Course Description

The principal objective of this course is to review and question the underlying assumptions on social change that inform the current paradigms within development discourses on women, energy and health.


A new set of global development goals is currently being shaped. The post-2015 development agenda identifies gender equality, energy and health as central to development and poverty reduction. This Ph.D. course will interrogate the assumptions about social change that underpin international attention to these goals.

Gender equality is, on the one hand, presented as a condition for economic growth (e.g. World Development Report 2012), as captured in the notion of smart economics and in campaigns like ‘The Girl Effect’, but discrimination against women is also considered as a violation of human rights and therefore as a problem in itself. Women are thus variably perceived as agents of development and as (passive) victims of discrimination; each image reflecting a specific view on agency and change.

Gendered processes of social change are important to key development concerns such as energy and health. The current discourse on energy for development is strongly influenced by the pressing problems of climate change, deforestation, governments’ dependency on fossil fuels and energy poverty. Initiatives like ‘Energy for All’ highlight the need to provide poor people with access to electricity based on renewable sources. Gender is increasingly mainstreamed within this energy agenda, for instance through efforts to empower women by providing access to new technology. Renewed focus on modern stoves to address the problem of indoor pollution and poor health highlights the growing links between concerns about energy and health. Like energy programmes, global health programmes often emphasise technological solutions, whether medicines and vaccines, mobile phone technology or other ‘innovations’ that seek to empower ‘users’ to take charge of their own health. Current energy and health initiatives seem to share a deep faith in technology as a driver of social change, combined with an individualistic understanding of human behaviour. The broader social, political and historical context and the impact of structural constraints are rarely considered.

To balance these mainstream approaches, this course will present social scientific perspectives on social change and development, informed by grounded empirical research for better understanding women’s (and men’s) daily lives and concerns.


Objectives and Focus

The objective of this Ph.D. course is to review and question the underlying assumptions on social change that inform the current paradigms within development discourses on women, energy and health. Alternative perspectives will be presented. The course also seeks to illuminate some of the links between energy and health. For example, in what ways are women’s positions and health influenced by specific energy solutions? How may the health-energy-equality nexus be approached and understood? What measures in terms of cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary approaches etc. are needed for understanding and approaching the issues of women, energy and health in a holistic way?

We wish to enable doctoral students to better understand key concepts, debates and perspectives in energy, health and gender equality for the purposes of research, policy making and/or concrete programmes and projects. Although the main emphasis will be put on anthropological perspectives, the lectures cut across scales, forms of knowledge and social, political, and economic dimensions.

In addition to lectures, the course will allow researchers conducting Ph.D. research to present their own work and comment on that of others, guided by senior experienced academics who are themselves working in this field.

The syllabus/readings include 1000 pages of literature. There will be a maximum participation of 18 students, and the language of instruction will be English.



Published Aug. 5, 2013 1:41 PM - Last modified Nov. 26, 2013 10:38 AM