should be measured, using gender-based violence as an international case study. We’ll then set up our political context, and through four country case studies from around the world, you’ll explore the importance of political movements for gender equality (nobody is just passively waiting around for gender and development to arrive!).

You’ll also explore the main theories in the development field and how they have been gendered, looking at modernisation theory, dependency theory, environmentalism, and post-development thinking. Finally, you will consider approaches to gender and development based around the concepts of human rights, capabilities and justice, and work to bring us back to our original questions about what constitutes development and what the implications of this question are for a gendered approach to it.

We use an informal teaching and learning style over the two-hour weekly session, with some mini-lectures together with group-presentations, role plays, debates, mind-mapping and other activities. You’ll be stimulated to work collaboratively to capitalise on your skills and to be ‘thinking by doing’. The module is assessed through a 4000-word essay and individual tutorials are offered before the end of term so you can discuss your essay plans.

Gender, Imperialism and International Development

Module Director:

Dr. Caroline Wright


This module is worth 20 CATS.

‘We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled’

(Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador).