Teaching and learning in contemporary India: neoliberal subjectivities and relational ontologies

Rich Thornton // Anthropology // 21st February //1-2pm // Arts C133

On February 21st 2018, the new Global Studies lecture series started with a lecture from Rich Thornton.

The abstract is as follows:

This lecture offers a summary of how the neoliberalisation of education in India is affecting both teacher attitudes towards their practice, and their ideas as to how they can learn from the children they teach. It first provides an overview of how education has been neoliberalised in India by focusing on low-fee private schools, education ‘start-ups’, and teacher training methods. It then outlines how neoliberal subjectivities are generated in new, rapidly-trained teachers, and what subjectification occurs in these new networks of epistemology and power. The lecture concludes by questioning how theories of relational ontology (the idea that existence is about relations and not entities) might help us understand how schooling can shift from within via a focus on the relationships between teachers and children, and between the children themselves.

Short Biography:

Rich Thornton is currently in the first year of his PhD in Anthropology at the University of Sussex. He has spent a large part of the last two years researching and volunteering with arts and education projects in Delhi, India, and is now being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council to complete his PhD.  He also holds an MSc in Cultural Anthropology from Utrecht University. Before rejoining academia in 2015, he worked as a theatre maker, journalist and arts practitioner but mainly gained an income from working in cafes in London …

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International Institutions as the Battlefields: The EU-US Rivalry over a WTO’s Agreement on Competition Policy


Hammed Roohani // International Relations // Wednesday 3rd May 2017 // 1-3pm // Arts C133

Hammed’s study examines the capacity of the WTO for fostering cooperation between the EU and the US for the Agreement on Competition Policy. Given the successful cooperation of the two in other international arrangements, the research sets out to assess the WTO’s impact – as the immediate underlying institution on which the interactions unfolded – over terms of cooperation in 1997-2004.

The study accommodates its inquiry by questioning the WTO’s ability in curbing enforcement risks.  Using the negotiation’s documents as the main sources of data, the empirical findings of the study suggest that the WTO had a substantial impact on the quality of the interactions. As expected from an international institution, the WTO did provide a workable solution for cheating concerns, nevertheless, that solution in its own right failed to ensure cooperation between the two sides. The findings indicate that to remain relevant to intentional economic cooperation, the WTO must compete with other fora by improvising a wider space for possible enforcement solutions. The study also suggests that a future research agenda over the international arrangements for competition policy must be informed by a revised understanding of the two rational theories of interstate cooperation, i.e. Neoliberal Institutionalism and Neorealism so much so that the two are not substitutes but the former is subordinated to the latter.


Hammed is a research student and AT in SPRU. His research interests lie at the wider intersection of international institutions/organizations, states and enterprises where they meet to create, develop and revise the global governing infrastructures of international production, trade and investment. His current study addresses international cooperation for the institutions of competition policy in multilateral, regional and bilateral arrangements.

Before starting a PhD, Hammed had done an MA in Politics and International Relations in University of Warwick, an MBA on International Marketing and an Advanced Degree in Multilateral Trade (WTO) Negotiations.

He currently teaches the PG Research Methods in BMEC.

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Fairtrade Banana versus Dollar Banana: A study of a neo-colonial relationship in Costa Rica

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Layla Zaglul // International Development // Wednesday 26th April 2017 // 1-3pm // Arts C133

Fairtrade advertising campaigns make a promise to the consumers: if they buy this product, they are assuring that the people who make that product are getting fair wages and working in fair conditions: Is this really the case? This study will provide a valuable analysis of contrasting models crucial to the discussion of whether or not the Fairtrade movement is truly able to effect change to the current market system through trade. The Fairtrade movement was established as a reaction against the deregulation advocated by neo-liberal policies with the purpose of creating a new egalitarian commodity network (Raynolds, 200; Moberg and Lyon, 2010). The Costa Rican banana industry is under the Dollar Banana System, which has always been characterised by free trade policies and by the power of transnational corporations (Raynolds and Murray 2002).The lecture will focus on a chapter of the thesis titled ‘Labour Conditions’, which describes how in terms of contracts, payment, working hours and Unions –or workers’ organizations- Fairtrade does not necessarily improve the conditions of the workers. The research is founded on an ethnographic study on two farms – one Fairtrade certified and one conventional farm – located in the South Pacific region of Costa Rica. This study compares the conditions in which the two farms operate in terms of labour regimes; the workers’ notions of fairness and meaning of labour. The thesis analyses the potential Fairtrade has in transforming the neo colonial dynamics in the banana trade in Costa Rica


Layla Zaglul is a third year PhD student in International Development. She holds a BA in Social Anthropology from the University of Costa Rica. After working for several years in Costa Rica she moved to the UK to undertake her MA in Anthropology of Development at SOAS, University of London. Her MA dissertation, explored the relationship between the consumption of Fairtrade bananas in the UK and its production in Costa Rica. Building on her MA, the PhD research is a comparative study of two banana farms in Costa Rica, one Fairtrade certified and one conventional.

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Is obesity a negative word? Health professionals’ experiences and understanding of obesity management in Brighton and Hove

Lavinia Bertini // Anthropology // Wednesday 5th April 2017 // 1-3pm // Arts A103

According to statistics, the UK is the most “obese” country in Europe and obesity is described as a “burden” for the NHS in national policies. Here, obesity is biomedically defined as excessive weight due to caloric imbalance, and causes described as ‘embedded in an extremely complex biological system, set within an equally complex societal framework’ (Foresight, 2007). Responsibility is put on the individual to lose weight and adopt healthy lifestyle, with the NHS ensuring that ‘people (…) make the best possible choices for themselves’ (Department of health 2011).

Drawing on data extracted from a 15-months long fieldwork in Brighton and Hove, this presentation reflects on the organizational and emotional factors that come to play out in the local implementation of obesity-related policies. With a focus on GPs’ and nurses’ experiences of dealing with obesity management, it illustrates the stigma attached to the term “obesity” and how it is framed, understood, re-enacted, and resisted by health professionals with important consequences on diagnosis and treatment. It follows a reflection on the importance of addressing health inequalities, structural violence and culture of fatness/slimness to better understand obesity and its stigmatization.


Lavinia Bertini is a third-year PhD candidate in Social and Medical Anthropology. In her MA (University of Bologna) she investigated how biomedical knowledge on obesity and public debate on fatness influence each other and individuals’ perception of themselves. It focused on doctor-patient encounter in the endocrinology department of the Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna, Italy.

Her PhD research draws on this previous experience and shifts its focus on the impact of obesity-related health policies on local clinical realities in the UK. By exploring everyday narratives and perceptions of obesity used by different actors such as GPs, nurses and weight loss groups’ participants this investigation promotes a reflection on body politics and technologies of policy and governance as well as on social reproduction of identities linked to health, social class and gender.

She is also a Doctoral Associate and member of CORTH (Centre for Cultures of Reproduction, Technologies and Health)

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Seeing and Being Indigenous at COP-21: Who are indigenous people and what are they for?

George Byrne // International Development // Wednesday 22nd March 2017 // 3-4pm // Arts C 133

In the so called ‘middle grounds’, the mutually comprehensible spaces on cultural frontiers, some people who are indigenous apparently become something else. They continue to embody the biosocial fact of being indigenous, but also appear to internalise and project elements of a complex web of myths associated with it. Sometimes, then, there is a difference between being indigenous and being Indigenous.

Drawing on a multi-sited ethnography that includes observations of the Indigenous Peoples Pavilion at COP-21 in Paris, my research considers how and why a distinct category of Indigenous people comes into existence at the UN conference. It asks who they are and what, if anything, are they for?

This category of people, ‘made up’ both by and for the context in which it emerges, is a transient phenomenon; it exists only as long as the context itself. Indigenous people can appear, disappear and reappear quite suddenly, which for a researcher can be somewhat disorienting, especially when trying to pin down precisely who and what ‘is’ Indigenous.

This talk will focus on a selection of vignettes; snapshots from my observations and interactions in and around the Pavilion at COP-21. The intention is to illustrate some of the ways in which indigenous people are being Indigenous at the conference, as well as to reflect on the (sometimes uncomfortable) position of being a non-indigenous researcher who goes in to the field with the intention of seeing Indigenous.


George is in the final year of his PhD in International Development Studies at the University of Sussex. He holds a BA in Latin American Development Studies and Spanish, an MA in International Relations and European Studies, and an MSc in Social Research Methods. His current research focusses on the ways in which indigenous people, particularly those from the Amazon region, interact with the increasingly globalised attempts to mitigate climate change. His work, based on research conducted over the course of two years in Ecuador, Peru and Paris, seeks to contribute to the field of ‘Anthropology of Development’ by critically reflecting on the processes that govern who and what represents ‘indigenous’ people in international climate change negotiations.


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Brazilian State-Formation: Rethinking Geopolitical Agency

Pedro Salgado // International Relations // Wednesday 15th March 2017 // 1-2pm // Arts C 133


Latin American historical trajectory normally falls in a gap in the fields of International Relations and Historical Sociology. The political transformation it sees in the nineteenth century is rarely contemplated by studies of state-formation, or by those who focus on the post-colonial moment after 1945. When it is addressed, it is normally explained through the expansion of the European international society, or through the colonial difference itself. Using the particular case of Brazil up until the nineteenth century, I argue that a better account of state-formation can be achieved by focusing on the connection between social conflict and the strategies of territorialisation of given polities, through a radically historicist framework based on the notion of geopolitical agency.


Pedro is in the final year of his PhD in International Relations. He has previous degrees on Law (UFRJ) and Social Sciences (UERJ), and a Masters in International Relations (Sussex). His worked is focused on applying historical materialism in the field of International Relations, aiming to develop a framework that can integrate social relations and forms of territoriality through a focus on radical historicism and contextualised agencies.

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Return to Mexico: what influences Mexican migrants’ return decisions?

Lorena Guzman Elizalde // Geography // Wednesday 8th March 2017 // 1-2pm // Arts C 133


Despite return migration being an important aspect in the US-Mexican migration flow it has been largely under studied, especially when it comes to migrants’ post-return experiences. My PhD research aims to highlight the intersections between types of return and (re)integration, focusing on the central factors that shape (re)integration, the multidimensionality of this process, and the key elements that can contribute (or not) to migrants’ wellbeing upon return. In this talk, I will present a general background of my research, followed by some thoughts on what motivates migrants’ return decisions and how pre-return experiences, personal characteristics and geographies, affect such experience. I will illustrate this through narratives of migrants coming back from the United States to two different locations in Mexico: Huaquechula, Puebla and Mexico City.


Lorena Guzman is a fourth year PhD student in Migration Studies. She has worked for more than ten years delivering psychosocial services for asylum seekers, migrants and refugees and doing research related to migrants’ local integration and psychosocial wellbeing. Lorena has also collaborated with a number of nongovernmental organisations and research institutions in Mexico and internationally. She holds a BA in Psychology and an MA in Migration, Mental Health and Social Care from the University of Kent in the UK.

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