Geographies of Global Development

Geography 2500 - Fall 2014

This course examines the multi-faceted process of social, cultural and political-economic change commonly known as “development.”

We will explore a number of theories that claim to explain how and where development occurs. We will ask why, for example, certain regions of the world collectively known as “developing countries” or “the third world” have come to experience conditions of crushing poverty while other areas have prospered. How should we define development? Is it something that can be measured objectively? Are there universal standards of development (do all people have rights to have certain basic needs met?), or is development better understood as a relative concept, contingent upon historical and geographical circumstances? What is the relationship between rich countries and poor, and how have links between different parts of the world changed over time? Who is it, exactly, that brokers the terms of that relationship? What kinds of institutions are involved in the process of development, and what ideas motivate their actions? How have these ideas influenced approaches to entrenched problems such as food shortages, the spread of disease, and environmental degradation? How successful have development programs been in serving the needs of people from different backgrounds marked by gender, ethnicity, caste, class or nationality? Why, in short, have efforts to bring about improvements in the general human condition been so uneven and incomplete?