A crane across a skyline

How did the world become divided into “developed” and “developing” nation-states? Why are the costs and benefits of development so unevenly distributed across the world (and also internally, within a nation)? What are the indices by which we define development? Is development always a desirable goal? And how do projects of development intertwine with other key issues like human rights, gender equality, and ecological sustainability?  This course aims to explore some of these questions via the fiction of colonial and postcolonial authors who have grappled with the legacies of development. The class will trace the evolution of development in three historical phases: first, the colonial era in which empires sought to bring “civilization” and “modernity” to the colonies; second, the post-World War II “age of development,” shaped by the Marshall Plan and international organizations such as the UN, IMF, and World Bank in conjunction with the national economic plans of Third World nation-states; and third, the post-1970s neoliberal era that sees the economies of developing nations increasingly intertwined with global economic systems. We will read a range of novels and possibly some films, as well as some theoretical criticism on the concept and impact of development. Some of the texts that may be assigned include: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson; Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable; Ngugi Wa Thiong’O’s Petals of Blood, Tsitsi Dangerembga’s Nervous Conditions; Zakes Mda’s Heart of Redness. Please note that this is a reading-intensive course; students should expect to read between 150-200 pages per week.