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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Catherine Dolan


Catherine Dolan
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Reader in Anthropology

Dr Catherine Dolan
Email address:
020 7898 4425
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:


I am interested in the cultural and political economy of markets and development. Over the years I have researched and taught in a number of areas including gender and labour, alternative food production and consumption, and the socio-cultural dimensions of global commodity chains, with a focus on East and Southern Africa.

My current research centers on the corporation as an agent of development and how business engages development concerns, from malaria and HIV to women’s empowerment and poverty reduction, under the aegis of ‘responsible capitalism’. Through ethnographic study of base-of-the-pyramid (BoP) schemes, Fairtrade, inclusive markets initiatives, and CSR programmes, I explore the practices through which corporate actors mobilise social networks, informal economic activity, physical infrastructures, and material goods to create new markets among the ‘bottom billion,’ and how the meaning, policies, and ethos of development are shifting through this encounter with the corporate form.

This research focuses on three main themes:

• How corporations shape the “bottom billion” as an object of development, particularly how management technologies and knowledge practices are employed to “activate” a development problem and delimit its boundaries, and how the expertise and infrastructure of NGOs, research institutions, and science are recruited to make the problem of poverty amenable to business intervention.
• The types of subjectivities produced through corporate economies of development, for example how global corporations outsource distribution to ‘poor’ micro-entrepreneurs, crafting market subjectivities that confound conventional distinctions between donor and recipient and economic and affective practices.  
• The processes through which everyday consumer goods are recoded as ‘ethical’, specifically the socio-technical practices corporations use to cultivate new aspirations, desires, and consumption habits among the poor and to transform mundane commodities such as soap, shampoo and sanitary pads into humanitarian objects.

I am co-founder of the Centre for New Economies of Development — a network of anthropologists that seeks to establish critical frameworks for research on market-based development and the Oxford University Food Governance Group, which researches the politics and practices of food governance. In addition to academic research I have a served as consultant and advisor to several policy-oriented bodies including the World Bank, DFID, USAID, UNIFEM, ILO, UNCTAD, and UNICEF.

Prior to joining SOAS, I was a faculty member in the Markets, Culture and Society Programme at the Said Business School, University of Oxford; the Department of Anthropology at Northeastern University (USA); and the School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia.


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Available for
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Press
  • Briefings
  • Special Study Programmes
  • Short Term Consultancy
  • Long Term Consultancy
Regional Expertise
  • Africa
Country Expertise
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda


Edited Books

Dolan , Catherine and Rajak, Dinah, eds. (2016) The Anthropology of CSR. Berghahn . (Forthcoming)

Dolan, Catherine and Barrientos, Stephanie, eds. (2006) Ethical Sourcing in the Global Food System. Abingdon: Earthscan.

Book Chapters

Berlan, Amanda and Dolan, Catherine (2014) 'Of Red Herrings and Immutabilities: Rethinking Fair Trade’s Ethic of Relationality among Cocoa Producers.' In: Goodman, Michael and Sage, Colin, (eds.), Food Transgressions: Making Sense of Contemporary Food Politics. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, pp. 39-60.

Dolan, Catherine (2010) 'Fractured Ties: The Business of Development in Kenyan Fairtrade Tea.' In: Lyon, Sarah and Moberg, Mark, (eds.), Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies. New York: NYU Press, pp. 147-175.

Dolan, Catherine and Rajak, Dinah 'Introduction: Towards an Anthropology of Corporate Social Responsibility.' In: Dolan, Catherine and Rajak, Dinah, (eds.), The Anthropology of CSR. New York: Berghahn. (In Press)


Scott, Linda and Dolan, Catherine and Johnstone-Louis, Mary and Sugden, Kim and Wu, Maryalice (2012) 'Enterprise and Inequality: A Study of Avon in South Africa.' Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 36 (3). pp. 543-568.

Dolan, Catherine and Rajak, Dinah (2011) 'Introduction: Ethnographies of Corporate Ethicizing.' Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, 60 (Summer). pp. 3-8.

Dolan, Catherine (2004) '‘I Sell My Labor Now’: Gender and Livelihood Diversification in Uganda.' Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 25 (4). pp. 665-683.

Dolan, Catherine and Tewari, Meenu (2001) 'From What We Wear to What We Eat: Upgrading in Global Value Chains.' IDS Bulletin, 32 (3). pp. 94-104.

Dolan, Catherine and Humphrey, John (2000) 'Governance and Trade in Fresh Vegetables: The Impact of UK Supermarkets on the African Horticulture Industry.' Journal of Development Studies, 37 (2). pp. 147-176.

Dolan, Catherine (1999) 'Conflict and Compliance: Christianity and the Occult in Horticultural Exporting.' Gender and Development, 7 (1). pp. 23-30.

Dolan, Catherine and Rajak, Dinah 'Remaking Africa's Informal Economies: Youth, Entrepreneurship and the Promise of Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid.' Journal of Development Studies . (Forthcoming)

This list was generated on Wed Jan 28 00:33:09 2015 GMT.