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Queen's University

Global Development Studies

Department Website


Cultural Studies Faculty


Cultural Studies Courses

DEVS 802* Methodology, Epistemology and Ethics in Development Studies

Global Development Studies  /  Villia Jefremovas

A recurrent issue in development studies is that seemingly brilliant ideas or logical analysis coming out of the Global North do not apply very well or even “backfire” in Global South situations. Indeed, research on development has frequently made matters worse for the ostensible beneficiaries. Early anthropological and psychological theories often underpinned colonial racism, for example; crude Marxist formulations justified massive human rights abuses; and neo-liberal economics tools have “invisibilized” many social relations and environmental costs. Factors in this sobering history include the use of inappropriate historical analogies; culturally specific assumptions about human nature or the natural and metaphysical worlds; over-specialized jargonistic language, and unconsciously political constructions of development, progress, modernization, emancipation and more. Do not rule out laziness, hormones, prejudice and self-serving ambition as factors that have coloured the scholarship.

All of this raises the following questions: at what point does research and critical analysis of development themselves become part of the problem of underdevelopment; how can we know this; and how can we work against it in ways that adhere to appropriate ethical standards?

This course addresses those questions through an examination of the major methodological debates in development studies, with particular attention to the politics of knowledge production and development ethics. Emphasis is placed on cross-cultural research tools and techniques; non-academic interventions (for example, as public intellectuals or development practitioners); and the strategies, strengths and challenges of conducting inter- or trans-disciplinary research. Critical thinking and communication skills are developed to enable future engagements with a range of research professionals, including those in government and civil society outside the academe, as well as in classroom settings.

Permission from instructor is required.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000