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Gender, Imperialism and International Development

‘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 here? When is it collapsed to mean just women, with or without paying attention to differences between women? 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? What does it mean to target men as a resource for gender and development, as in the UN HeforShe campaign? This module fosters your comprehensive, critical and advanced knowledge of theoretical approaches to gender and development, taking apart the concepts, considering their history and thinking about what they mean to us.

We start by locating gender and development within a history of colonialism, imperialism and orientalism. How have gender relations shaped and been shaped by colonialism? Has western feminism been able to resist orientalist ideas about ‘modernity’ and ‘backwardness’? We then look critically at some quantitative measures of gendered development today, including the 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 then set up our political context, and through country case studies presented by you in class, explore the importance of political movements for gender equality, (nobody is just waiting around for change to arrive!). We then explore the main theories in the development field and how they have been gendered, looking in turn at modernisation theory, dependency theory, environmentalism, and post-development thinking. Finally, we consider approaches to gender and development based around the concepts of human rights, capabilities and justice; these bring us back to our original questions about what constitutes development and what a gendered approach to it might be.

We use an informal teaching and learning style over the two-hour weekly sessions, with some mini-lectures together with group-presentations, role plays, debates, mind-mapping and other activities, alongside discussing core readings. You’ll be stimulated to work collaboratively to capitalise on your skills and experience and to be ‘thinking by doing’. Your assessment is a 3,300 word essay (85%), and a 700 word (approximate) group presentation (15%).