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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