Exploring the relationship between institutions and inequality: a Q&A with Dr Stefania Galli

Focussing on colonial and former colonial societies in Africa and the Americas from the 18th to the 20th century.

Dr Stefania Galli is a researcher in the Department of Economic History 

Organisation is key to carrying out research successfully and as stress-free as possible.

Stefania Galli

Stefania Galli

Stefania Galli

What are you currently researching? 

My research examines the relationship between institutions and inequality in colonial and former colonial societies in Africa and the Americas from the 18th to the 20th century.

Colonial societies in these territories are known to have been highly segregated and to be currently characterised by comparatively low economic and social indicators of development.

In my research, I study different aspects of inequality, from wealth and resource distribution to occupational and marriage opportunities affecting different groups in a society. Inequality is a wide and far-reaching issue and, as such, it is important to study the different components in which it manifests and the way in which institutions can contribute to prevent inequality from arising and/or reproducing itself. 

Why did you choose this area of study?

I have always been interested in matters of inequality, as inequality affects every aspect of our lives, and in historical trajectories of development in the Global South, especially in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa.

It was therefore rather natural to develop a research agenda that would allow me to combine my interests while also contributing to the growing collective effort to understand the causes and consequences of inequality across the globe and over time. 

How will your research have a wider impact on society? Can you give some real-world examples of the impact your research will have?

The aim of my research is to shed light on the effects that institutions, and the values and beliefs that lie behind them, can have in affecting inequality levels and the opportunities that individuals from different groups are offered throughout their life.

Understanding the mechanisms behind inequality is vital, especially in current days, as we live in a society that is growing more unequal. My research also contributes to understanding how past institutional set-ups may affect long-term outcomes, trying to explain why inequality and underdevelopment lingers on for decades and centuries and what could be done about it. 

What have been the highlights of your research work so far?

My research stresses the importance of considering and acknowledging societal values and beliefs in the discussion over inequality, something which is often overlooked and yet of major relevance.

This is, I believe, an element that should be very closely kept in mind in public, scholarly and political debates alike on these issues. The values we want to build our societies on, and how to implement them into long-run sustainable policy should be as key a part of the debate as the often over-emphasised short-run implications.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Research is a highly exciting activity that can get too exciting at times and leave little time for other (equally important) tasks. Yet, experience is key in learning to juggle among activities and tasks and I’m gradually improving. 

What advice would you give to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

Organisation is key to carrying out research successfully and as stress-free as possible. Set reasonable timelines for yourself and work to stick to them. Inconveniences are always behind the corner though, so be ready to re-adjust your trajectory if necessary.

Build a network around yourself that can help you grow professionally and personally: research can be an individual activity, but it is not a solitary one.

Lastly, if you struggle with self-confidence in your research, remember to believe in yourself. If someone deemed you worthy of doing research do not waste your time doubting yourself, instead honour the opportunity.

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

LSE offers an enormous amount of opportunities and resources while making you feel an integral part of its tight and exciting community.