Key Research Interests

Social Development, Civil Society; NGOs; Rural Livelihoods; Religion; Christianity; Pentecostalism; Local Politics; Government; Africa; Uganda; Teso.

Research Groups:
 Politics, Governance and the State


My work looks at institutions and their significance in processes of development and change.  I am particularly interested in organizations working at the local level such as churches, non-governmental organizations, courts, and institutions organized around family or social obligations and their relationship to government.  My regional expertise is on sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on the Teso region of eastern Uganda.  


I am currently working on a British Academy funded mid-career fellowship.  The project is titled ‘Educating institutions: A study of the influence of educated young women and men on local politics in Uganda’ (MD\170053) and looks a generation of young men and women in the Teso region of eastern Uganda who are the first in their family to go to school. In particular I examine the effect this generation is having on local institutions – school committees, church groups, village courts, burial societies. What are the political entailments of education? Does education open up new paths to becoming influential? Does it help to reconfigure gender relations? Do educated youth approach politics in new ways? Available research on education in the developing world focuses on its economic impact, or on the spread of modern attitudes, particularly among male urban youth. Less is understood about the political consequences of education, or about the transformations taking place with the arrival of educated young men and,  more especially, women, in the countryside.



I have recently completed a major research programme looking at the way different donor organisations make sense of their commitment to the norm of gender equality.  The programme is based at the Danish Institute for International Studies.  My case study looked at the World Bank and its changing relationship to the role of gender in development.  My findings pointed to the way new methodologies in the field of development economics – impact evaluation, behavioural economics, randomized control trials – changed the way the World Bank thinks about gender.  You can read some of the findings in a new issue of Progress in Development Studies and an edited volume coming out with Palgrave.


Earlier work looked at the after-effects of a violent insurgency in the Teso region, and discussed the role of churches, burial groups and village courts in making sense of this history of violence.   My book Beyond the State in Rural Uganda won the 2009 Elliott P. Skinner Book Award by the Africanist section of the American Anthropological Association.   And reviews of Beyond the State included the following:

'A refreshing and original antidote to the myopic habits of conventional scohlarsihp, an illuminating, astute, against-the-grain study of real-existing development', Prof. James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University.


I have written for The Guardian newspaper about their Katine development initiative, and have contributed to their Global Development website.  At present I am authoring a series of articles looking at the media, development and the particular experience of people living in Katine sub-county in the years after the project ended.  I have an article in the European Journal of Development Studies on the role of media in NGOs, and have an article coming out with the journal Journalism looking at the relationship the developed between journalists and NGO workers.


I welcome applications for doctoral research, with a particular interest in proposals that use ethnographic work to explore examples of political and social change in the developing world.  Please contact me by e-mail if you would like to discuss further.


Current PhD Students

Marc-André Boisvert: Military culture in Mali: tracing the coup and collapse of 2012 (UEA studentship)

Jean CAder: Understanding poverty and household insecurity in north-eastern Uganda.

Francesca Chiu: Citizenship and housing in Mandalay (funded by a studentship from UEA and the University of Copenhagen). 

Jonathan Franklin: Environmental NGOs in Tanzania (ESRC studentship)

Qudra Goodall: Gender and everyday Islam among British Muslims in Norwich and Norfolk (ESRC studentship) 

Stéphen Huard: Local politics and land in rural Myanmar (UEA Studentship)

Touseef Mir: Intgreation of ex-combattants in Srinigar Kashmir (UEA Studentship)

Sugandha Nagpal: Gender, religion and migrant projects in rural Punjab (UEA studentship)

Kara Sheppard: Education and female identities in a mixed secondary school in Arusha, Tanzania (ESRC studentship)

Hailing Zhao: The new politics of civil society in southern China (UEA studentship)




Completed PhD Students

Fariba Alamgir: Ethnicity, conflict and land in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (funded by a studentship from UEA and the University of Copenhagen).  Fariba was awarded a writing-up grant by the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies

Hannah Atkins: Contingent futures: navigating aspirations among the Banyole of Uganda (UEA studentship)

Juliet Colman: How social relations and identities are reconstituted through consumption in Botswana

Harry Greatorex: Patronage for revolutionaries: the politics of community organising in a Venezuelan township (ESRC studentship)

Will Monteith: Power, negotiation, place: an ethnography of politics in Nakasero market, Kampala (UEA studentship).  Will was awarded a writing up grant by the British Institute for East Africa

Samuel Rushworth: Learning to live together: education, identity and citizenship in Rwandan schools (ESRC studentship)

Brendan Whitty: Negotiating results: subject positions and discursive practices in DFID’s grant-giving (UEA studentship)

Daniel Wroe: 'What can I do?’ Living with doubt and uncertainty in the Central Region of Malawi. (ESRC studentship)


ID: 163172