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The State, Governance and Conflict

Politics research at the School of International Development (DEV) investigates states, power relations and their changes in multiple settings of the global south at both macro and micro level in Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

The approaches developed are evidence-based as politics is primarily envisaged as a field of practices and discourses, involving a wide range of competing actors, institutions, and norms, formal and informal, seen as historical products varying from one place to another. This involves actors and institutions at the national as well as the international/global level.

Our research engages with the distribution of power and resources in society, the interplay of internal dynamics (state-society relations, civil society organisations etc.) and external influences (Multilateral International Organisations, International NGOs, Multinational Corporations, Media) shaping political regimes, forms of governance at various levels, and, eventually, developmental outcomes.

Our work analyses political and social transformations in several key specific domains:

State practices and reconfigurations. Study of the state both as a set of institutions,a discursive construct and the product of social structures. Crucial issues include how the relationships amongst state actors and agencies are continuously reconfigured and how state practice at macro and micro levels, informs developmental, welfare, disaster relief, crisis prevention, mitigation and rebuilding roles (ChhotrayMcAvoyPattenden and Gilberthorpe)

Social and political institutions. The study of wider networks of political and social institutions ranging from local government institutions to key civil society actors such as churches, faith based bodies and NGOs. Recent work includes the examination of the thinness of the state, and the significance of religious and "traditional" institutions in determining how development is articulated. Building on debates on social justice there is also new research on institutional access for the poor and marginalised (JonesGilberthorpeChhotray, and Sikor)

Political Economy and Political Ecology. Changing patterns of exploitation, marginalisation, labour relations, social protection and social movement are analysed through a political economy framework; whilst the politics of empowerment, forest rights and tribal oppression, and disaster recovery are tackled through a political ecology lens (PattendenSpringate-Baginski, and Chhotray)

Identity and conflict. Our research on key signposts in identity examines the construction of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender (masculinity and femininity) and ‘otherness' more generally. This includes the politics of the western media as an important facilitator in mediating such constructions. Questions about the micro-level relationships between gender identities, especially masculinities, conflict and state/civil-society actors, and the role of religion are linked to the macro politics of the state and other global actors (GuichaouaScott and Jones)

Collective violence and political transformation. For some, political violence might be a shortcut to upward social mobility, recognition or resource accumulation yet many social and political conditions must be met to allow such unconventional and, often, collectively costly modalities of access to power. We investigate circumstances of emergence of such transformative movements, the determinants of their behaviours, their lasting impact on conflict-affected polities as well as interventions aiming at preventing outbreaks of violence and consolidating peaceful accommodation of dissent (Guichaoua and McAvoy)