development, pedagogy, images, critical development studies

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Images are powerful. They shape how we see and understand the world, in the process challenging (or reinforcing) our assumptions and perspectives. The images we use in the classroom are no exception, whether used passively as visual aids or as a ‘medium through which active learning is energized’.[1] In this article we embrace the ‘pictorial turn’ in university teaching, and reflect on the use of images when teaching ‘development.’[2] Development is an area which typically attracts students with an internationalist orientation who seek to make a positive change in the world. And yet the concept of development is fraught in historical and political economic terms. This complexity is reflected in academic debates about developmental imageries and imaginaries, in particular in representing global poverty. We argue that by using images carefully and reflectively, we can help students think critically about the development project’s history and imperial dimensions, whilst nurturing their desire to struggle against global injustices, or improve life and livelihood in particular places. Our aim is to equip the students with the kind of contextual understandings and critical intellectual tools which help them to be engaged agents of change.

[1] See David Roberts, “Higher Education Lectures: From Passive to Active Learning via Imagery?” (2019) 20:1 Active Learning in Higher Education 63, 63.

[2] On a pictorial turn, see David Roberts, “‘The message is the medium’: Evaluating the use of visual images to provoke engagement and active learning in politics and international relations lectures*” (2018) 38:2 Politics 232, 232.

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