Department of Development Studies

Sebastian Denner

Key information

Department of Development Studies PhD researcher
BA Management and Entrepreneurship (Mannheim), MSc Strategy and Innovation (Southampton), MSc International Politics (Southampton)
Email address
Thesis title
Belt and Road in Cambodia: Articulating Local Agency in BRI Development Projects
Internal Supervisors
Dr Tim Pringle & Professor Carlos Oya


Sebastian Denner is a PhD candidate in International Development at SOAS, University of London. Sebastian's PhD thesis seeks to articulate how agency is exercised in infrastructure and investment projects in Cambodia. This focuses particularly on projects within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, which in Cambodia has precipitated large-scale changes to the landscape of development and investment. Before joining the PhD programme, Sebastian worked for a local NGO in Cambodia as programme adviser. Prior to this, he spent half a year studying in China and two months volunteering in Cambodia. He is a Trustee at Cameroon Catalyst, a charity focused on providing clean water to rural communities in East Cameroon. Sebastian holds two master's degrees from the University of Southampton.

Research interests

Sebastian's research interests revolve around agency, development and democracy in Cambodia, China's foreign policy and the Belt and Road Initiative. His PhD project seeks to articulate how agency is exercised by a variety of actors involved in the implementation of projects under the Belt and Road Initiative in Cambodia, critically examining the prevailing narrative that emphasise the dominance of powerful actors over local counterparts. Sebastian's research ties into his wider interest in Cambodia's development trajectory and the role of Cambodia-China relations, which have assumed growing significance in shaping Cambodia's development path since the mid-2010s. His research interests also extend to democracy in the ASEAN region, especially Mainland Southeast Asia. Elections in Cambodia and Thailand, held in mid-2023, constitute a critical juncture in domestic and foreign politics, while the repercussions of the military coup d'état in Myanmar continue to reverberate throughout the country and the wider region. Sebastian's research interests also include the International Relations and Foreign Policy of China that continue to play a significant role in shaping the geopolitical and regional context of development in ASEAN.