Year of entry: 2022
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Course unit details:
Anthropology of Development and Humanitarianism
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This module provides an anthropological overview of the institutions and practices of international aid through the lens of development and humanitarian expertise. The module is structured around a visit in the last lecture from aid practitioners such as from the British Red Cross who will discuss their work and how to get into the profession of development, humanitarianism and other related careers. The UG students will work in groups throughout the semester to prepare for this event, ultimately producing blog entries that will showcase what they think anthropology can offer to understand humanitarian and development issues. For past students’ work on this blog, see: https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/anthropology-of-aid/.
As wars, poverty and disasters continue to persist in the world, there is a growing body of professionals engaged in humanitarian and development aid work. These aid actors are driven by a desire to help suffering others, at the same time that they create particular kinds of knowledge and regimes of governance. This module provides an anthropological overview of the institutions and practices of international aid through the lens of development and humanitarian expertise. Students will learn the conceptual frameworks through which anthropologists and aid actors imagine and act upon efforts to alleviate suffering and poverty. Using ethnographies of development and humanitarianism, the module explores how the tensions, negotiations and convergences between the ethics and politics of ‘doing good’ shape the complex system of aid interventions. The module covers analyses of development as a knowledge system and a form of global governance, the politics and ethics of humanitarianism, and the relationship between anthropological knowledge and aid expertise. A key point to remember is that anthropology is not about ‘facts’ or normative prescriptions about how the world ought to be. Anthropological approaches examine people’s values, interpretations, practices and experiences that bring about phenomena in the world, such as the idea of ‘development’ or the diverse expressions of compassion behind aid. This course aims to help you understand the analytical tools that anthropologists use to study international aid. As such, it will also provide an introduction to anthropology for students unfamiliar with the discipline.
The module is structured around a visit in the last lecture from aid practitioners such as from the British Red Cross who will discuss their work and how to get into the profession of development, humanitarianism and other related careers. The UG students will work in groups throughout the semester to prepare for this event, ultimately producing blog entries that will showcase what they think anthropology can offer to understand humanitarian and development issues. This will be a demanding module and students will be expected to participate fully in lectures, tutorials and group work outside of class time.
On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:
• Analyse and assess the development, theories and debates of anthropological knowledge about international aid.
• Discuss the political, social and ethical issues of development and humanitarian aid work.
• Critically read and evaluate the moral, political and technical claims made in aid agency documents.
• Articulate what anthropological perspectives can offer (or not) to humanitarian and development issues.
• Be active learners who can ask critical questions about texts, concepts and issues, and formulate their own discussion questions.
• Work as a team member to produce a collaborative piece of writing.
• Communicate ideas clearly to others through writing and oral presentations.
Teaching and learning methods
Lectures and seminars
2,000 word essay (70%)
2,000 word group blog entry and tutorial activities (30%)
Students will receive feedback via:
- Discussions in lectures and seminars
- Questions you bring to the instructor during office hours
- Written feedback on the essay
- Blog entry
Fassin, Didier. 2012. Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Ferguson, James. 1994. The Anti-Politics Machine: "Development," Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Green, Maia. 2009. Doing Development And Writing Culture: Exploring Knowledge Practices In International Development And Anthropology. Anthropological Theory 9(4): 395-417.
Mosse, David. 2005. Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice. London: Pluto.
Redfield, Peter. 2006. A Less Modest Witness: Collective Advocacy and Motivated Truth in a Medical Humanitarian Movement. American Ethnologist 33(1): 3-26.
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Chika Watanabe||Unit coordinator|