Popular Representations of Development

Insights from Novels, Films, Television and Social Media

Edited by David Lewis, Dennis Rodgers, Michael Woolcock

© 2014 – Routledge

264 pages | 25 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415822817
pub: 2013-08-21
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About the Book

Although the academic study of development is well established, as is also its policy implementation, less considered are the broader, more popular understandings of development that often shape agendas and priorities, particularly in representative democracies.

Through its accessible and provocative chapters, Popular Representations of Development introduces the idea that while the issue of ‘development’ – defined broadly as problems of poverty and social deprivation, and the various agencies and processes seeking to address these – is normally one that is discussed by social scientists and policy makers, it also has a wider ‘popular’ dimension. Development is something that can be understood through studying literature, films, and other non-conventional forms of representation. It is also a public issue, one that has historically been associated with musical movements such as Live Aid and increasingly features in newer media such as blogs and social networking. The book connects the effort to build a more holistic understanding of development issues with an exploration of the diverse public sphere in which popular engagement with development takes place.

This book gives students of development studies, media studies and geography as well as students in the humanities engaging with global development issues a variety of perspectives from different disciplines to open up this new field for discussion.


Popular representations of development and poverty have always been all around us, and scholars need to understand these alternative conceptualizations of reality to enrich their own discipline-based analysis and policy recommendations. This excellent volume suggests some ways in which this can happen, setting out the gains and the pitfalls of engagement. It is a thought provoking contribution to an important issue in development studies.

–Ravi Kanbur, Cornell University, USA.

This book is for a worthy cause, that of going beyond the currently popular quantitative and experimental approach to economic development, to look into wider, often more insightful, humanistic forms of representation of the development process. It shows how representations in literature, films, television, and internet may capture the complexity and nuances of the social processes involved in development in ways not considered in the standard approach.

–Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley, USA.

This wonderfully engaging and thought-provoking collection provides many lessons about representation and power for researchers and students alike. It will prove to be an invaluable teaching resource and will become a benchmark for much future research.

–Cathy McIlwaine, University of London, UK.

An important milestone in development studies which shows how literature, film and other discourses need to be part of the mix when we try to understand how other people live.

–Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland and Turbulence.

An essential analysis of the world of international development… and essential reading for rock stars everywhere.

–Richard Bean, author of The God Botherers and One Man, Two Guvnors.

…this book provides a timely and significant parameter in the study of development through the exploration of its popular representations in representative Western democracies. Through the illustration and analysis of diverse case studies with respect to the power of the image in shaping and sharing meaning about the concept of development, it illuminates the prevalence of popular culture and calls for a more grounded understanding of public perceptions of progress. It is certain to be a great read for scholars of development studies, media and communications, sociology, anthropology and geography at all levels.

–Eleftheria Lekakis, Lecturer in Media and Communications, University of Sussex

Table of Contents

Part 1: Introduction 1. Popular Representations of Development David Lewis, Dennis Rodgers, and Michael Woolcock Part 2: Literature and Fiction 2. The Fiction of Development: Literary Representation as a Source of Authoritative Knowledge David Lewis, Dennis Rodgers, and Michael Woolcock3. Notes on Teaching International Studies With Novels: ‘Hard Times’, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and ‘The Quiet American’ John Harriss 4. Considering ‘Pedagogical’ Fictions and Metanarratives of Development: 1 World Manga Veronica Davidov Part 3: Media and Television 5. More News is Bad News: Why Studies of ‘the Public Faces of Development’ and ‘Media and Morality' should be concerned with reality TV programmes Martin Scott 6. 'Hidden in Plan Sight': Baltimore, The Wire and the politics of under-development in urban America Simon Parker Part 4: Film 7. The Projection of Development: Cinematic Representation as An(other) Source of Authoritative of Knowledge? Simon Parker 8. Affective Histories: Imagining Poverty in Popular Indian Cinema Esha Shah Part 5: Public Campaigns 9. Visual Representations of Development: The Empire Marketing Board Poster Campaign 1926-1933 Uma Kothari 10. Band Aid Reconsidered: Sentimental Cultures and Populist Humanitarianism Cheryl Lousley Part 6: New Media 11. Blogs + Twitter = Change? Discursive Reproduction of Global Governance and the Limits of Social Media Tobias Denskus and Daniel E. Esser 12. Followme.intdev.com: International Development in the Blogosphere Ryann Manning Part 7: Conclusion 13. Conclusion: Popular Representations of Development - Taking Stock, Moving Forward David Lewis, Dennis Rodgers, and Michael Woolcock

About the Editors

David Lewis is Professor of Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE), United Kingdom.

Dennis Rodgers is Professor of Urban Social and Political Research at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Michael Woolcock is Lead Social Development Specialist with the World Bank's Development Research Group in Washington, DC, and Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University.

About the Series

Rethinking Development

Rethinking Development offers accessible and thought-provoking overviews of contemporary topics in international development and aid. Providing original empirical and analytical insights, the books in this series push thinking in new directions by challenging current conceptualizations and developing new ones.  

This is a dynamic and inspiring series for all those engaged with today’s debates surrounding development issues, whether they be students, scholars, policy makers and practitioners internationally. These interdisciplinary books provide an invaluable resource for discussion in advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses in development studies as well as in anthropology, economics, politics, geography, media studies and sociology.

To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan (Rebecca.Brennan@tandf.co.uk).

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy