Dennis Rodgers is Professor of International Development Studies (IDS). His research focuses broadly on issues relating to the political economy of development, including in particular the dynamics of conflict and violence in cities in Latin America and South Asia (India). In this short piece he explains why he believes that the best teaching is always research-led and what is the great strength of IDS.
The main aim of my teaching is always to critically challenge students in order to provide them with analytical tools through which to determine their own understanding of the world and the processes shaping it. I strongly believe that the best teaching is always research-led, not only because this exposes students to fresh and innovative empirical material, but also because teaching is perhaps the best medium for working through ideas and data in a communicable manner, forcing one to think coherently and non-esoterically. As such, I see teaching as a two-way process, which changes both the student and the teacher.
My teaching changes from year to year, but I currently teach both BA and MA courses, on issues relating to globalization, international development, inequality and social exclusion, urban perspectives on development, and how to undertake fieldwork in developing countries. My teaching encompasses both core texts and more specialized research-informed modules, which draw in particular on my research in three broad areas: the role of conflict and violence in society (including in particular youth gangs), urban development, and the politics of representation (as observable in the fiction and film of development). I work on these topics mainly in Nicaragua and India, although I have also carried out research in Argentina. I try to return to these countries regularly, in order to be as up-to-date as possible.
IDS is by its very nature highly socially relevant, due to its intrinsic engagement with the real world, but I think it is important not to think about university studies purely in instrumental terms. A higher education is fundamentally about an individual’s holistic intellectual development, in order to help them become a person in the truly Descartian sense of the term: “I think therefore I am”. While studying IDS may provide you with a range of possible future employment opportunities, I think the greatest strength of IDS is that they enable you to engage critically and in an interdisciplinary manner with some of the major issues shaping the contemporary world, and it is this, more than anything else, that makes it such an exciting topic of study.