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Governance, Civil Society and Informal Politics

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The Department’s research on governance, civil society and informal politics is undertaken chiefly by Stuart Corbridge, Tim Forsyth, Keith Hart, Jude Howell, Mary Kaldor, Shirin Madon, Sohini Kar, Philipa Mladovsky, and Kate Meagher.

Governance refers to forms of policymaking that are inclusive and accountable. Often governance takes place through the engagement of civil society, which is the participation of citizens, social movements and non-governmental organisations in political debate and campaigns. Research on governance includes a variety of political and social theory that complements the political science methods of the Department’s Comparative Politics research theme, but with a wider social context of political change.

A key part of governance is the operation of informal politics, or the political activities and social organization that include people not overtly included in formal political processes (i.e. parliamentary elections or bureaucracies). Gender relations are important as a determining factor on political participation, and vice versa. The operation of informal politics is also relevant to research on public participation in new forms of governance such as cross-sector partnerships and participatory forms of public service provision in villages and informal settlements. It also influences the attainment of livelihoods by poorer people, and the social institutions that influence access to resources.

The research by the department engages with these themes in various ways. Some recent research includes the analysis of state reform and governmentality in India; the significance of civil society in transforming China; and the role of civil society and social movements in environmental governance in Thailand and the Philippines. Other research has focused on local participation and the dissemination of Information Technologies in India, and on the transitions in civil society within development policy under new trends of the War on Terror.

Research on informal politics includes Keith Hart’s well-known contributions to the identification of the informal sector in Africa as a key arena of development policy. Other research includes the analysis of the boundaries between state- and society-led economic activities in West Africa, and the analysis of rural and urban livelihoods especially in relation to risks posed by climate change and the possibility of community-based adaptation to climate change.

The Department has hosted the Non-Governmental Public Action Programme (2003-2010), which was funded by the UK Government Economic and Social Research Council, and located in the Centre for Civil Society.

It currently hosts the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, which focuses on post-conflict situations such as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.

Research Profiles


Professor Stuart Corbridge

Professor of Development Studies

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Professor Tim Forsyth

Professor of Environment and Development

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Professor Keith Hart

Centennial Professor, International Development & Anthropology

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Professor Jude Howell

Professor of International Development

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Professor Mary Kaldor

Professor of Global Governance

Programme Director, Civil Society and  Human Security Research Unit

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Dr Sohini Kar, Department of International Development

Dr Sohini Kar

Assistant Professor

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Dr Shirin Madon

Associate Professor in ICTs and Socio-Economic Development

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Dr Kate Meagher

Associate Professor in Development Studies

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Dr Philipa Mladovsky

Assistant Professor in International Development

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