SGO4401 – Democratization and civil society in developing countries

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course examines the dynamics of democratization in developing countries, with special emphasis on representation of people and the role of civil society. The first part of the course focuses on contemporary institutional changes and academic debates on democratization, governance and citizenship in the Global South. The lectures and readings point to the global spread of formal democracy and neoliberal governance, but also the prevalence of depoliticization and flawed popular representation and participation. Following from this, the second part of the course focuses on efforts towards more substantive democratization, examining the interplay between political spaces and actor strategies to pursue diverse issues and interests.

The lectures and readings especially highlight the role of civil society and social movements in political representation; the changing character and politics of trade unionism; the role and strategies of critical journalism, and material and symbolic practices within political networks.

The course draws on interdisciplinary literature and debates, while also foregrounding political geographic approaches and contributions. The course is thus designed to give both a broad overview of the field and a theoretical basis for master degree studies in human geography within the field of democratization and civil society in developing studies.

Learning outcome


Students shall attain:

  • A good overview of key theoretical issues and debates on democratization and civil society in developing countries
  • A good understanding of political geographic approaches to and selected contextual cases of democratization and civil society in developing countries


Students shall attain:

  • Ability to understand and critically assess theoretical and contextual literature on democratization and civil society in developing countries
  • Ability to write an academic review paper at an advanced level within the course topic


Students shall attain:

  • Critical reflexivity around the form, substance and political dynamics of democratization and popular representation in developing countries
  • Reflexivity around theoretical strategies and challenges of doing research on democratization and civil society in the Global South


International applicants, if you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures for international applicants.

Students in other master programs may apply to be accepted as guest students. Please note that the following special restrictions apply:

• applicant must be admitted to a master program.
• this course will be taken as a part of their Master's degree. A confirmation from the students student adviser must be attached to the application.
• there are available places in this course.

Applications must be sent to the Department by 26 August.

If you already have completed our Master's programme in Human Geography and want to take additional master courses, please read this


Recommended previous knowledge

An introductory course in political geography or politics and development, for example SGO2400 – Politisk geografi or STV2310 – Politics and development (discontinued).

Overlapping courses

The course overlaps with SGO4014 – Politisk geografi (discontinued) and SGO314, which are previous courses that were offered at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography.


This course is taught at the University of Oslo, Blindern campus. Other locations in Oslo may be used.

The lectures are given in English.

Teaching takes place throughout the semester, as outlined in the course plan.


Term paper.

Assessment is based on a term paper that students will work on throughout the semester.

The topic for the term paper is decided by each student in consultation with the course instructor(s), and must be within the thematic focus of the course. The Maximum length of the term paper is 15 pages (plus references and notes), using 12 point letter size and a spacing of lines 1 1/2.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Ask for explanation of your grade in this course:

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Every other autumn starting 2009


Every other autumn starting 2009

Teaching language