TAFACDP75U Thematic course: Critical Development Planning and Policy: Africa Focus

Volume 2019/2020

MA programme in African Studies


This course aims to provide students with a combination of critical analytical and practical skills for engaging with the challenges of development planning and policy analysis in relation to African contexts. It will include at least three dimensions: firstly, it will introduce critical theoretical approaches to the very notion of doing ‘development’,  to the study of policy, and to the politics of planning; secondly, it will prepare students for analysing different kinds of development planning and policies in their historical-political-social-economic contexts; and thirdly, it will provide students with critically reflective yet practical skills for planning concrete development projects and undertaking critical readings of policy. Students will be encouraged to draw on and share their own previous experience of working in ‘development’ settings where relevant but such experience is not a pre-requisite for the course.

Learning Outcome
  • Knowledge of key critical approaches to development planning and policy processes and their implications (especially in relation to Africa)
  • Knowledge of tools for undertaking critical project planning and policy analysis
  • Skills in undertaking and reflecting on a country-relevant development project planning exercise 
  • Skills in identifying and developing a key theme relevant to the course themes
  • Competence to conduct independent, interdisciplinary and critical analysis of development planning and policy processes, based on relevant theoretical approaches and empirical material

Abram, Simone, and Gisele Weszkalnys, 2011. ‘Introduction: Anthropologies of planning— Temporality, imagination, and ethnography’, Focaal—Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology Vol. 61, pp. 3–18


Apthorpe, Raymond, and Des Gasper, eds. 1996.  ‘Introduction: Discourse Analysis and Policy Discourse’, The European Journal of Development Research, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 1-15


Cornwall, Andrea, 2003. ‘Whose Voices? Whose Choices? Reflections on Gender and Participatory Development’, World Development, Vol. 31, No. 8, pp. 1325–1342

Cowen, Michael and Robert Shenton, 1995. ‘The Invention of Development’, in Jonathan Crush, Power of Development, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 27-43


Eyben, Rosalind, 2016. ‘Debating Empowerment: A Case Study of Knowledge Practices in the Development Assistance Committee’, in Kjell Havnevik, Terje Østergaard, Eva Tobisson and Tea Virtanen (eds), Framing African Development. Challenging Concepts, Leiden and Boston: Brill, pp. pp. 62-89 (29 pages)


Gasper, Des, 1996. ‘Analysing Policy Arguments’, The European Journal of Development Research, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 36-62


Green, Maia, 2000. ‘Participatory Development and the Appropriation of Agency in Southern Tanzania’, Critique of Anthropology, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 67-89


Groenmeyer, Marianne, 1992. ‘Helping’, in Wolfgang Sachs (ed), The Development Dictionary. A Guide to Knowledge as Power, London and New Jersey: Zed Books, pp. 53-69

Li, Tania, 2008. ‘Social reproduction, situated politics, and The Will to Improve’, Focaal – European Journal of Anthropology, No. 51, pp. 111-118


Moser, Caroline, 1989. ’Gender Planning in the Third World: Meeting Practical and Strategic Gender Needs’, World Development, Vol. 17, No. 11, pp. 1799-1825


Mosley, Jason, and Elizabeth E. Watson, 2016. ‘Frontier transformations: development visions, spaces and processes in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia’, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 452-475


Mosse, David, 2004. ‘Is Good Policy Unimplementable? Reflections on the Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice’, Development and Change, Vol. 35, Issue 4, pp. 639–671


Rankin, Katharine N., 2009.’ Critical development studies and the praxis of planning’, City, Vol. 13, Nos. 2-3, pp. 219-229


Roe, Emery M., 1995. ‘Except-Africa: Postscript to a Special Section on Development Narratives’, World Development, Vol. 23, No.6, pp. 1065-1069


Schuurman, Frans J., 2009. ‘Critical Development Theory: moving out of the twilight zone’, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 5, pp. 831–848

Sultana, Farhana, 2014. ‘Doing development as a critical development scholar’, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 516-519


Watson, Vanessa, 2009. ‘Seeing from the South: Refocusing Urban Planning on the Globe’s Central Issues’, Urban Studies, Vol. 46, No. 11, pp. 2259 – 2275

The course includes a combination of different kinds of classroom-based instruction including lecture and seminar-style sessions (with some guest lecturers) as well as practical sessions related to preparation of country portfolios and a group-based proposal for a development project, presented and discussed in a workshop towards the end of the course. The course is organised in sessions of two hours twice a week over 7 weeks in the second half of the second semester.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Course Preparation
  • 122
  • Exam
  • 60
  • Total
  • 210
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
7.5 ECTS: A written paper on a topic of the student’s own choosing comprising 24,000-28,800 characters.

Students can participate in and register for group examination in thematic courses without having a dispensation and approval from the study board. The students must register the group at the exam office. A group can consist of a maximum of three students.
For written group exams the requirements for the combined reading list and the length of the paper is the same as when writing individually, i.e. the length is multiplied by the number of students in the group. The authors of the individual sections must be clearly identified in the exam paper. For all group exams students will be given individual grades.
All three exam attempts for a given thematic course have to be conducted within a year following the conclusion of the course.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period

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