History 87 Development and Modern Africa

This is the latest version of this course that I’ve taught. I still need to make some of the specific selections of reading material on a number of these texts: I’m trying to get small but potent samples of a number of writers and perspectives. I keep being struck at how hard it is to get a really concentrated and short reading that reflects the postmodernist critique of progress, save through its application in critiques of “development discourse” in Week Eight of this class.

I’m also still weighing the specific issues to examine at the end of the semester. I’m happy with the quality of materials I can draw on with regard to wildlife management and conservation, HIV-AIDS, and cellphones. The river blindness literature is pretty dry, but since it’s an interestingly “successful” campaign, I’d like to include it. Other suggestions of specific topics are welcome, since even if I don’t focus on them through readings, I’ll add them to the list of suggested research topics.

This syllabus is also a pretty good snapshot of something I try very hard to do in a lot of classes, which is to keep both “postmodernist” or theoretical approaches and pragmatic or practicioner approaches to a topic like “development” in the same frame without subordinating one to the other. Usually, it seems to me, the “development discourse” crowd sets up the discussion in a kind of master framework in which the character of development as discourse is a kind of axiomatic given, but the reply from within the debate among people invested from development is just as unsatisfying, a kind of shrug and dismissal. It seems to me that you can consider development as a concept which has a deep and often poorly understood set of intellectual and institutional roots without assuming that this investigation exposes development as a “construct” whose internal premises no longer need to be debated in an open-ended or sympathetic manner.

History 87
Development and Modern Africa
Spring 2007
Professor Burke

This course is an intellectual and institutional history of “development” and its application to Africa since the late 19th Century. We will examine both concepts and practices of development historically in order to gain perspective on contemporary debates between practicioners, reformers, and skeptics about the prospects and meaning of “development” in 21st Century Africa.

The reading load for the course is fairly heavy and will require attentive management. Students will complete two short response papers early in the semester and then move towards working in stages on a longer research assignment in the second half of the semester. We will have “poster sessions” in which students will present abbreviated overviews of their research in the final two class meetings of the semester. The course is built around discussion, and as a result, class attendance and participation are also an important part of the assessment of student performance.

Books for purchase

Monica van Beusekom, Negotiating Development
Walter Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth
Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts
George Packer, The Village of Waiting
Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty
William Easterly, White Man’s Burden

Week 1
Progress as an Idea
Robert Nisbet, History of the Idea of Progress, selection
J.B. Bury, The Idea of Progress, selection
Marshall Berman, “Faust: The First Developer”, in Rahnema, ed., The Post-Development Reader
Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics, short selection

Week 2
18th and 19th Century Visions of Progress
Short selections from Condorcet, Turgot, Kant, Smith, Marx, Spencer, Mill, and Darwin

Week 3
Critics of Progress in the Counter-Enlightenment
Short selections from Edmund Burke, Thomas Carlyle, Thomas Malthus
Kevin Binfield, ed., Writings of the Luddites
Darrin McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightenment, short selection
Neil Postman, Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century, Chapter 2

Response paper #1 on “progress” due at the beginning of class.

Week 4
Colonial Visions of Development
John Seeley, The Expansion of England, selection
Frederick Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, selection
Charles Rey, Monarch of All I Survey, selection
“Mister Johnson”

Week 5
Colonialism and the Origins of the Developmental State
Monica Van Beusekom, Negotiating Development, all
Frederick Cooper, Africa Since 1940, Chapter Three
Michael Mahoney, “Colonial and Anticolonial Development Ideologies in Mozambique, 1930-1977”, in David Engerman, Staging Growth: Modernization, Development and the Global Cold War

Week 6
Modernization Theory, Dependency Theory and Postwar Development
Walter Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth
Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future, Chapter 1
Michael Adas, “Modernization Theory and the American Revival of the Scientific and Technological Standards of Social Achievement and Human Progress”, in David Engerman, Staging Growth: Modernization, Development and the Global Cold War
Colin Leys, The Rise and Fall of Development Theory, Chapter 1
United Nations, “Declaration on Social Progress and Development”, 1969

Response paper #2 due at the beginning of class

Week 7
Structural Adjustment, Neoliberalism and African Economic Decline
James Ferguson, Expectations of Modernity

Week 8
Development as Discourse
Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts, all
Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz, Africa Works, Chapter Nine
Arturo Escobar, “The Making and Unmaking of the Third World Through Development”, in Rahnema, ed., The Post-Development Reader
Wolfgang Sachs, ed., The Development Dictionary, short selection

Topic for research paper due

Week 9
Experiences of Development
George Packer, The Village of Waiting, all
Deborah Scroggins, Emma’s War, selection
Michael Maren, The Road to Hell, Chapter 1-3
Robert Klitgaard, Tropical Gangsters, Chapter Six

Week 10
Experiences of Development II
Daniel Smith, A Culture of Corruption
Harry West, Kupilikula, Chapter 25
Adam Ashforth, Witchcraft, Violence and Democracy in South Africa, Chapter 4
Donald Moore, Suffering For Territory: Race, Place and Power in Zimbabwe, Chapter 2

Week 11
Optimists and Practicioners
Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty, all
Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, short selection
World Bank, World Development Report 2003: Sustainable Development in a Dynamic World, selection
Francis Rubin, A Basic Guide to Evaluation For Development Workers, short selection
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital, short selection

Initial bibliography for research paper due

Week 12
Pessimists and Critics
William Easterly, White Man’s Burden, all
Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, selection
“Darwin’s Nightmare”

Abstract and 1-page literature review essay due.

Week 13
Topics I: HIV-AIDS, wildlife management; student presentations

Week 14
Topics II: Cellphones and rural markets, river blindness; student presentations

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10 Responses to History 87 Development and Modern Africa

  1. janegalt says:

    Is there a reason that you’re using White Man’s Burden instead of The Elusive Quest for Growth? In my opinion, the former is rather more comprehensive, though slightly less Africa-focused.

    Suggest you look at Emily Oster’s work for your HIV/AIDS section. Though I’m sure you already have.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    Yes, I’m planning to use Oster in that week, along with a book by Catherine Campbell.

    I just think White Man’s Burden is a sharper polemical reply to Sachs et al. Might make for a better discussion as a result. We’ll see–I used Elusive Quest for Growth last time.

  3. cjlee says:

    James Ferguson is absent. Maybe he could replace someone (Mahoney?) for Week 6? I’m thinking specifically of Chapter 2 “Expectations of Permanence” of _Expectations of Modernity_. A useful aspect of his text is his coverage of the colonial and postcolonial periods.

  4. Timothy Burke says:

    Yes, I should really. There’s so much of Ferguson here in the course intellectually. In past iterations, I’ve assigned both parts of Anti-Politics Machine and Expectations of Modernity. I’m toying with making the second response paper exclusively built around a review essay/commentary on Ferguson. The Mahoney I like because it comes back again in West’s Kupilikula.

  5. jpool says:

    Nice course and the sections that I might think of other things for are already full to bursting with good stuff. That said, I’m not familiar with all of the titles, but I’m struck by the aparent lack of material on public health campaigns during colonial period. Maybe something like Randall Packard’s overview essay in the book that he and Fred Cooper edited on development and the social sciences. It also might be useful to have something on African land management systems or more generally on precolonial environmental history (Harms’ Games against Nature is the first thing that comes to mind, though there may well be other texts that work better) in order to complicate the picture of development as something that happens to Africans.

  6. Ivory says:

    There’s a pretty recent book about global disease irradication campaigns – they talk about the specific challenges of doing anything in Africa in the context of the malaria campaign of the 50’s and 60’s, the small pox irradication effort and finally the irradication campaign for polio.

    Global Disease Eradication: the Race for the Last Child
    Author: Cynthia A. Needham and Richard Canning
    Book ISBN or Item Number: 1-55581-225-2

    Not sure if this fits what you’re trying to do but the book is an easy read and it is useful to compare the sucessful campaign against small pox with the failure to irradicate malaria and the on-going efforts to eliminate polio. Africa continues to be the most challenging place to run irradication campaigns.

  7. Ivory says:

    And I appear not to be able to spell but I’m sure you can figure this all out (sigh). It’s been a long semester.

  8. SamChevre says:

    I’m a total non-expert here, but I wonder if the topic of “development” could be more helpfully explored in a more familiar setting. In other words, talk about “development” as it happened in the US briefly, so that there is a fairly concrete understanding of “what changed” and “what were the objections” before looking at the same questions in Africa.

    If you wanted to do that, I would look at the Nashville Agrarians and/or Wendell Berry as the “anti-development” arguers.

  9. John Montague says:

    For your Week 1, you could check out Sophie Bessis’ “Western Supremacy”. It’s an accessible intro to the history of hegemonic discourse, without jargon.

    As a way of bridging Weeks 8 and 9, and meeting the concerns of your final paragraph, there’s JP Olivier de Sardan’s “Anthropology and Development”, which does a very good job on what one might call epistemological praxis.

    You might like to supplement Smith with a selection from “Everyday Corruption and the State” by Giorgio Blundo et al.

    Anyway, it looks like an excellent course. I think I’d enjoy the upbeat ending if I was taking it myself.

  10. Kate says:

    I really like your efforts to integrate (or at least balance) “development as discourse” and “practitioner” perspectives. I’ve hopped back and forth between academia (mostly Latin American history) and health and community development work a couple of times, and I find it remarkable how little the two professional communities and bodies of literature speak to each other most of the time.

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