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Professor Emma Mawdsley BA PhD

Professor Emma Mawdsley BA PhD

Professor of Human Geography and Fellow of Newnham College

Human Geographer with a particular interest in the 'rising powers' and the changing politics of development



  • 2014-present: Reader in Human Geography
  • 2009-2014: Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, Cambridge University
  • 2006-2009: Lecturer, Department of Geography, Cambridge University
  • 2005-6: Senior Lecturer, School of Geography and Environment, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • 2003-2005: Lecturer, School of Geography and Environment, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • 1996-2003: Lecturer, Department of Geography, Durham University


  • 1989-1992: BA Geography, St. John's College, Cambridge University
  • 1992-1996: PhD Geography, St. John's College, Cambridge University


My current research interests are in the politics (broadly interpreted) of international development. I have a particular interest in South-South development cooperation, but also in how this growing phenomenon and other national and global shifts are affecting the (so-called) 'traditional' donors. Recent work includes research on DFID's growing private sector-led growth agenda, financialisation and development, and donor exit from and transition within partner countries. I have an ongoing research connection to India.

Potential PhD topics

I welcome suggestions and proposals for PhD supervision in international development issues more broadly; and particularly encourage potential applicants wishing to work on:

  • South-South Development Cooperation (SSDC): whether in terms of specific actors, sectors or issues
  • India is a particular (but not exclusive) interest in relation to SSDC
  • Changing narratives, definitions, policies and practices amongst DAC donors, especially but not limited to the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and other UK/DAC conduits of foreign aid
  • Private-sector led development approaches; including financialisation and development, and the role of management consultants and development contractors.

Current and past projects

  • I run the India-UK Development Partnership Forum ( which is a £1.5 million partnership funded by the FCDO supporting bilateral and trilateral development research and policy.
  • The DFID-India transition: Cambridge Humanities Research Grant, with Bhaskar Vira (2017)
  • Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2016-17): DFID and private sector-led development
  • Changing development and civil society: implications, strategies, impacts. Cambridge Humanities Research Grant (2013)
  • The challenges, impacts and opportunities associated with the 'non-DAC' donors, including a DFID-funded project on public perceptions (2010-2011)
  • 'The Changing Geographies of Power and Development: Contemporary India-East Africa Relations' (PI). This was funded by the British Academy, and comprises a range of smaller projects. For more details, go to the BASAS website. Outputs include a paper on India's development cooperation with Kenya (Mawdsley 2010) and an edited volume, Mawdsley and McCann (2011).
  • Domestic visitors to India's national parks: why the 'ordinary' middle classes (the 'picnickers') are so often excluded from political ecology and mainstream wildlife management analyses of national parks and conservations; and why more attention should be paid to this constituency.


[Publications will load automatically from the University's publications database...]


  • Part IA Society, Environment and Development
  • Part IB Development Theory and Practice
  • Part II India
  • Part II Political Ecology in the Global South
  • MPhil Environment and Development

External activities

Membership and roles

  • 2019- Member of the Independent Advisory Committee of the China International Development Research Network (CIDRN, Phase II)
  • 2014-17 Elected Council Member of the Royal Geographical Society-IBG
  • 2016- ESRC GCRF Peer Review Group
  • 2013-16 Elected Council Member of the UK's Development Studies Association
  • 2011-2015 Elected Member of Expedition and Fieldwork Committee, Royal Geographical Society-IBG
  • 2009-19 NORGLOBAL Programme Board Member (Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Research Council
  • 2009- Research grant reviews for the ESRC, Danish Council for Independent Research (Humanities), Swiss National Science Foundation (Humanities and Social Sciences Division), Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
  • 2006-10 Elected Chair, Developing Areas Research Group, Royal Geographical Society-IBG
  • 2003-10 Elected Council Member, Society for South Asian Studies, British Academy

Other interests and activities

  • I was a member of the Advisory Group on 'Global Perspectives in Higher Education', (2004-5). Sponsored by DFID and managed by the RGS.
  • In 2005-6 I worked with Mrs Sarah Lewis at St Joseph's (a primary school in Redhill, Surrey) on an Arts Council sponsored project encouraging creative thinking. We devised an environment and development project for Year 4 children, based around an interactive website looking at issues in St Lucia. Amongst other things, it was great fun. For more information, see