Development thinking in flux — continuity and/or change

Photo: Javier Allegue Barros / Unsplash

Date: June 15, 2021
Date: June 15, 2021
Time: 00:00 - 00:00
Location: Online
Start date: June 15, 2021
Event summary: Roundtable at the DevRes conference about fundamental changes in contemporary development thinking.

Development theories and approaches – and their practical applications – are in a state of flux. This Roundtable is inspired by three fundamental changes in contemporary development thinking.

First, development research emerged after the Second World War with a particular focus on what was then the Third World. The changing boundaries between rich and poor countries and the end of Third Worldism have triggered a vivid debate about whether “development” remains restricted to poor countries or is a more universal concern for all societies. 

Second, the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) have expanded beyond classical development issues — such as poverty reduction, health and education — to include a range of issues related to climate change and environmental sustainability as well as “global” development more broadly. A core debate centres on what is left of “development” with an ever-expanding development agenda in an increasingly intertwined world.

Third, a specific debate has emerged in the Swedish context about “development research” as a field of study. Some continue to approach “development research” as a distinct interdisciplinary, social science discipline, whereas others perceive it more broadly as “any kind of research of relevance for developing countries” — i.e. any discipline, methodology and research tradition focusing on poor countries.

Following on from these changes, the roundtable centres around questions such as:

  1. What does the end of the Third World mean for thinking about “development”?
  2. What is the meaning of development in an age where the orthodox growth paradigm is often challenged?
  3. What does the expansion of the development agenda through the SDGs mean for our understanding of development and development research?
  4. What are the tensions between classical and interdisciplinary notions of “development research” and more open-ended and/or disciplinary-centred approaches?

The Roundtable is designed in order to promote debate among the four panellists under the leadership of the moderator. The audience will also be involved to a significant extent.

Maria Eriksson Baaz, Professor, Department of Government, Uppsala University
Anna-Karin Hurtig, Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå University
Magnus Jirström, Professor, Department of Human Geography, Lund University
Henning Melber, President of the European Association of Development Research Institutes (EADI); member of the steering committee of the Swedish Development Research Network (SweDev); former research director of the Nordic Africa Institute and former director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation.

Moderator: Fredrik Söderbaum, Professor, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg; Chair of the Swedish Development Research Network (SweDev)

Participation in DevRes2021 is free, but registration is mandatory.