We have to take difference seriously and understand how the assumptions behind our theories can value or devalue the lives of real people around the globe.

Ilona Moore

An increase in gross domestic product sounds positive, but it's not necessarily a good thing for all of a country's citizens. It can actually lead to some population segments being ignored, producing greater inequities, says Professor Ilona Moore, international relations. In her courses on global development, she challenges students to take a close look commonly accepted ideas.

"For instance, you'd expect that in a country with booming economic growth, most of the population would have enough to eat, but this is too often not the case," she says. "We look at other approaches, including a human development framework with indicators based on the quality of people's lives, such as life span and education. Then we explore what development really means, and how it relates to human security."

Moore, whose doctorate is in human geography, provides an example. "In 2008, there was a global food crisis even though harvests in 2007 and 2008 had hit record highs. There was a surplus of food, but in much of the world, hunger reached record levels." Speculation in food after the 2007 financial crisis drove up prices anywhere from 60 to 200 percent, just as government policies reduced food supports for the poor. "At the national level, the food situation looked fine," she says. "But the effect on people was devastating."

According to Moore, while security is generally presumed to be an issue at the level of the nation-state, human security refocuses the question on the lives of individuals and their access to adequate food, education, health care and safety. In Moore's Globalization class, students take a close look at policies, institutions and structures and ask who is benefitting. "And perhaps more importantly, who is not," she adds.

Case studies and examples help students understand how complex theories play out in the lives of people around the world, says Moore, who urges students to question the ideas of culture that are assumed in globalization.

"Sometimes we presume that everyone is headed toward the same modern way of living, but what version of modernity do we mean? We have to take difference seriously and understand how the assumptions behind our theories can value or devalue the lives of real people around the globe."  

Posted Oct. 7, 2015 

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