Department of Geography

Politics, Governance and Development

This cluster brings together expertise on Africa, South and South-East Asia, Latin America and other parts of the developing world and supports MA and BA programmes in development and geography.

Scholars play key roles in research centres including: the Sussex Africa and Asia centres; the Centre for Conflict and Security  Research; the Centre for Rights and Anti-Colonial Justice; the Sussex Centre for Migration Research; the Centre for Global Political Economy and the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme and the STEPS Centre.  Scholars with an applied dimension to their work contribute to national and international policy debates in wide-ranging fields from security and peace-building agendas, to financial policy and economic regulation, to green energy or the governance of mobility in contexts of rapid urbanization in the developing world. Academics in this cluster are also engaged with on-going debates over how to ‘decolonize’ research and teaching in development and geography.

Research is diverse in focus and approach. One body of work investigates state practices of governance, stressing intersections with global and local politics. This includes research on how states use sovereign wealth funds and off-shore tax-havens, exploring emerging geographies of financial governance. Cutting edge methodologies draw on leaked data (Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, and Offshore Leaks) to analyse the impact of changing offshore regulatory and enforcement landscape used to launder and store the proceeds of corruption. Research on conflict in Africa also explores state politics and practice (among other issues) by making connections between transnational networks, elite politics and localised, regional trajectories of violence. This involves new approaches to the collection and use of quantitative data, also contributing new geographical understandings of links between conflict, environmental change and mobility. 

A second body of work approaches the themes of politics, governance and development from the bottom up, focussing on understandings and practices of citizenship in diverse locations, drawing on ethnographic modes of investigation, and building on long histories of partnership with academic institutions and colleagues in Africa and Asia. Research includes studies of citizenship practices and everyday encounters with the state in rural South Asia, as well as work on social movements in Latin America including studies of indigenous people’s mobilizations, conflicts over resource sovereignty and conservation. A series of interconnected projects on ‘Migrants on the Margins’, explores mobility, governance and citizenship practices in informal settlements in four dramatically expanding cities in Africa and Asia. Other work focusses on understandings of climate change and the take up of new technologies in different parts of Africa.

Key projects:

The ACLED project, directed by Clionadh Raleigh. ACLED is the most comprehensive, disaggregated, real-time conflict event collection available for public use. Through Raleigh’s European Research Council grant on the Geographies of Political Violence, she and her team test spatial and temporal forecasting methods on real-time conflict hotspots. Its conclusions have been drawn upon by development agencies, governing bodies and international regimes concerned with the growing threat from failed and failing states. Raleigh was awarded a follow-on ERC Consolidator grant in 2017 to develop this research to all schools in the UKRead more

The Migrants on the Margins Project (funded by the Royal Geographical Society, ESRC, AHRC and GCRF) focussed on mobility, urban governance and citizenship practices in informal settlements in four rapidly urbanizing African and Asian cities – Harare, Hargeisa, Dhaka and Colombo. The project built on longstanding links between Sussex and partner institutions in Zimbabwe, Somaliland, Sri Lanka and Dhaka. It was designed to showcase the ways in which Geography can contribute to understanding major contemporary global challenges of climate change, migration, conflict, and urban poverty. Research was used to support focused education programmes to all schools in the UK. It involved Profs Mike Collyer and JoAnn McGregor, and collaboration with SOAS and Durham Universities in the UK. This project was followed up with new research Towards Trajectories of Inclusion – Making infrastructure work for the most marginalised working with the same partners, investigating how different forms of access to urban infrastructure in off-grid settlements can enable or limit household security in the same four cities.

See individual staff in this cluster below: 

A typical dwelling at Digaale Camp

Image: A typical dwelling at Digaale Camp. Migrants on the margins blog.

Grace Carswell, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, whose current research on everyday citizenship practices in South Asia builds on prior research on the livelihood impacts of enhanced integration in the global economy on rural households. She also has East African expertise.

Grace CarswellGrace Carswell’s research explores the differentiated impacts of enhanced integration in the global economy on rural households, and ensuing transformations in rural social relations. Building on earlier work on livelihood change in Eastern Africa, Grace has been looking more recently at livelihoods and rural transformation in the textile region of southern India.

Focussing on southern India, Grace’s research investigates changing livelihood strategies of rural populations that are increasingly dependent on, or affected by, export industries.  Research has examined the way that labour markets are changing in the context of wider transformations in the rural economy, showing that they are uniquely and variously embedded in local institutions that interact with broader economic transformations in contingent waysLabour agency in global production networks has been the subject of research, which has looked at how agency is not merely fashioned by vertically linked production networks but as much by social relations and livelihood strategies that are themselves embedded in a localised economy and cultural environment

That textile workers from South Asia are poorly paid and employed in unsafe conditions is something that comes into the public debate following, for example, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. The way such factory workers may be tied to employers through forms of bonded and un-free labour is also the subject of research that Grace has carried out with Dr Geert De Neve (in the Department of Anthropology). Little is known about where in supply chains bonded labour occurs or how it operates, but our work has explored the persistence of debt bondage, in global garment supply chains by focusing on the Tamil Nadu powerloom industry, integrated in India’s wider networks of garment exports.

More recently, funded by the British Academy, Grace has explored India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), as an example of a social protection policy. MGNREGA forms a core part of India’s expanding social protection programmes. Based on a case study from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, our research explores how the scheme has been implemented and whether it has any transformative outcomes for the poor. The research has resulted in publications in Journal of Agrarian Change and India’s Economic and Political Weekly, as well as a policy brief.

See also Grace’s Sussex web profile

Mike Collyer, Professor of Human Geography, who is a political geographer with research projects focussed on mobility, citizenship and urban governance, the politics of extra-territorial voting, integration and transit migration, with particular expertise on North Africa and Sri Lanka.

Mike CollyerMichael is on the steering committee of Sanctuary on Sea, Brighton's City of Sanctuary group, an umbrella organisation for refugee and migrant community support groups in the city. He also represents the Sussex Centre for Migration Research on a number of refugee and migrant related committees of Brighton & Hove City Council. At the national level he is an academic member of the Indepdent Advisory Group on Country of Origin Information, part of the office of the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. He is also a member of the UK Department for International Development's External Reference Group on Migration. Internationally, he regularly undertakes research or analytical work in collaboration with the UNHCR, IOM, various sections of the European Union or International NGOs and consultancies.

See also Mike's Sussex web profile

Daniel Haberly, Lecturer In Human Geography, whose research focuses on the changing institutional relationship between states and financial markets, and the growing global financial influence of emerging economies.

Daniel HaberlyDaniel Haberly’s research focuses on two major themes: the changing institutional relationship between states and financial markets, and the growing global financial influence of economies in the developing world.  Two ongoing projects bring these themes together, one examining the growing importance of South-North state investment by China and the Gulf Arab states, and the other examining the changing organization and effects of offshore financial networks.
The failure of many advanced economies in the wake of the global financial crisis to resolve institutional weaknesses in the structure of national financial systems has led to a growing dependence, particularly in the European Union, on investment capital from cash-rich developing economies.  Much of this capital has been provided by state owned investors based in China and the Gulf Arab states, resulting in the emergence of poorly understood new public-private financial institutional arrangements spanning multiple economies.  Ongoing research by Daniel examines the organization and implications of these arrangements in the context of Gulf Arab and Chinese investment in European manufacturing (automotive and aerospace), and Australian, Canadian and American resource extractive industries (iron and unconventional hydrocarbons). 
While many developing world governments have increased their presence in financial markets as investors in the wake of the global financial crisis, increasing concerns have been raised in developed and developing economies over the undermining of state taxation and regulatory capabilities by offshore financial centres.  Research being conducted by Daniel Haberly in collaboration with Dariusz Wójcik at the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford applies a network-oriented approach to the analysis of offshore financial centres in relation to onshore economies and one another, seeking to understand both the contribution of offshore finance to the emergence of the subprime crisis, and the changing structure and behaviour of offshore networks in the aftermath of the crisis.  A particular emphasis of this research is the increasing engagement of the BRIC economies with offshore finance, and its consequences for both patterns of development in these economies, and the operation of the global financial system.

See also Daniel’s Sussex web profile

Anna Laing, Lecturer in International Development and Geography, whose research interests focus on the spatialities of social movements and activism, indigenous politics and environmental justice in Latin America.

Anna LaingAnna Laing is a Lecturer in International Development and Geography and works on various issues including socio-environmental conflicts, indigenous politics, environmental activism and rights/justice in Latin America. Her current research focuses on resource conflicts in Bolivia due to infrastructure projects and extractive industries. This research contributes to broader theoretical debates on the political economy of natural resource extraction, ethnic and identity politics, environmental governance and decolonial thinking. In her work, Anna stresses the role of activism and subaltern agency in shaping development agendas in the global South, as well as related conceptualisations of territoriality, governance and nationhood. This research has resulted in publications in the Bulletin of Latin American Research and Antipode.

Anna is currently developing two new projects. The first examines the political discourses of food sovereignty in Bolivia among indigenous movements, peasant trade unions, environmental activists and the State. The research will seek to identify the key challenges, as well as the spaces for productive engagement, for bridging the gap between policy and practice in Bolivia and beyond. The second project (alongside Brazilian partners) analyses professional artisanal fishermen/women’s perceptions of small-scale hydroelectric power plants in the Pantanal wetlands, Brazil. The aim of this project is to build future capacity and livelihood resilience mechanisms.

See also Anna’s Sussex web profile

JoAnn McGregor, Professor of Human Geography and Director of Sussex Africa Centre, whose research focusses on histories of mobility and displacement, citizenship and urban governance in Southern Africa, African diasporas in Britain, as well as exile and liberation movement history.

Prof Jo McGregor JoAnn McGregoris a Chair in Human Geography and works on several, intersecting, issues regarding migrants, diaspora communities and Zimbabwean politics.  Her current work is concentrated on research on urban politics and governance in Zimbabwe, contributing to broader African studies debates over power-sharing; urban political violence; surveillance and urban governance, published as a special issue of the Journal of Southern African Studies on ‘Politics, Patronage and Violence in Zimbabwe’ (39, 4 2013).  She maintains a network of collaborations with local Zimbabwean NGOS and human rights groups.

Jo facilitates links with the department’s migration group, through an exploration of the socio-economic impact of Zimbabwe’s diaspora at home, analysing the difference that crisis makes.  Conducted in collaboration with the University of Zimbabwe, through the ESRC project ‘The transnational politics of exile and solidarity’, the research investigated the residential boom produced through diasporic investment in property, the changes to urban transport initiated by diaspora imported vehicles, changing dynamics of rural marriage in border regions, and the emergence of ‘diaspora orphans’.   She contributed an evidential paper on conflict, migration and environmental change in Zimbabwe to the government’s Foresight Project on Conflict, Migration and the environment (2011) and has acted as evaluator of the Home Office Country of Origin reports for the Advisory Panel on Country Information (2009).

Jo also directs the new Sussex Africa Centre (SAC). SAC acts as a focal point for interdisciplinary exchange across the campus and beyond on contemporary African studies, and for the development of partnerships with African research institutions.  It hosts an events programme of seminars and postgraduate workshops.

See also JoAnn’s Sussex web profile

David Ockwell, Reader in Geography, who is focused on climate change policy, with a particular focus on low carbon technology transfer and development, and on public engagement with climate change.

David OckwellDavid Ockwell’s current and past research initiatives include the ESRC funded STEPS Centre’s Energy and Climate Change Domain, which he co-convenes. This work focuses on developing the application of the STEPS Centre’s Pathways Approach to develop new analytical approaches in the field of low carbon energy and development, and to informing policy and practice in this field. This is being developed into a book as part of the STEPS Centre's Pathways to Sustainability book series published by Routledge.

His is involved in pro-poor, low carbon development: Improving low carbon energy access and development benefits in Least Developed Countries (LDC) (2012-2014, funded by DFID via the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). This project is a collaboration between the STEPS Centre and the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) in Kenya. Using in-depth historical analysis of the emergence of the market for off-grid solar electrical services in Kenya, the project seeks to inform theory and policy on facilitating uptake of low carbon energy technologies in low-income countries. A range of conference and working papers are available on the project web site. These are being developed into three peer reviewed journal articles.

Finally, David is also involved in a UK China collaboration on low carbon technology transfer (2010-2011) funded by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change and the ESRC). Building on the success of the UK-India studies, the UK government announced DECC’s intention to fund a UK-China study for which Sussex was commissioned to conduct in partnership with Tsinghua University in Beijing. This explored the barriers to low carbon technology transfer and uptake in China based on in depth case study research. The findings fed into policy negotiations under the UNFCCC and are currently under revision for publication in Climatic Change.

See also David’s Sussex web profile

Clionadh Raleigh, Professor in Political Geography, concentrates on conflict, political geography and data analysis in the context of African security and emerging trends and dynamics in political violence. 

Clionadh RaleighClionadh Raleigh’s research is focused on conflict patterns within and across African states. It builds on the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project that she created and now directs. Through the real-time disaggregated information available on political violence, Clionadh develops models to test the spatial and temporal patterns of violent agents, civilian risk, changes in conflict dynamics and correlates of violent actions. She leads the ‘Geographies of Political Violence’ Project (GEOPV), which is funded by the European Research Council.  Both the ACLED and GEOPV work actively engages governments, development agents and agencies, and humanitarian communities.  The findings from ongoing research and real-time data are published monthly in the ACLED Trend Reports.

Clionadh is also interested in the social and political consequences of climate change (CCAPS at the University of Texas), where she has advocated for environmental security to engage with how local communities alter how people adapt and change activities as a response to risk. Furthermore, she is working with Dominic Kniveton at Sussex to look at the direct and indirect relationships between climate change, food price and conflict patterns.

She investigates African political systems; particularly how elite behaviors create incentives and disincentives for groups to use violence for political change.  Finally, she is actively engaged in developing new types of, and analytical methods for, conflict data.

See also Clionadh’s Sussex web profile

Images: Banner image: Hopley, one of the project study sites in Harare. Migrants on the margins blog.
Content image: A typical dwelling at Digaale Camp. Migrants on the margins blog.