I have been teaching in the field of Global Development for the past 15 years, beginning as a Teaching Assistance for Michael Watts at his Introduction to Development and Underdevelopment course back in 1999, when I started my own PhD in Anthropology at UC Berkeley. Ten years later I joined the Centre for Development Studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, a small postgraduate program under the welcoming directorship of Yvonne Underhill-Sem. It was here, teaching primarily Kiwi, Pacific and Asian students, that I first heard students talk about their disillusionment with our critical take on international development, which left them with little to no hope to realize their desire to make the world a better place through working in the field. Granted, I knew already that the field was deeply problematic and that many of the students’ desires were build on naive assumptions whose realization had often brought the students to our program in the first place. But as an educator committed to transformational teaching the reaches beyond the classroom, I could not help but feeling that something was amiss.
This continued after I joined Sussex University in the UK in 2014, in the International Development department which has a large undergraduate program as well as several MA courses and a thriving PhD community. Especially as Head of Department for three years, I had many more conversations with students and colleagues, which clarified my thoughts on the importance of educating students around the idea of ‘critical hope’ – a combination of critical analysis of the international development regime and its historical and current inequities and of informed awareness of existing alternatives within and without this system to guide students in imagining and working towards alternative futures.
Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Alternative Futures, which I will be writing over the next year, is the result of this 20 year journey, showing how I, and many of my colleagues, have put teaching critical hope into practice in the classroom.
Thank you for reading this blog!