Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 GEOG Module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module enables Level 3 geographers to embed their understanding of development issues in a detailed consideration of postcolonial theory.
  • The module will:
  • Examine the historical divergences and current convergences between postcolonial theory and development
  • Explore the ways in which postcolonial approaches challenge and rework the theory and practice of development


  • Recent debates have called for development geographies that are postcolonial in theory and in practice. This means acknowledging the significance of issues of language and representation, the power of development discourse, and its material effects on the lives of people subject to development policies. It also means acknowledging the already postcolonial world of development in which with contemporary re-workings of development theory and practice inform postcolonial theory. The module explains and critically evaluates recent debates about postcolonial approaches and their implications for development studies. By outlining contemporary theoretical debates and examining their implications for how the ‘global South’ is thought about, written about and engaged with in policy terms, the module aims to unpack the difficult, complex and important aspects of the relationships between postcolonial approaches and development studies. It uses up-to-date illustrations and examples from across the regions of the world bring to these issues to life.
  • The first part of the module focuses on developing students’ understanding of postcolonial theory and politics. The remainder of the module focuses on the relevance and implications of postcolonial theory for the theory and practice of development.
  • Indicative Content:
  • Introduction to postcolonialism and development
  • Postcolonialism theory and Development
  • Politics of representation and discourses of development
  • Knowledge, power and agency in development
  • Decoloniality and Development
  • Beyond Development and decolonizing life in the ‘Anthropocene’?
  • Postcolonializing development geographies
  • Being postcolonial?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of postcolonial theory, its histories and geographies, and its relationship to development
  • Understand the relationship between postcolonialism and development studies
  • Understand the possibilities for rethinking development theory and practice using postcolonial approaches
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
  • Explore, analyse, interpret and discuss the critical relationship between postcolonialism and development
  • Apply the conceptual tools required for a critical analysis of development through postcolonial theory
  • Explain and critically evaluate postcolonialism in the context of other theoretical approaches to development
  • Examine critically the possibilities for rethinking development theory and practice using postcolonial theory
  • Think critically and creatively about the ethics and politics of development
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
  • Demonstrate written communication skills
  • Demonstrate a capacity to reflect critically and creatively on the relations between concepts and real world development problems and issues
  • Demonstrate the ability to synthesize information and develop an argument on the implications of postcolonial theory for development theory and practice

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Core lecture content will: a) introduce postcolonial theory and its conceptual and practical implications for development; b) be anchored in contemporary examples, including but not limited to development discourses and agency; the history of Northern dominance of international development; the changing face of international development; the ethics and politics of engaging across difference. Each lecture will be enlivened by a number of small group tasks or class exercises designed to provide the opportunity for student engagement, interaction and feedback.
  • Tutorials will explore concepts and debates introduced in lectures in more depth, such as: a) the discourses of international development; b) the ethical and political implications of postcolonialism for practising development geography. Whilst organised around key readings, these will aim at encouraging engagement with the arguments surrounding postcolonial theory and international development.
  • Students will develop critical discussion skills through their engagement in class activities and tutorials; students’ ability to interpret and apply theoretical concepts will be tested through formative assessment and a summative essay.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Approx. weekly 2 hours 16
Tutorials 2 1 hour 2
Preparation and Reading 82
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework essay Max 5 pages A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Continuous: formative feedback will be incorporated into in-class exercises and tutorials

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University