AHRC SWW DTP Collaborative Doctoral Award Studentship for Sept 2022 entry – The Overseas Development Institute: From Decolonisation to Decolonising


Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley, University of Southampton c.l.riley@soton.ac.uk

Dr Stacey Hynd, University of Exeter s.hynd@exeter.ac.uk

Dr Kerrie Holloway, The Overseas Development Institute k.holloway@odi.org.uk

This project contributes to the decolonising of knowledge around overseas aid and development. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) seeks to explore and understand its own history, having been established as an international development-focused think tank in 1960 during the decolonisation of the British Empire. Sixty years on, the international development sector is ever increasing in size, with its actions highly contested: lauded by some as a crucial source of redistributive justice, but criticised by others as a damaging form of neo-colonialism that perpetuates the very structures of global inequality that it protests. This project will not be an institutional history of ODI, but a critical reappraisal of the foundation, functioning and impact of the institution, using this case study to explore shifting ideas and practices of development, and the racialized structures of power that underpin it.

This PhD will make a major contribution to decolonising structures of knowledge about development and the functioning of the development industry. It will be based across the History departments at the University of Southampton and University of Exeter and the ODI in London.

There is significant scope for applicants to adapt the proposal to suit their individual skills and interests: – The project is adaptable to different (inter-)disciplinary backgrounds, particularly History, Development Studies, Politics, Sociology and Anthropology. – The PhD’s specific thematic and methodological focus will be guided by the student’s preferences and skills. Potential topics include: economic development knowledge and the ODI Economic Fellowship scheme; professionalization of development and social networks; agricultural development; women and gender in development; global cooperation, or a regional/country case study approach. – Alternative formats for thesis submission can be agreed to suit the project focus and researcher’s career aims, potentially incorporating archival, digital or policy-facing outputs for those interested in research and/or development sector careers. Options include producing briefing papers on how to pursue decolonizing knowledge initiatives for NGOs, or developing a digital repository of ODI papers or oral interviews, as part of the thesis.

Research Questions and Methods:

Three core critical/conceptual research questions underpin this project.

• What is the relationship between decolonisation as a process and development as a practice/industry?

• What forms of knowledge have underpinned the evolution of development policy and practice, and how have these shaped the structures of power and forms of difference that undergird (and inhibit) global development?

• How can development organisations engage in the decolonizing of their practice Academic training will be provided by Southampton and Exeter, in addition to SWW DTP training and development.

ODI will provide access to current and former employees for oral history. It will provide a workspace for the student at their headquarters in central London, allowing the student to directly engage with the organisation and interact with current employees. The digital communications team at ODI and Exeter Digital Humanities Lab can provide training to the student on creating an open-access digital repository, and ODI will give the student public impact and engagement training and opportunities. The combination of academic and non-HEI training will prepare the student for careers in academic, development/NGO, and archive sectors.

For details about the Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme and on how to apply please see the SWW DTP CDA awards webpage

For questions about the project, contact Dr Stacey Hynd, s.hynd@exeter.ac.uk

Closing Date for Applications: 24 January 2022.