SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Issues In Gender And Development

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

The purpose of this module is both to familiarise students with the main debates in the field of gender and development and to introduce new ways of conceptualising the field, critiquing both the concept of gender as generally applied in development, and development itself. This module could better be titled Gender, Masculinities and Development, since it does not assume that gender is a proxy for women or for women’s rights or to denote power relations in a way that focuses on women’s disadvantages compared with men’s. Instead, gender will be defined in a relational manner and applied to men as much as to women. Throughout the module men and masculinities will be treated as an integral part of the field alongside women and femininities. Moreover, gender is understood not simply as an issue of individual male-female relationships but also as integral to power relations of all kinds, from global politics to local individuals, and gender norms at the community level are shown to be strongly influenced by the national, regional, and even the global. This module, therefore, will focus on the implications of gender as socio-politically constructed. This will facilitate moving beyond the mainstream conceptualisation of the field of gender and development that in many respects continues to reflect its origins in the women in development paradigm that focused almost entirely on women, treating men as the problem.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:

  • familiarity with key analytic debates in the field of gender and development
  • an ability to relate these debates to development theory, policy and practice
  • an ability to comprehend and manipulate complex analytical arguments
  • an ability to evaluate the impact of development interventions (policies, projects and institutional reform) on issues of gender equity and empowerment.


The module is taught through weekly two-hour lectures and one-hour tutorials, with fortnightly video sessions as an integral element. Tutorials will go beyond simply focusing on discussing the readings to comprise a mixture of practical and conceptual work.

Method of assessment

100% Coursework. Each student will be expected to submit one essay of no more than 3000 words (worth 60%) and a Policy Brief of no more than 1500 words (worth 40%) Resubmission of coursework regulations apply to this module.

Suggested reading

A note of bibliographic advice:
The resources for gender and development have expanded a great deal and all relevant UN agencies have websites. Some of you may wish to access UN and other documents. Here are some useful Internet addresses: There are four edited collections, which may be useful to share/acquire since they include many key texts for the course:
  • Jackson, C. and Pearson, R. (eds) (1998) Feminist Visions of Development (Routledge).
  • McDowell, L. and Sharp, J.P. (eds) (1997) Space, Gender and Knowledge (Arnold).
  • Visvanathan, N. et al (1997) The Women, Gender and Development Reader (Zed Books).
  • Sparr, P. (ed.) Mortgaging Women’s Lives: Feminist Critiques of Structural Adjustment (Zed)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules