Upcoming Events

Friday, September 29, 2017

12:00PM – 2:00PM

University College, Room 179
15 King’s College Circle
Toronto, M5S3H7

Culture has been frequently mentioned as an explanation for Asian successes in economic development. Typical is the comment by Samuel Huntington, the author of the controversial book, The Clash of Civilisations, offered as an explanation of the economic divergence between South Korea and Ghana, two countries that were at similar levels of economic development in the 1960s, argued: “Undoubtedly, many factors played a role, but … culture had to be a large part of the explanation. South Koreans valued thrift, investment, hard work, education, organisation, and discipline. Ghanaians had different values. In short, cultures count”.
In this talk, Ha-Joon Chang will argue that those arguments trying to explain international differences in economic development in terms of cultural differences are often ignorant, usually fail to take a dynamic view of culture, and are invariably based on simplistic theories.

Professor Ha-Joon Chang is the economist at the University of Cambridge. In addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters, he has published 16 authored books (five co-authored) and 10 edited books. His main books include The Political Economy of Industrial Policy (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 1996), Kicking Away the Ladder (Anthem Pr, 2002), Bad Samaritans (Bloomsbury Press, 2009), 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism (Bloomsbury Press, 2012), and Economics: The User’s Guide (Bloomsbury Press, 2014). By 2018, his writings will have been translated and published in 41 languages and 44 countries. Worldwide, his books have sold 2 million copies. He is the winner of the 2003 Gunnar Myrdal Prize and the 2005 Wassily Leontief Prize. He was ranked no. 9 in the Prospect magazine’s World Thinkers 2014 poll.

Registration:  http://uoft.me/economicdevelopment


Ha-Joon Chang
Economist & Author Reader, Department of Political Economy of Development, University of Cambridge

Nick Li
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Toronto

Paul Kingston
Director, Political Science and IDS, University of Toronto

Main Sponsor

Asian Institute


Centre for Critical Development Studies, UTSC

Development Seminar at University of Toronto

Department of Political Science, UTSG


A Remittance Forest in Java; Turning Migrant Labour into Agrarian Capital

Past Events

Development Seminar co-sponsored by Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Munk School of Global Affairs

Prof. Nancy Lee Peluso (Henry J. Vaux Distinguished Professor of Forest Policy at Berkeley University of California)

March 31st, 12-2pm,

AP 246, 19 Russell St.

Lunch will be served in the Faculty Lounge at 12:00pm; Talk begins at 12:30pm.

Register here: http://anthropology.utoronto.ca/events/devsem-nancy-peluso/

Entangled Territories in Small-scale Gold Frontiers: Labor Practices, Property, and Secrets in Indonesian Gold Country

Past Events

Entangled Territories in Small-scale Gold Frontiers: Labor Practices, Property, and Secrets in Indonesian Gold Country

Prof. Nancy Lee Peluso (Henry J. Vaux Distinguished Professor of Forest Policy at Berkeley University of California)

Co-sponsored by the Development Seminar and the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies.

March 31st, 3-5pm
AP246, 19 Russell Street.
Small-scale gold mining territories emerge at the nexus of land use, property, and labor relations in some of Indonesian Borneo’s most vibrant and populated spaces, entangling state actors while sitting comfortably beyond the reach of formal state authority. Based on seven months of field research in a key gold-producing region of West Kalimantan, I argue that gold’s presence, discovery, and informal extraction creates resource frontiers, and that within these frontiers, mining labor, property relations, and gold mining-related secret knowledges converge to generate resource territories. While development practitioners, agrarian scholars, and government officials represent mining sites as chaotic and lacking institutional order, I show that a clearly understood organization of life and work animates the territorial subjects and territorialized spaces that small-scale mining populates in both urban and rural mining territories. The article challenges views of territory and territorialization as an imposition of government on the people and resources within spatial boundaries. Territories with no formalized boundaries   in Indonesian gold country emerge through specific production practices engaging labor, resource access, and situated knowledges. The complex entanglements of legalities and illegalities suggest that smallholder gold production spaces are ungovernable through centralized state regulatory institutions.

This is a discussion-based workshop, based on prior reading of Prof. Peluso’s paper. Please register here. To obtain a copy of the paper, please contact lukas.ley@mail.utoronto.ca.


Caste, Class and Capital: The Social and Political Origins of Economic Policy in India

Past Events

Caste, Class and Capital: The Social and Political Origins of Economic Policy in India

March 17th, 12-2pm


What are the political and social conditions conducive to growth-oriented policies in poor democracies? This talk (based on a forthcoming book) addresses this consequential question by focusing on a specific empirical puzzle – policy variation across Indian states in the competition for private industrial investment, a phenomenon that came to the fore after the country adopted market reforms in 1991. Through the analysis of investment policies, I offer an explanation that links social identity, class and economic policy outcomes in India. My findings suggest that governments that have been most proactive in the competition for investment in India have been backed by narrow class coalitions that are unrepresentative of the broader, largely poor electorate. Moreover, in some Indian states, pro-business policies have been accompanied by identity politics and illiberal trends. I suggest that this coincidence is not accidental. Rather, it reflects an underlying political problem that has characterized India’s high-growth phase and arises from the nature of its growth model. Specifically, a model of growth that relies on attracting private capital in the midst of poor electorates and results in uneven benefits has an affinity with exclusionary political trends. As such, the findings offer a sobering perspective on the prospects for a virtuous cycle of growth and democratic politics in India.

Kanta Murali is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include comparative political economy of development, Indian politics, politics of growth and economic policy, state capacity, state formation, state-business relations and labor policy. Her book, Caste, Class and Capital: The Social and Political Origins of Economic Policy in India, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. She holds a Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University and an M.Sc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Register here.

Going West and Going Out: Discourse, migrants and models in Chinese development

Past Events

Going West and Going Out: Discourse, migrants and models in Chinese development

Emily Yeh

March 15th, 3-5pm


In 1999, China announced the launching of the Open up the West campaign, sometimes called “Going West,” to help western China finally catch up to the much wealthier eastern, coastal areas after several decades of lagging behind. The same year, China also announced a “Going Out” strategy, to encourage Chinese investment abroad.  The fifteen years since then have witnessed dramatic Chinese government investment in various development activities in western regions of China, as well as around the world. Though rarely considered together,  there are significant parallels in development discourse, the centrality of physical infrastructure, the characteristics of Chinese labor migration and the nature of migrant-local relations, and the application of “models from elsewhere” in Going West and Going Out.  In this talk, I draw on field research in Tibet and a review of the secondary literature on “China abroad” to examine these parallels, which I argue  can help shed light on Chinese development discourse and practice, as China becomes increasingly important in the field of development once dominated by Western countries.  Finally, I briefly consider direct connections and convergences between the two strategies in China’s neighboring countries of Asia and in the One Belt One Road initiative, and some reflections more broadly on China’s development and investment abroad in Asia.

Emily T. Yeh is a professor and department chair of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder.  She conducts research on development and nature-society relations in Tibetan parts of the PRC, including projects on conflicts over access to natural resources, the relationship between ideologies of nature and nation, the political ecology of pastoral environment and development policies, and emerging environmental subjectivities.  Her book Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development (Cornell University Press 2013), which explores the intersection of political economy and cultural politics of development as a project of state territorialization, was awarded the E. Gene Smith Book Prize on Inner Asia in 2015.  She is also co-editor with Chris Coggins of Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands, and with Kevin O’Brien and Ye Jingzhong of Rural Politics in Contemporary China

Register here.

Food systems and sovereignty: Exploring geographies of uneven development in the Caribbean

Past Events

Food systems and sovereignty: Exploring geographies of uneven development in the Caribbean

Marion Werner

Jan. 13th at 3-5pm


This paper considers broader debates on food sovereignty and uneven development in relation to the Dominican Republic’s food system. The Dominican state plays a central role in the country’s food production relative to many of its neighbours in the Caribbean, a region highly exposed to international market regulation of food and agriculture. The form of the state’s involvement was forged through right-wing land reforms of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which incorporated some 30,000 households into domestic rice production. Today, these “reform sector” farmers, together with their private sector counterparts, meet the country’s entire demand for this staple crop. Rice production is characterized by intensive use of imported agro-chemicals, a largely Haitian migrant workforce, state subsidies to irrigation, a government-funded warehousing and insurance scheme, and, crucially, a protected market. Dominican rice production clearly plays a role in materializing state sovereignty in the context of a regulatory patchwork formally dominated by international markets and multinational corporations. As the country begins the process of lowering tariff barriers for rice and other sensitive food items under the provisions of a free trade agreement (i.e., DR-CAFTA), the paper offers a basis for the consideration of food sovereignty in the context of uneven regulatory development.

Marion Werner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. Her research is located at the nexus of critical development studies, feminist theory, and political economy with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. She brings these theoretical perspectives to her work on the economic restructuring of export industries, the gender and racial politics of labor, and, more recently, agro-food systems and development policy. Her work has appeared in several journals including Gender, Place and Culture, Antipode, Economic Geography, Environment and Planning A, and Development and Change.  Her book, Global Displacements: The making of uneven development in the Caribbean (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016) reveals how uneven development is reproduced by capital and the everyday aspirations of people incorporated into and excluded from circuits of accumulation.  Dr. Werner’s current research project explores changing forms of regulation in Caribbean food systems, and is supported by an early career grant from the Regional Studies Association. 

Register here.

Gendered Mobilities in the Making: Moving from a Pedestrian to Vehicular Mobility Regime in Shimshal, Pakistan

Past Events

Gendered Mobilities in the Making: Moving from a Pedestrian to Vehicular Mobility Regime in Shimshal, Pakistan

Nancy Cook, Department of Sociology, Brock University

David Butz, Department of Geography, Brock University

November 25th at 12-2pm


This talk focuses on gendered mobilities in Shimshal, Pakistan, which until recently have taken shape in the context of a pedestrian mobility regime. As vehicular mobilities have replaced pedestrian mobilities with the construction of the Shimshal road, the gender and mobility relationship has transformed. We explore this transformation by analysing aspects of socio-spatial context that have shaped gendered pedestrian mobilities, followed by those associated with the new vehicular mobility regime that are modifying gender relations in Shimshal. Shifting gender relations simultaneously reshape corporeal mobility patterns. Road infrastructure has enhanced men’s and youth’s outbound travel as wage earners and students respectively. These mobilities have relationally reshaped women’s capacity to move, constraining their mobility beyond the village. As prosperity becomes contingent on outbound movement, men’s and youths’ social horizons and mobilities are expanding contemporaneously while women’s compromised access to mobility as a social resource produces new mobility hierarchies and gendered exclusions. We assess these social implications of infrastructure development in terms of mobility justice.

David Butz is professor in the Department of Geography and interdisciplinary graduateprograms in Social Justice and Equity Studies and Popular Culture at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. He serves as Editor-in-chief of Studies in Social Justice, and sits on the Faculty Steering Committee of the Social Justice Research Institute. David has been conducting ethnographic research in mountainous Northern Pakistan since 1988.

Nancy Cook is associate professor in Brock University’s Department of Sociology and MA program in Social Justice and Equity Studies, and an affiliate of the Social Justice Research Institute. Her ethnographic research in Northern Pakistan has focused on transcultural interactions between development workers from the global North and local populations.

They are currently collaborating on two mobility-related research projects in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Northern Pakistan. The first is an analysis of the differential mobility implications of a recently constructed jeep road linking Shimshal village to the Karakoram Highway, the region’s arterial roadway. The second focuses on experiences of demobilisation in the aftermath of a massive 2010 landslide that destroyed over 20 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway, leaving 20,000 people in several dozen villages without vehicular access to market towns or lowland areas. These projects have prompted them to think about the social implications of infrastructure development and failure in terms of mobility justice.


Register here.

Farmland Moves: Black Earth Narratives, Geopolitics and the Symbolical Dimensions of Farmland Investment

Past Events

Farmland Moves: Black Earth Narratives, Geopolitics and the Symbolical Dimensions of Farmland Investment

Oane Visser

Oct 7th

Professor Oane Visser, a visiting scholar at the Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto, studies land deals, financialisation, rural development, labour and social movements. His work has appeared in such venues as Journal of Peasant Studies, Journal of Agrarian Change, Agriculture & Human Values, Globalizations, and European Journal of Sociology. He is currently Principal Investigator of a European Research Council (ERC) project on land acquisitions in Russia and an editor of Focaal- Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. Professor Visser will address the ‘global land grab’- the sharp rise in investments in farmland since the mid-2000s–by drawing on theories of financialization, nature and assemblages, to explicate in particular the symbolic-discursive dimension of the turning of natural resources into financial assets.


Tea, Coffee and Cookies will be served.

Oct.28th, Tania Li -After the land grab: Infrastructural violence and the mafia system in Indonesia’s oil palm plantation zone

Past Events

October 28th, 12-2pm


After the land grab: Infrastructural violence and the mafia system in Indonesia’s oil palm plantation zone

Plantations are back. Colonial-style large scale corporate monoculture of industrial crops on concession land is again expanding in the global south. The biggest expansion is in Indonesia, where oil palm plantations already cover ten million hectares, and more are planned. The land dimensions of renewed plantation expansion were thrust into public debate in 2008-9, when there was a spike in transnational land-acquisitions dubbed a global “land-grab.”   The polemical term “grab” usefully drew attention to what was being taken away: customary land rights, diverse farming systems, and ecological balance. Drawing on ethnographic research in the oil palm zone of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, this talk draws attention to what happens after the grab: to the social and political system that is put in place, together with the palms.

Plantations are industrial production machines. They are also machines for the production of predation, the violent underside of plantation life. Behind the plantations’ orderly, material grid of roads, palms, mills, and housing blocks; and behind its technical diagrams, accounts, contracts, and job descriptions, there is another system, an illicit double of the first. Locals call the double a “mafia system” but it is a system without a mafia. There is no controlling family, and no boundary separating members from non members. It is not the work of corrupt individuals who can be isolated and punished, nor of rogue companies that fail to obey the law. It is an extended, densely networked system in which everyone in an oil palm zone participates in order get somewhere, or simply to survive. It is too routine and patterned to be regarded as a failure or aberration of the plantation system. It is the system. It is entrenched as firmly as plantation roads, and parasitic on them: it makes use of the plantation’s material infrastructure to gain access to plantation wealth. It encodes rules of conduct that work around and through the plantation’s technical manuals, and mimic them. It is violent in the slow, unmarked way that all infrastructure is violent: because of the forms of life it destroys, the future it precludes, and the set of material, social and political relations it fixes in place.

Tania Murray Li teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy and Culture of Asia. Her publications include Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier (Duke University Press, 2014), Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia (with Derek Hall and Philip Hirsch, NUS Press, 2011), The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics (Duke University Press, 2007) and many articles on land, development, resource struggles, community, class, and indigeneity with a particular focus on Indonesia.

Register here.


Sharlene Mollett: Irreconcilable Differences? A feminist postcolonial reading of gender, development and Human Rights in Latin America

Past Events

September 30th



In 2015, the United Nations set in motion the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). While this mandate and its discourses provide much to celebrate, the reliance on a language of human rights and universal prescriptions therein, in fact, collide against the reality of a persistent emplacement of Afro-descendant communities as less-than-human.  But rather than focus on yet another tragic tale of black dispossession, however so, in this discussion I draw insight from postcolonial feminist political ecology to unveil the way Afro-descendant women activists rethink, rather than reject, human rights approaches and discourses. In so doing, these activists make visible their particular knowledges and racialized subjectivities used to challenge a regional imaginary that denies their humanity. With a focus on Afro-descendant women’s organized struggles in Latin America, I present a historicized, discursive and ethnographically informed reading of a development landscape imbued with anti-black racism and the disavowal of Afro-descendant rights to land and livelihood. My reading also draws from ethnographic conversations with, and about, Afro-Antillean women from Old Bank, Bastimientos Island, Panama. I blend these insights with key land histories and tourism policies, news media and secondary resources as a way to highlight the everyday operations of gendered and racialized logics, largely unacknowledged by the broader development landscape, and key to the workings of residential tourism development, a state-sanctioned form of poverty alleviation. Afro-descendant women in Old Bank acquiesce to, and quietly contest an array of dispossessions unfolding in the name of tourism development. These struggles inform feminist political ecologies of place through the embodied meanings of intersectionality, the mutual constitution of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ space, and the gendering of Afro-descendant collective struggles over livelihoods and natural resources. Thus, in Latin America, I argue that Afro-descendant women lead a material and symbolic process of place-making that prioritizes life through struggles over racialized-gendered dispossession and the right to be human.

Keywords: postcolonial intersectionality; human rights; development; Latin America; feminist political ecology

Sharlene Mollett is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Critical Development Studies| Department of Human Geography, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto.

Register here.