Department of Global Development Studies


Global Development Studies

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About Us

What is Global Development Studies?

privatization-job-losses photoSince its inception in 1997, the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen's University has offered students and researchers a critical engagement with the field of development theory and practice. Through our research and teaching we examine the history of ideas about 'development'. We explore the competing and contested meanings of the term and analyze the institutions and organizations that are integral to the apparatus of development at local, national and global levels.

The work of scholars in the department revolves around three inter-linked objectives:

First, an exploration of the relationships between peoples in the North and the South that shape our shared and inherited world.

We do this by providing students with the analytical perspectives needed to understand how inequality is produced and reproduced, how local and global resources are distributed, and how hierarchical relationships between different social groups are maintained and challenged over time. Our courses expose students to the interaction between economic and political systems, cultural norms, physical environments, and status differences (including gender, caste, race, religion and class). The history and contemporary nature of these interactions between and within the countries of the North and South extend to issues such as poverty, cultural imperialism, human rights, social policy, and trade relations. Courses on Aboriginal communities in Canada further help students appreciate 'development' as a relationship rather than as a characteristic of particular places and people.

Second, to analyze the ways in which social change is imagined, engineered and implemented.

Specifically, we encourage critical reflection on the notions of freedom, democracy, and progress that inform visions of development. We do so in varied contexts and at different scales, ranging from collective cultural production (such as theatre groups in rural India) to the discourses and actions of international agencies such as the World Bank to the practices and policies of powerful economic actors such as transnational corporations.

Third, we examine the way that contemporary institutions of development have been formed, what ethical dilemmas or constraints they face, and the ways in which they function as powerful apparatuses of rule.

We examine the complex relations between actors as diverse as the United Nations, government policy-makers, non-government organizations, social movements, unions, universities and corporations, to understand how particular notions of development are formed, institutionalized, and acted upon. Recognizing that many of our students will engage directly with these institutions in their future careers, we provide a strong grounding in the language, practices and conflicts prevalent in the 'official' world of development in order to prepare them for these engagements.

Courses of Study

The Department offers major, medial and minor courses of study. We are an interdisciplinary department, working closely with the departments of Geography, Economics, Environmental Studies, History, Political Studies, Sociology and Women's Studies as well as the Queen's Aboriginal Council. DEVS offers many of its own courses and draws on numerous courses in affiliated departments to round out its curriculum options.

Students enter the program in second year and follow a set curriculum of core courses but have great latitude in choosing electives around specific regions of the world and development themes. For more detailed information on degree programmes and courses please see the Faculty of Arts and Science Academic Calendar.

Hands-on study is encouraged, especially at the fourth year level. Students have the option of doing a work/study placement with a development organization or with an international exchange organized through a study-abroad programme at another university. To date, DEVS students have traveled to such destinations as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Costa Rica, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana, Guyana, India, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Nepal, Nunavut, the Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, and Zanzibar. See the "work-study" section of this website for more information.

Program Learning Outcomes

At the end of their degree, students should feel they have acquired the ability to:

  • Critically assess the major political, economic, social and cultural forces that shape contemporary global interactions and competing visions of development, progress and social justice
  • Analyse the language, practices, ethics and debates prevalent in governments, development organisations, and social movements
  • Conduct independent research using different sources with critical reflection upon how knowledge is produced and mobilized for policy change or social transformation
  • Apply knowledge of interdisciplinary principles, critical thinking, research skills, imagination, insight and judgment to problem solving
  • Communicate ethically, responsibly, and effectively across settings with different audiences through essays, in-class presentations, seminars, peer instruction or mentoring, posters and policy briefs
  • Differentiate and critique key theorists of political economy, cultural politics, and critical research and action methodologies.
  • Think self-reflexively about Canada’s place in the world and the roles it plays in structures and cultures of global inequality
  • Implement cross-cultural awareness and originate ways to comport ourselves as global/”glocal” citizens
  • Extend knowledge to novel situations with the skills and motivation for continuous learning in an evolving world