Development news

What is development studies?

June 21, 2022
Photo: Javier Allegue Barros / Unsplash

Our partners EADI recently published a paper titled What is Development Studies? The paper argues that development studies is, despite some understanding of its meaning, also contains different approaches. The paper seeks to highlight these differentiations and to understand both commonalities and differences. Read a blog post by author Andy Sumner, Professor of Development Studies at King’s College London, below.

“Development Studies is an established area of scholarly enquiry, which implies some consensus over what the study of development entails. Does such a consensus exist?”

The Debate Revisited

“Although there is some common understanding on Development Studies being about ‘development’ and inter-disciplinary as well as normative in orientation, there is a set of quite different approaches to Development Studies is or what Development Studies should be. 

There are several waves of literature since the end of the Cold War on the question of the identity of Development Studies.”

So what?

“Yet, there is more unpacking to do. Each approach has been outlined in crude aggregate. Furthermore, each approach encompasses various sub-approaches; and different disciplines, methodologies, and ways of knowing are dominant in each. There is also a need to lay bare the uneven power bases and outlets in which any conversations might happen. In short, to fully understand the different approaches to Development Studies, there is a need to comprehend the institutional basis of each in departments and journals. Both the latter are typically based in the North, albeit with increasing diversity on editorial teams and boards. 

Specifically, there is a set of questions to probe further to understand the politics of knowledge generation in Development Studies, such as: Where is each approach anchored in terms of countries, research institutes/university departments, and research funders? Where do researchers in each approach publish in terms of journals, working paper series, and books? Lastly, are those publications in Development Studies or in the researchers’ ‘home’ disciplines? 

Exploring these further would be a useful next step to developing a conversation.”

This text was first published by Andy Sumner at EADI blog.