DEVELOPMENT STUDIES ENTERING A CUL-DE-SAC? REFLECTIONS ON DEVELOPMENT STUDIES AS AN ACADEMIC DISCIPLINE: A HISTORICAL APPRAISAL

Ong Puay Liu, Sarmila Md Sum

Abstract


The “fate of development studies” in the context of the dominant thinking on
development as propagated by development theorists was one of the main themes
highlighted in the 5th International Malaysian Studies Conference (MSC5).1 Indeed, the
MSC5 convenors evoke the call for a reflection on the implications for and the future of
development studies in Malaysia. Reflection on the fate and future of development
studies in Malaysia requires us, in particular, to understand how development studies has
been understood as an academic discipline and implemented by institutions of higher
learning. This article undertakes to do a historical appraisal of development studies as an
academic discipline under the guidance of the following questions: (i) How development
studies emerge as a (serious) academic discipline in institutions of higher learning; (ii)
How these institutions of higher learning define “development” and “development
studies”; and (iii) What are their objectives/rationale, methodology and scope? Through
this historical appraisal, this article hopes to configurate a model of development studies
that incorporates not only the substantive components (interdisciplinary subject matter)
but also the praxis component (‘doing’ development through for example, immersion and
advocacy) in order to make development studies a socially responsible and relevant field
in development process and planning.


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