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Department of Social Anthropology

Cargando Bolsones, COFECA or Cooperativa Felipe Cardozo, Montevideo (credit: Patrick O’Hare)


SAN8 Development, poverty and social justice

This paper addresses social, economic, political and moral aspects of development. We draw on anthropology’s capacity to look beyond the obvious institutional and bureaucratic parameters of ‘development’ as an industry, and examine the links between ‘development’, poverty and social justice. Poverty is not only a state of material and physical deprivation but also raises questions of moral obligation and social justice, both among the underprivileged themselves and in the global North.

Key themes: the political-economic and discursive context for development interventions in the global South; the aid industry and its workers; advocacy and ethics; lived experiences and bureaucratic definitions of poverty; political agency among the poor; social movements; health and social policy; infrastructures of development; financialisation; humanitarian intervention; land and the environment.

We explore the theories and practical involvement of anthropologists and others in development bureaucracies (governmental and non-governmental) and in movements for social justice. We study these in the context of global political economy, environmental change, and ideas about morality and ethics – of involvement in development, of what counts as humanitarianism or human rights, or land, property and resources, of how we define poverty, and what ‘we’ collectively choose to do about ‘it’.

We seek to relate global dynamics to the lived experiences of people. Most importantly, throughout the course students are encouraged to maintain a critical stance towards the very concept of ‘development’.

Further information including a list of lecture courses and background reading can be found in the Paper Guide in the Paper Resources section to the right of this page.

Paper Resources

SAN8 Paper Guide

For lecture reading lists, additional teaching materials, past exam questions and exam reports please see the SAN8 Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on SAN8 will automatically be enrolled on the SAN8 Moodle course and you will find a link to the course in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.

If you are a member of the University of Cambridge and you wish to view the reading lists, past exam questions and exam reports then you can access the SAN8 Moodle Course as a guest. For more information on how to access Moodle Courses as a guest please see Moodle Help.