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Key Issues in the Politics of Development: Sub-Saharan Africa




Admission Requirements

Students should have completed a 100- and 200-level course within the International Development, World Politics, and/or Policy Science majors. Moreover, having completed courses in qualitative and/or quantitative research methods will be helpful.


Even though the notion of ‘international development’ is central to any discussion on global justice and inequity, it has become increasingly controversial in recent years. Zooming in on this controversial subject, the course aims to discuss the various definitions of international development and analyse some of the main processes and actors that drive and hinder it. The course starts from the analytical perspectives that are common within the field of development studies, focusing in particular on the themes of capabilities, determinants of growth, international institutions, aid, conflict, and state-led development. Through a wide range of empirical case studies, drawn in particular from Africa, students will be challenged to critically contrast, evaluate, and connect the various theoretical approaches to the real-world problems of the ‘bottom billion’. As such, the course provides insight into some of the key issues concerning international development and helps students to identify, understand, and evaluate them in a wide range of cases.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Be able to reflect on theories of and approaches to international development and apply and evaluate them empirically through case studies;

  • Have experience analysing major development issues in a range of empirical case studies, particularly in the African context;

  • Have enhanced their skills of locating and selecting primary and secondary sources; and of presenting, debating, and essay writing; and

  • Have enhanced their grasp of empirical social scientific methods and the ways in which they can enhance and constrain development interventions.

Mode of Instruction

This course will be taught through two-hour interactive seminars. Seminars will generally include a short introduction by the instructor, after which students will be asked to present, debate, or otherwise reflect actively on the relevant theme and readings. Seminars will focus both on concepts and on empirical case studies. Students will be asked to prepare their own case study analyses (both as a group or individually).




The course reading list will include key academic and policy-oriented texts development studies, as well as articles from a range of academic journals (available in the Leiden e-library). Students can expect to engage with current scholarly and policy debates on such issues as aid effectiveness, the developmental state, the role of NGOs and IFIs, globalization, resource management, and conflict. More information will follow closer to the start of the course.

Contact Information

Convenor: d.w.l.ehrhardt@luc.leidenuniv.nl

Weekly Overview

  • Definitions, measures, methods, and data

  • Drivers: institutions and/or geography

  • The challenge of conflict

  • Actors I: the state in development

  • Actors II: governance and globalization

  • Is aid dead?

  • The limits of ‘planning’

Preparation for first session

  • Think about what you understand by development and be prepared to discuss your thoughts.

  • Readings for the first class will be communicated closer to the beginning of the course.