The Two Crises of Development Studies: A Letter from the new EADI President
Dear EADI members,
At the recent EADI General Assembly, I presented a vision for EADI from 2023-2026 and introduced the Deputy President, Vice Presidents, and Treasurer who were elected.
The theme of my comments then and here are the two crises of Development Studies – which I will come to in a moment - and EADI's role in convening dialogue between researchers, civil society, and policy makers to respond to them.
First and foremost, I am humbled and honoured to assume the role of EADI President, and I express my gratitude for the trust placed in me.
AsEADI approaches its 50th anniversary, we need to reflect on the purpose of EADI, and the contemporary challenges to confront.
First, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to my predecessor, Henning Melber, for his invaluable and truly immense contribution to EADI and Development Studies over many, many years. I would also like to acknowledge the invaluable support of all at the Secretariat and the out-going Executive Committee (ExCo) members.
Additionally, I extend my thanks to the new ExCo and Vice Presidents (VPs) who play vital roles in advancing the mission of EADI, as well as to the Working Group convenors and other members of the EADI family.
I have grown up within the EADI community for nearly 25 years and have served as a Working Group convenor, UK representative to the ExCo, VP, and now, President. Based at King's College London, where I co-founded a development institute that has since evolved into a department, my research primarily revolves around issues of global and national inequality.
Now, let us delve into the purpose and significance of EADI and its role in shaping the future of Development Studies.
The purpose of EADI, as articulated some twenty years ago by then EADI President, Sheila Page, is about bringing people, especially researchers together. Sheila noted how EADI acts as a facilitator, providing regular high-quality contacts and creating networks for scholars. It welcomes all and fosters an environment that empowers students to develop their own networks. EADI also serves as a representative voice, advocating for the field of Development Studies and its members. The association's continent-wide focus enhances its effectiveness in promoting the exchange of ideas and influencing discussions in Europe and beyond. These remain the core mission of EADI.
This emphasis on exchanges of ideas and building up collective influence within the field holds enduring relevance as we navigate two crucial crises ahead.
What are the two crises of Development Studies? The first crisis lies in the real world, where daily struggles afflict a significant portion of the global population, compounded by the looming challenges of climate change (and lesser noted, biodiversity loss) and an ever-growing list of other crises across the economy, in politics, in food systems, water, and much more.
Recognizing the urgency, the closing plenary of the EADI general conference in July 2023 will feature esteemed scholars from around the world, contributing to our work in building stronger global relationships.
We welcome Professor Karina Batthyány, Executive Secretary of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences; Professor Eun Mee Kim, President of Ewha Womans University, representing the Asian Political and International Studies Association; Professor Sebeka Richard Plaatje, President of the South African Development Studies Association and Professor Arief Yusuf, President of the Indonesian Regional Science Association.
The second crisis lies within Development Studies itself. There are existential issues to confront in terms of knowledge generation. Specifically, the geopolitics of knowledge production and of racial hierarchies. Further, we must grapple with the perpetual challenge of cross-disciplinarity and strive to influence the powerful with integrity. While we may not possess all the answers, I believe that these questions demand our attention. Furthermore, the 50th anniversary of EADI serves as an opportune moment to place these critical questions at the forefront.
These questions are not new. In fact, the first EADI President, Dudley Seers, provocatively asked, fifty years ago "What business is it of ours?" referring to the study of development in developing countries, as he highlighted the moral ambiguities that arise within the development field.
As he put it succinctly, "we need to discard the idea that there is such a subject as "their" problem of development, and accept that we are all dealing with common, worldwide problems - though they take different forms in different parts of the world".
We must recognize the global perspective and also the plurality of Development Studies, encompassing various approaches, and be an inclusive family that embraces all perspectives within EADI.
So, how should EADI respond in a broad sense in the next three years?
I am reminded of a quote from Brazilian intellectual and politician, Celso Furtado: "the motivations of the investigator are numerous; the most fundamental, however, is confidence in one's imagination, and knowledge of how to use it."
Thus, we need to pause and reflect, and renew our imaginations and make use of them.
First, we need to strengthen, expand, and develop EADI's networks in the Global South.
Second, we need to increase EADI's visibility in policy and advocacy debates.
Finally, we should continue to support students and early career researchers through our work on teaching and training in Development Studies.
To achieve these objectives, we have appointed VPs who will discuss and develop plans together with the ExCo.
Research is, of course, central to EADI. We will continue to have a VP for Research, Katja Bender, who will also serve as the Deputy President.
Katja is a Professor of Development Economics and Director of the International Centre for Sustainable Development at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences. Previous positions include the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), where she held the position of a policy advisor for social protection and health financing. Her research focuses on the political economy of social protection or health systems reforms, and on the interplay of technological and institutional change with a specific focus on the energy-health-nexus. Lately, also motivated by personal experiences, Katja is working on understanding actors' preferences in international research-practice collaborations.
We have a new treasurer, Marcin Grabowski who is also ExCo rep for Poland. Marcin is Director of the Centre for International Studies and Development at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. Marcin is research is concerned with institutional arrangements of the Asia-Pacific region; American and Chinese foreign policy and the international relations-economics nexus, as well as complexity research within the Global Complex System Lab.
To build better and more equitable partnerships with Global South scholars and networks as well as networks in the global North, Alfredo Saad-Filho is the new EADI VP who will focus on this with the ExCo. Alfredo has a long career in Development Studies at universities and in the UN. Alfredo is Professor of Political Economy and International Development King’s and was previously at SOAS. He also spent two years as a Senior Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. His writings range across critiques of the (Post-)Washington consensus and he will be giving the Dudley Seers Lecture to open our General Conference in Lisbon.
To foster new ideas and imagination, we need to focus on nurturing the next generation of researchers to deal with so many crises, including PhD students and early career researchers. To address this, we have a new VP, Nita Mishra, who is also the current ExCo representative for Ireland and former chair of DSA Ireland.
Nita is a Lecturer in Development Studies, Social Justice & Public Administration in the Dept of Politics & Public Administration, University of Limerick, and her research relates to women's empowerment, feminist methodologies, understanding peace, rights-based approaches to development, civil society organisations, and governance.
To increase our presence in key policy and advocacy debates within Europe and beyond, we have appointed Iliana Olivié as the VP for policy engagement.
Iliana is the ExCo representative for Spain and, until recently, president of REEDES, the Spanish Development Studies Association. Iliana is Senior Analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute and Associate Professor at the Department of Applied & Structural Economics & History, Complutense University of Madrid. She coordinates the International Cooperation & Development research area and the Elcano Global Presence Index Project, and she is also a member of the Spanish Council for Development Cooperation. Her research focuses on globalization and global development issues, international cooperation, economic development, and global development finance.
I am grateful to these colleagues for dedicating their time to EADI and our collective endeavour in the forthcoming years.
In conclusion, I’d like to finish by returning to the theme of EADI at 50 years.
Anniversaries are useful. They serve a purpose, giving an opportunity for to pause and reflect and renew. As EADI turns 50 we have the opportunity to rejuvenate EADI's mission and normative orientation of contributing to ideas about and the building of a fairer world. I would like us to take the view that our collective endeavour is one of global solidarity. In fact, global solidarity that will become increasingly important in the years ahead navigating and responding to the climate crisis and a lengthening list of other crises. In short, EADI has an important role to play in good times and even more so in the challenging times ahead.
Andy Sumner, President, EADI
5 June 2023