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Department of Development Studies

Natural resources, development and change: putting critical analysis into practice (MSc RID)

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

This course is only available to students enrolled on the MSc Research for International Development programme.

This module discusses approaches to 'doing development politically' as currently practised in the field of natural resources management and governance. It focuses on how critical analysis has been translated into ‘transformative’ frameworks and approaches to development - in government and NGO/CSO projects and programmes. Three introductory sessions focus on i) critical approaches to natural resources and development analysis (political economy, political ecology, critical institutionalism); ii) the challenge of putting critical theory into practice as part of ‘transformative public action’; iii) the science-policy interface. The remaining seven sessions are devoted to discussion of frameworks and approaches for transformative public action in the field of natural resources management and governance. Four sessions focus on the application of specific analytical frameworks in practice (for example, frameworks for analysing access relations, resistance to policy reform, environmental entitlements, hegemony/benefit sharing in transboundary resource governance). Three sessions focus on concrete examples of transformative public action (examples of f.i. participatory research, development entrepreneurship, and action research). For each framework and approach characteristics, underlying assumptions, experiences and critiques are discussed.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of a course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • understand the challenges of translating critical analysis into practice in the field of natural resources management and governance
  • analyse the characteristics, underlying assumptions, experiences and critiques of selected frameworks and approaches
  • critically evaluate a self-selected case example


Teaching takes place through one three-hour seminar per week – there are no lectures.

Scope and syllabus


WEEK 1: Introduction

Critical approaches to natural resources management and governance analysis (political economy, political ecology, critical institutionalism); structure of the course.

WEEK 2: From critical analysis to (political) practice

Translating critical theory into frameworks and approaches for action; forms of public action and the type of public action the course focuses on; transformative public action

WEEK 3: The science-policy interface

Transdisciplinary research practice, boundary work, frameworks and approaches as boundary objects.



WEEK 4: Beyond property rights: mapping access relations

WEEK 5: Addressing poverty: environmental entitlements and livelihoods analysis frameworks

WEEK 6: The politics of policy: engaging with (resistance to) institutional change

WEEK 7: Hydrohegemony and benefit-sharing approaches in transboundary water governance



WEEK 8: Participatory research

Example to be chosen from IIED or similar environmental (research) NGO.

WEEK 9: Development entrepreneurship

Example to be chosen from The Asia Foundation, Oxfam, or similar development organisation

WEEK 10: Action research

Example to be chosen from social movement related research (f.i. in relation to anti-globalisation/global justice movements)

This course will be delivered alongside the parallel course, 'Natural Resources, Development and Change: putting critical analysis into practice', worth 22.5 CATS credits. Students will have the opportunity to attend all lectures and tutorials, but the examinable component will be approximately 75% of the 22.5 CATS credits syllabus. Material delivered in the lectures and tutorials which is NOT examinable will equate to two of the ten weeks of the course, and will be identified by the course convenor and communicated to students at the start the course.

Method of assessment

100% coursework. Each student will be expected to submit one essay of no more than 3000 words, worth 40% of the final grade. Students will also submit a group project of 8000 words (2000 words per student in groups of 4), worth 60% of the final grade.