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Development Studies Association Conference

Examination Schools, University of Oxford, 12-14 September, 2016


Politics in Development

This conference aims to explore the theme of politics and development. While panels (and later papers) directly addressing the conference theme are particularly encouraged, proposals on any issue relevant to the understanding of international development are welcomed.

While it is axiomatic that development is inherently political, 'politics' is conceived in myriad different ways in development studies, policy and practice. Different disciplines – anthropology, economics, geography, international relations, sociology, political science and others - have adopted different approaches to conceptualizing politics. The methods used to analyse political factors vary enormously from detailed case studies to formalised Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to large-N cross-country analysis. Cross-disciplinary approaches weave together very different mixes of these concepts and methods.

Yet, how politics is understood has critical implications for both scholarly analysis and practical intervention. It matters how politics in development is interpreted and analysed, be it in terms of regime type, governance and institutional design; or radical assertion of citizenship; or contestation of dominant development paradigms; or hegemonic discourses driving policy agendas; or corporate interests determining public policy; or exercise of power in social hierarchies; or everyday forms of unequal relationships. In recent years there are strong indications that development practice, particularly that of aid agencies/development partners, has been shifting from the conveniently fuzzy concept of ‘governance’ to using the more hard-edged concepts of politics, power and political economy.

Bearing in mind such diverse and divergent approaches to politics, and mindful of the ever stronger political nexus between geopolitical security and international development at the present conjuncture, this conference will compare and reflect on a range of different empirical and theoretical perspectives on the interplay of politics and development, with the latter seen both as 'intentional' practice and as an 'immanent' process of social and economic change, to borrow the terms used by Cowen and Shenton. Papers and panels at the conference on this theme are expected to encompass local to global scales of analysis, and range from examining development interventions, political ideas, action and institutions, to exploring informal and quotidian politics and struggles over economic, institutional and symbolic resources, to studies of inequality, deprivation, poverty and exploitation, and their structural underpinning in relations of political power and dominance.

These are some suggested topics - we welcome all contributions that illuminate the theme of politics in development from any analytical angle and in a variety of ways. The conference is intended to be as inclusive as possible, and therefore, paper and panel proposals on other topics will also be included in the conference programme. Please note that papers can be proposed - either to specific panels or as standalone papers - after the Call for Panels has ended and the Call for Papers been announced.

The conference convenors aare keen to involve the wider community of colleagues working in the realm of policy and practice and would particularly welcome proposals from them for conventional panels or sessions in other formats that would generate exciting discussion and exchange of ideas.