The political economy of agrarian change in the Global South


The Global South is in the process of an agricultural transformation. This is driven by the expansion of markets, globalisation, and the shift towards capitalist and commercial forms of agriculture. At the same time, high labour migration means that peripheral regions are more connected with the global economy than ever before. However, in spite of this, the pattern of change has been selective and can lead to complex outcomes, with new patterns of inequality and growth both between and within regions. 

This module will seek to look at the historical and present day processes of agrarian change in rural communities in Asia and Africa in a global economy. Through the lens of agrarian political economy, it will seek to understand (i) the changing nature of the ‘peasantry’ in the 21st century; (ii) changing ‘modes of production’ in agriculture from the colonial to contemporary era (iii) the role of climate change and its convergence with non-economic stress (iv) the migration economy, ‘feminisation’ of agriculture, and what it means for rural development. 

The module will build directly from the themes students engaged in for module 03 27798 Cultural and Development Geographies by applying some of these larger theories at a grassroots level. 

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Have the ability to apply an agrarian political economy approach to analyse rural economic formations in the Global South and their interaction with global capitalism, with sensitivity to the diverse theoretical frameworks in this field and how they relate to broader debates in human geography and development studies.
  • Have the ability to understand the diversity in agrarian systems in the Global South including the difference between ‘peasant’, ‘feudal’ and capitalist farming systems. Understand the implications for longer term agrarian development, and how these formations have been transformed or undermined by globalisation.
  • Understand the role of climate change in shaping the trajectory of agrarian change in the Global South, moving beyond simplistic models of vulnerability and taking an interdisciplinary approach which recognises the fusion of biophysical, economic, political and social processes.
  • An ability to understand the significance of labour migration for development in rural regions of the Global South, and what it means for livelihoods.
  • An ability to look beyond the household as a unit of analysis and understand the significance of internal divisions such as gender and age, particularly in the context of economic change due to migration, shifting youth aspirations and changed gender roles.


  • 4000 word project : Coursework (100%)