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RT15 - Redefining the boundaries of development studies through the evolution of epistemic communities

Convened by Iliana Olivié (Complutense University of Madrid & Elcano Royal Institute, Spaine) and Antonio Sianes (Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Spain)

As a result of the eruption of recent crises of a diverse nature (financial, economic, social, political, climate, health, war and food), development studies are being deeply reshaped and its traditional boundaries challenged and redefined. Building on the inputs of panellists from different contexts and backgrounds, this seed panel aims at launching a conversation on how epistemic communities on development studies are pushing such boundaries.
Epistemic communities are built by agents with specialized knowledge, united by a similar research agenda, and who have sufficient prestige and reputation to legitimize paradigms in the collective debate.
To launch the conversation, an empiric study will be presented that aims, first, to characterize EADI and REEDES as relevant epistemic communities in the discipline of development studies. It also explores relationships between ideas and particular social structures and, finally, compares possible differences or similarities between their paradigms. In order to do this, the congresses of both organizations held between the years 2010 and 2022 are interpreted as a representation of the references, interests, and intentions of their epistemic communities. Through a study of comparative cases, the dynamics in which development thought has been built in recent years in Europe and Spain will be studied, considering the approach of Kuhn's paradigms and Alder and Haas's epistemic communities.
The main results point to the fact that although there are patterns that coincide, the presence of different groups of actors shapes the paradigms according to the needs and interests of the social structures in which they develop. In fact, EADI has configured a series of paradigms directed especially towards ODA and Africa, while in REEDES, the paradigms have been built around the development agenda and Latin America. Such results will be put into dialogue with the panellists, and critically discussed with their experiences and backgrounds.


Andy Sumner (King’s College, Londres)
Diego Sánchez-Ancochea (University of Oxford)
Iliana Olivié (Real Instituto Elcano / Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Moderator: María Santillán O’Shea (Real Instituto Elcano)