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Week 8—Getting connected

Week 8—Getting connected

Main reading: Rooney (2021); Speer (2016)

Other reading: Lemanski (2020); Vidmar et al. (2023)

In the rest of the course we build upon the critiques of liberalism to examine the nature of the politics of social reform more generally. As critical social scientists often say, particularly in development studies, most modernist projects of transformation fail and we should ask why. At the same time, social change from the bottom up always moves faster than a society’s rational systems of observation and intervention can track. This flux looks like chaos from the perspective of civil society, but it is where real political struggles happen in the realm of political society (to use Chatterjee’s distinction).

This and next week we also start to see an important parallel. A lot of development problems in developing countries are just another version of problems of poverty and inequality in so-called developed societies, and from a larger perspective, also reveal struggles over different ideas of progress.


Lemanski, Charlotte. 2020. “Infrastructural Citizenship: The Everyday Citizenships of Adapting and/or Destroying Public Infrastructure in Cape Town, South Africa.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 45 (3): 589–605. https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12370.

Rooney, Michelle Nayahamui. 2021. “‘We Want Development’: Land and Water (Dis)connections in Port Moresby, Urban Papua New Guinea.” The Contemporary Pacific 33 (1): 1–30. https://doi.org/10.1353/cp.2021.0001.

Speer, Jessie. 2016. “The Right to Infrastructure: A Struggle for Sanitation in Fresno, California Homeless Encampments.” Urban Geography 37 (7): 1049–69. https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2016.1142150.

Vidmar, Abby M., E. Christian Wells, Madeleine Zheng, Nora Awad, Sarah Combs, and Diana Diaz. 2023. “‘That’s What We Call “Aesthetics,” Not a Public Health Issue’: The Social Construction of Tap Water Mistrust in an Underbounded Community.” Human Organization 82 (4): 342–53. https://doi.org/10.17730/1938-3525-82.4.342.

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