BIS 394: Comparative Economic Development
Spring 2009
Tuesday and Thursday 8:00-10:05PM, UW1-050     

Colin Danby, University of Washington, Bothell
Room UW1-245    (425) 352-5285
Office Hours Tuesday and Thursday 6:00-7:30 PM, and by appointment.

This course will give you tools to understand changes in Third World economies.  We will focus on institutions — established sets of relationships among people in a society or culture — which organize productive activity.  Such institutions include families, markets, systems of land ownership, governments, and firms.

"Third World" is not a neat category.  It refers broadly to formerly-colonized nations of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean which have gained independence over the last two centuries.  But these were different societies before being colonized, and experienced very different kinds of transformation under colonial rule.  The course will emphasize the internal diversity of the Third World, but will not attempt to teach you the economic history of all 150 or so nations that can be put in this category.  Rather, we will look at a number of interesting examples, and build an intellectual toolkit that will enable you to gain insights into other cases.

By "development" in this course we simply mean large-scale transformation in a country's productive system.   The term “development” is often used normatively: certain countries are labeled “developed,” and considered the desirable norm, while others are termed “underdeveloped,” and assumed to be striving to emulate the “developed” countries.  We will not make this assumption.  You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to think about and discuss the criteria by which change should be judged, but there is no reason to believe that everyone’s judgments about what is desirable will coincide.  (Nor is it clear that every country follows the same path of change, and we may even want to question the idea that the world can be readily divided into different countries with separate national histories.)

This course starts with a skeptical attitude toward large, grand theories of social, economic, or cultural change.  We will spend most of our time reading about, discussing, and seeing films about specific places and times, and reasoning from them.  We will work comparatively because far more can be learned by thinking about the differences between, say, Mexico and Bangladesh and Kenya than by trying to combine them into an imaginary "typical third world country."  This is why we will need to read widely and carefully.  Plan on doing a lot of reading.

Reading is especially important to this course, since most of our learning depends on applying theories to particular examples, and it is mainly by reading that we will learn about those examples.  Most of these examples will be from places that are unfamiliar, so the readings will require close attention.  Reading is more than just understanding each sentence in an article.  For our purposes, reading includes both pulling those sentences together to figure out what the author is up to, and thinking critically about a piece of writing: are there questionable assumptions, missing evidence, or better interpretations of the evidence provided?  We will approach video material in the same critical way.  We will do a lot of work on the readings in small groups so that more people have a chance to discuss them.

Grading will be broken down like this:

Take-home exams (3) 60%
Completing response papers on time 15%
Participation 10%
Portfolio (response papers and in-class work) 15%

There will be three take-home examinations, in which you will be asked to respond to questions about the readings.  You have the option of submitting drafts to me in advance for comment.  "Advance" generally means by Friday of the previous week.  I value careful, precise language and clear organization.  Be sure that you understand questions and respond directly to them. 

Response papers will get full credit if they make a serious effort to respond to the question or questions. 

The portfolio will be assessed on the overall quality and completeness of the work it contains.  Additionally we will do short pieces of in-class writing, individually about readings, about films, or for other purposes, which I will ask you to retain for the portfolio.  Quite a few of these will use question sets that I will pass out in class.  I will try to post those on the discussion board to help people keep track, but I make no commitment to keeping copies of handouts beyond the class in which they are handed out.  Participation will be assessed both on the basis of whole-class discussions and small-group work. 

I will do my best to communicate the criteria by which written assignments will be assessed.  Please ask when you have questions, and feel free to consult with me if you are having difficulty with any assignment.

Late work: The response papers and take-home exams will be subject to my normal late-paper policy, which is that late submissions will be penalized 15% (of the total possible grade) up to the first week they are late; 30% thereafter.  They will not be accepted after the last day of class meetings (June 5th).  It's your responsibility to organize your life so work gets done on time, reliably.  There are no exceptions to the late-work policy -- there simply is no way that I can fairly assess the personal emergencies, job pressures, and other factors that impinge on different people's lives, and adjust their assignments accordingly.  Please do not try to show me doctors' notes, court orders, or anything like that.  There is however one appeal: if you feel that for any reason, part of your grade does not reflect your learning in the course, write me a short e-mail explaining why, and I will take that into account when assessing the final grade.

To simplify the process of turning in assignments and handling paper, I am using Collect-It, a service of the University of Washington’s “Catalyst” project, for the response papers and exams.  Using this requires your UW ID.   We do not use Blackboard.

There is no reason to tell me if you are going to miss class.  However if a serious illness or personal emergency is going to affect course work over a week or more, please tell me so we can plan how to get you back on track as quickly as possible.  For a few other points see Occasionally-Asked Questions.  Here are some notes on formats for written work.

Our scheduled classes are times for work.  Focusing on the task at hand is important for your own learning; it also makes you a better participant in small-group discussions and other activities that will help others learn.  It is therefore expected that you will use class time for class work.  Most importantly, I expect that you will not do anything to distract other students from class work.  This means, for example, avoiding private conversations, no noisy food, and turning off and putting away cell phones and all other portable electronic devices.  In the interest of avoiding distractions, this will be a laptop-free classroom.   If you must arrive late, please tiptoe in the back door as quietly as possible.  Please do not wander in and out while class is in session, and please return from break on time (my breaks are five minutes).  It is my responsibility, and prerogative, to determine what is appropriate classroom behavior. 

If you believe that you have a disability and would like academic accommodations, please contact Disability Support Services at 425.352.5307, 425.352.5303 TDD, 425.352.3581 FAX, or at dss@uwb.edu. They will be happy to provide assistance. You will need to provide documentation of your disability as part of the review process.  If you have a documented disability on file with the DSS office, please have no hesitation about asking your DSS counselor to contact me. 

You are reading a web document.  It can be located by putting "danby" into the faculty directory accessible via the main uwb page, or by putting "colin danby" into a search engine like google.   Changes in readings or assignments will be made on the web version, as well as being announced in class.  If you miss classes you need to check for any modifications to assignments.

I encourage you to see the regular class time as only part of the service provided to you in this course. Please feel no hesitation about contacting me outside of class, about using the scheduled office hours, and about setting up meetings at other times. Aside from visiting during the scheduled office hours or chatting after class, the best way to get in touch is e-mail.  I don't use the voice mail system.

You have a UW e-mail address, which I may use to communicate with you.  You should consult the mailbox regularly, and if you have another primary e-mail address, set your UW mailbox to forward to that primary address.

This course includes writing, and it is assumed that written work is your own, and that when another person’s ideas or words are used they are fully acknowledged. This is what the UWB catalog says:

"Plagiarism is the use of the creations, ideas or words of someone else without formally acknowledging the author or source through the use of quotation marks, references, and the like. Plagiarizing is stealing someone’s work and presenting it as one’s own work or thought. Student work in which plagiarism occurs will ordinarily not be accepted as satisfactory by the instructor, and may lead to disciplinary action against the student submitting it. Any student who is uncertain whether his or her use of the work of others constitutes plagiarism should consult the course instructor for guidance before formally submitting the course work involved."

You must use quotation marks and references whenever you use someone else's writing, whether you use their words or their ideas.  Mere paraphrase does not exempt you from this requirement.  Please see these additional notes on plagiarism.


You are required to print out e-reserve readings, and to bring to each class printouts of all the readings for that class session.  You may find it useful to simply print out and carry with you the entire collection.

For example, you must have with you on Thursday, April 2nd your copy of A Quiet Violence, and a printout of Sen’s “Famines and Other Crises.”  On Tuesday April 7th you should have with you A Quiet Violence and a printout of Sen’s “Gender and Cooperative Conflicts.”  You do not need to print out any of the supplemental or optional material.

E-reserve cautions: The direct links to e-reserve readings worked at the beginning of this quarter.  T hose readings should always be available via the library’s course reserve page.  The library commits to making e-reserves available in a format that will print out well on the library’s computers.  You’re welcome to print them out elsewhere, but neither I nor the library can provide technical support for other computers and printers.  In general, it’s a good idea not to wait until the last possible moment to print readings.  The e-reserve collection for this  class contains more readings than we will actually use.

Discussion Forum

The BIS 394 Discussion Board is open to all of you for any course-related purpose.  I will occasionally use it for relevant material that does not merit class time.

Schedule of Topics and Readings (subject to adjustment)


Readings and topics

(All readings should be finished before the class for which they are assigned.)


Tuesday, March  31

1. The Entitlement Framework
Course intro, the concepts of entitlement, capabilities, and functionings

Film excerpt: Distant Thunder


Thursday, April 2

Read: Sen, "Famines and Other Crises"
Read: A Quiet Violence,  Chapter 12 

Supplemental material:

Notes on Sen, Famines

Bangladesh Background

Main Characters in A Quiet Violence


Tuesday, April 7

Read: Sen, “Gender and Cooperative Conflicts”
Read: A Quiet Violence,  Chapters 6, 7, 8

Supplemental material:

Notes on Sen, Gender 

Film, in class: Dadi's Family 

First response paper due (via drop-box)

Thursday, April 9



Read: Agarwal, “Gender Relations and Food Security”

Read: A Quiet Violence,  Chapters 1-5

Supplemental material: Notes on Agarwal

Tuesday, April 14

Read: Francis,  "Rural Livelihoods and Gender"

Supplemental material: Notes on Francis

Second response paper due (via drop-box)

Thursday, April 16

Read: A Quiet Violence, Chapter 1, pages 18-21, and Chapters 9-13


Tuesday, April 21

2. Transformations: Farming 
Films, in class: You Can't Eat Potential and Seeds of Plenty, Seeds of Sorrow

First exam due (via drop-box)

Thursday, April 23

Read: Borlaug, "The Green Revolution: Past Successes and Future Challenges"
Read: Frankel, "Ludhiana, Punjab" from India's Green Revolution

Optional: Glaeser, "Agriculture Between the Green Revolution and Ecodevelopment" (excerpt)

Third response paper due (via drop-box)

Tuesday, April 28

Read: Boserup,   Chapters 1 and 3 from Woman’s Role in Economic Development

Optional: Beneria and Sen, "Accumulation, Reproduction and Women's Role in Economic Development: Boserup Revisited."

Fourth response paper due (via drop-box)

Thursday, April 30

Read: Burns, “The Modernization of Underdevelopment”

Supplemental material: Notes on Burns


Tuesday, May 5

Read: Geertz, “The Dutch Colonial Period in Indonesia: Agricultural Involution” (chapter 4)


Supplemental material: Notes on Geertz

Fifth response paper due (via drop-box)

Thursday, May 7

Read: Geertz, “The Dutch Colonial Period in Indonesia: Agricultural Involution” (chapter 5)

Supplemental material: Notes on Geertz


Tuesday, May 12


Read: A Quiet Violence, Chapters 14-20

Sixth response paper due (via drop-box)

Thursday, May 14

Read: Cypher and  Dietz. "Development in Historical Perspective."



Optional: Todaro,  "Diverse Structures and Common Characteristics of Developing Nations"


Supplemental material:

Sketch of Colonial Empires  

Historical Overview

Tuesday, May 19

3. Transformations: Migration, Industry, Cities 
Bring to class a printout of: Crummett,"The Women's Movement"
Film, in class: Continent on the Move

Second exam due (via drop-box)

Thursday, May 21

Read: Gugler, "Urban-Rural Interface" from Cities, Poverty, and Development
Read: Seabrook, "Dharavi I"

Supplemental material: Dharavi pictures


Film (excerpt) Bombay Our City


Optional: Drakakis-Smith, selections from The Third World City

Tuesday, May 26

Read: Fernández-Kelly, "Maquiladoras: The View from Inside"
Read: Seabrook, "The Industrialist, Dhaka."

Seventh Response paper due (via drop-box)


Thursday, May 29

Read: Wolf, "Daughters, Decisions, and Domination"


Tuesday June 2

Read: Ong, "Domestic Relations: The Reconfiguration of Family Life"

Portfolio assessment due.  (via drop-box)

You do not have to re-submit what is already in the drop-box.  But you are asked to submit all the in-class assignments in a folder in today’s class.  I will return those to you Thursday June 4.

Thursday June 4

Read: Benería, "The Mexican Debt Crisis: Restructuring the Economy and the Household."


Thursday June 11

(no class)

Final exam (via drop-box)