Accepted paper:

Marketing development studies and the creation of cosmopolitan students


Kamna Patel (University College London)
Lee Rensimer (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Paper short abstract:

Representations of 'development' can be deeply problematic where they mobilise tired tropes of poor brown others saved by noble northern selves. In marketing development studies we ask: what is sold? How? And to what effect on students? Situating academic practices in representation debates.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents a critical examination of the approaches and outcomes of marketing postgraduate development studies programmes in UK universities. The topic is of interest in a political climate where the neoliberal university is a distinct site of the increased marketisation and commercialisation of UK higher education. This manifests in logics that market the superiority of western knowledge (Robertson, 2010) and UK universities as leading providers of expert knowledge (Chapleo, 2010). In literature, the logic is compatible with neoliberal conceptualisations of 'development' as a product sold and bought by audiences in the global north (Escobar, 2012), premised on commonplace representations of development as stoic black and brown individuals who live in the global south with an infinite capacity for labour, requiring development agents in the global north to help empower them (Wilson, 2015); and the classic 'developed' and 'developing' dualism (Martin and Griffin, 2012). Drawing on empirical research, the paper unpacks how 'development' is represented and sold in postgraduate programmes and the effects of this on development students and their imaginations of the discipline. The findings call for a deep collective reflection on whose values are appealed to and edified in the call to study 'development'.

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"We want skills! You'll get critical thinking!" - Opening up international development education