Polson Institute for Global Development logo

Fall 2017 Awards

Back to top

Research Working Grants Awarded Fall 2017

Power of/in/through Development Discourse (Isha Bhatnagar, George Spisak, Scott Peters)

Across social science disciplines ‘power’ is as pervasive and contested a term as can be found. It comes as no surprise, then, that the interdisciplinary field of ‘development’ should play host to a multiplicity of theoretical constructions and deployments of ‘power’, as both an explanatory framework and a dependent outcome. Unfortunately, the term itself is rarely afforded the same analytical rigor as the study of its circulation, with scholarship and pedagogy both relying on a tacit understanding that the analyst and audience share an understanding of ‘power’ without ensuring that this is true. Careful examination of discourses surrounding power and development provides a space to examine what this means for the practice of development itself. Our study of development as a process and ideology is incomplete without a critical analysis of power: theoretical perspectives, methodological directions, and ways in which it has been operationalized in contemporary studies on development. This project seeks to address this lacuna by undertaking a systematic review of how ‘power’ is thought within discourses around development.  Our goal is to prepare a syllabus for a course to be taught in Development Sociology that will allow students to locate and clarify the multiple and competing conceptions of power used within the scholarship of development. We will rely on academic texts and participatory insights from scholars and practitioners. It is through this we hope we can help lay the foundation for more rigorous research, and more deeply-engaged academics.


Please see our Small Grants page for information on Small Grants awarded Fall 2017.