Would you like to examine the science-society interface between the field of international development cooperation and academic work in geography on international development issues? Or more specifically: What was the role of geographic research and teaching in shaping ideas, labour markets practices, institutions and interventions in the emergent field of international development in the second half of the 20th century (1949-2000)? Then you are welcome to join our team.
The project is funded by NWO as part of the VIDI Grant “Academic Impact Strategies for Long-term engagement (AISLE
) led by Dr. Michiel van Meeteren.
When new societal issues gain prominence and become subject to government policy and funding, usually an associated field of knowledge and practice emerges. Academic disciplines tend to compete to become the recognised experts in these fields in order to shape knowledge and policy to the terms of their discipline and be able to tap in emergent funding streams and labour markets. Such a dynamic certainly took place when in 1949, the inaugural speech of US Harry Truman forebode the new field of “international development cooperation”. In the context of rapid decolonisation and an emergent cold war, a new international expertise to alleviate poverty, and bring economic and social development, came into being.
Although the Netherlands was an earlier contributor to this field, it is not until the 1960s that development cooperation becomes a major concern for the Dutch government and civil society. However, in the 1960, the “third world movement” really takes off, the number of NGOs and the government budget for development aid grows at an exceptional rate. At the same moment, a new specialisation in the field of human geography, “the human geography of developing countries” quickly becomes one of the more dynamic subfields in the discipline.
In the subsequent decades, this new subdiscipline seemed to be able to have a significant influence on the Dutch field of international development. Many international development geography graduates find steady employment within government institutions and NGO’s and become part of the process how and where Dutch development policy takes place. This strong and explosive emergence and intertwining of societal and scientific fields is quite extraordinary. It is not clear yet under what conditions this dynamic mutual relationship has developed and became successful and fruitful for both society and science. Understanding the drivers and barriers within this relationship is of crucial importance to both academia and policy. Both within development geography and for more general debates on impact and the science-society interface.
This PhD position investigates the mutual influence and growth between the nascent fields of the “human geography of developing countries” and the field of “international development cooperation” in the Netherlands in the 1960-2000 period. The resulting PhD thesis will be the first dedicated history chronicling the mutual rise of international development cooperation and the human geography of developing countries and is intended to shed light on how this science-society interface works in detail.
The PhD trajectory’s prime data source will be collecting oral histories in combination with an extensive alumni survey. In addition a new digital archive of 20th century publications, documents and correspondence will be generated. This digital archive is designed in such a way that state of the art methods developed in the digital humanities and computational social science could be applied. Given this broad methodological scope, a multi-method research design will be developed and applied. The project also engages in community engaged learning with the contemporary international development community to learn for the future from the past.
The PhD will be systematically uncovering, documenting, cataloguing, and tracking the mutual influence between academic education and research and the practical field in Dutch international development geography. This influence could be direct, both intellectual through academic publications and presentations and societal through advisory work, or indirect, through the job market and social and professional networks of students and peers. We will be examining the social networks of development specialists as well as the role of applied research centres, conferences and the like.
Tasks as part of the PhD will be co-designing a national alumni survey, collecting oral histories from practitioners and to build a large digital repository of relevant studies, policy documents and other archival documents. In subsequent research phases, research will focus on the digital curation and analysis of these materials in order to make assessments of impact. Lastly, the PhD will be involved in co-organising workshops and mixed classrooms to debate research findings with practioners working contemporarily in the field of international development cooperation.