Department of Development Studies

SOAS, University of London, is the only Higher Education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East, offering programmes in arts, humanities, languages, law and social sciences.

Inaugurated in June 1916, SOAS has had an international reach since the arrival of its first students in February 1917 and celebrated its Centenary in 2016. As a global academic institution and a crucial resource for London, SOAS is distinctively positioned to analyse, understand and explain some of the most challenging issues facing us in the world today.

Jonathan Goodhand
Principal Investigator

My academic background is in Development Studies and I have been at SOAS in the Department of Development Studies since 2001. I am a Professor in Conflict and Development Studies and I am also an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne, School of Social and Political Sciences.

My research interests include the political economy of armed conflict, war economies, war to peace transitions and the role of international aid in relation to these processes, with a particular focus on South and Central Asia (especially Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal). Increasingly my work has explored the role of borderlands and frontier regions in conflict and post war transitions.  I have led or co-led several large research projects that explore these themes.

I am the Principal Investigator of this GCRF project and in that capacity, my role is to provide intellectual leadership and overall strategic direction.

The project provides a huge opportunity to reframe debates and develop new approaches to addressing the challenges of illicit drugs and state fragility.

Patrick Meehan

My research explores the political economy of violence, conflict and development, and engages specifically with the relationship between drugs and processes of statebuilding and peacebuilding, with a primary focus on Myanmar’s borderlands with China and Thailand.

My PhD, which I completed in 2016 in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS, analysed how the opium/heroin economy has become embedded, shifting configurations of power in Shan State since the late 1980s. I have conducted extended fieldwork throughout Shan State since 2010.   I have also conducted research for The UK Government (Stabilisation Unit), the World Bank, Conciliation Resources and Christian Aid. 

On this GCRF project I am co-leading the Myanmar strand of the project alongside Mandy Sadan, KRC and SHAN, and am supporting the project’s comparative research on the histories and political economy of drugs, conflict and (dis)order across Afghanistan, Myanmar and Colombia.

Mandy Sadan

I am a historian with interdisciplinary interests in anthropology and development. My main focus is Myanmar, especially the borderlands.

I have been a lecturer at SOAS since 2008, and I also completed my PhD here. Before that, I was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford, where I also completed my undergraduate degree. I have worked previously on major Research Council UK (RCUK) grants studying the material and visual culture of northeast India and Tibet and was also a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow during 2017-18. I look forward to working on this project more fully now that this Fellowship is over.

I will be supporting the research and capacity building work in Myanmar. I see this as a wonderful opportunity to improve understanding of the long-term impact of the drug economy on the social history and gendered human development of the region, not only by foreign researchers and policy makers, but also within the local communities that have been directly affected by these issues.

Jasmine Bhatia
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Development at SOAS. My research interests include civil wars, insurgent movements, and sub-national political settlements in violent contexts. I received my doctorate in Politics in 2018 from Oxford University, which involved several rounds of mixed-methods fieldwork in Afghanistan. In addition to academic work, I have worked for the United Nations and on several UK government-sponsored international development projects, primarily in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

On this project I am co-leading the Afghanistan research along with David Mansfield, AREU and OSDR, and working in coordination with the rest of the project team on generating comparative insights across the case study countries.

Maziyar Ghiabi

I am a transdisciplinary researcher working on the politics of human security and health using ethnographic and historical approaches.

So far, my work has concerned Iran, West Asia and North Africa, but I have also been keen to explore a variety of cases across the Global South. Before joining the Drugs & (dis)order project, I was a Lecturer at Oxford University and Wadham College, and a postdoctoral fellow at the EHESS in Paris. I obtained my doctorate at Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations, funded by a Wellcome Trust Studentship in Society & Ethics.

I am the author of two books and numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters: Drugs Politics: Managing Disorder in the Islamic Republic of Iran (London: Cambridge University Press, 2019), which is also accessible in Open Access; and the edited volume Power and Illicit Drugs in the Global South (Routledge, 2019 with a forward by Philippe Bourgois).

Besides my interest in drugs politics and history, I am also collaborating with Billie Jeanne Brownlee (Exeter University) on a forthcoming book looking at how displacement and sectarian civil war shape the political ontologies of the Middle East (and beyond).

I am also very interested in the use of visual methods in the social sciences and humanities, both in the study of ‘digital addictions’ and in providing participatory methods to research participants.

Since 2019, I sit on the Editorial Board of Third World Quarterly and the Social History of Drugs and Alcohol (Chicago University Press).

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Frances Thomson
Collaborative Researcher

I recently completed my PhD at the University of Sussex. My thesis was on the political economy of land and dispossession in Colombia. In general, my research interests include: development theory, agrarian and critical political economy more broadly, political ecology, and armed conflict in Colombia. In earlier years, I taught at the Autonomous University of Manizales and the University of Caldas.

I feel extremely lucky to join the GCRF Drugs and (Dis)order project, especially given the diversity of the international team and the multi-disciplinary approach of the investigation. As a collaborative researcher, I am working with the Colombia – National University (sub)team specifically.

Jay Kubler
Programme Manager

I joined the GCRF Drugs and (dis)order project as the Programme Manager in March 2018. This follows nearly two decades of experience in the field of international higher education. Following a degree in History at the University of Cambridge and a Master’s degree in African Studies at SOAS, I joined the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) as a data analyst for the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK.
I then worked as a Senior Researcher and Project Manager at the ACU specialising in projects focussed on research and institutional capacity strengthening in universities across the Commonwealth. Most recently I managed a five-year DFID-funded programme that provided Research Fellowships to African Early-Career Researchers working on evidence-based responses to climate change impacts in Africa. My interests are rooted in the intersection of higher education, research and international development.

This GCRF-funded project offers an exciting opportunity to support a project that seeks to address one of the pressing developmental challenges of our time, the economic transition from conflict to peace

Dr. Veerle Van den Eynden
Research Data Manager

As Research Data Manager for the  Drugs and (dis)order project, I am responsible for ensuring that good data management practices are implemented across the project partnership, so that robust evidence is generated in the form of research data that can be long-lasting and available for future consultation and reuse. I therefore support the partners and researchers via guidance, training and capacity building. Particular attention is paid to data security and ethics since many of the data collected are sensitive and cover illicit activities; as well as developing data repository solutions with the partners.

I also work part-time as Research Data Services manager at the UK Data Archive, University of Essex, leading a team that provides data management and sharing guidance and training to the UK social science community (and beyond). We also manage the publishing of research data in the ReShare repository and research and development projects on data sharing and open science.

My own research experience is in studying interactions between people, plants and the environment, using a combination of social and natural science methods, mostly in developing countries.

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Louise Ball
Communications and Research Uptake Coordinator

I am a communications specialist with 9 years’ experience in the research and not-for-profit sector, joining the Drugs and (dis)order project in February 2019.

I have expertise in communicating for policy engagement, and monitoring, evaluating and learning from communications. I am co-author of the ODI’s Research Excellence Framework impact guide, the 10 things to know about how to influence policy with research infographic publication, and the Communications monitoring, evaluation and learning toolkit.

I am an On Think Tanks Associate and have previously worked in the ODI’s Research and Policy in Development team, and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute in London.

My academic background is in Social Anthropology with French,  University of Sussex and I have an LLM from the Open University.

Karen Brock
Policy Engagement and Research Uptake Coordinator

I am a research communication specialist. Before coming to SOAS, I worked as a research communication advisor at Christian Aid, working on the design and impact of practitioner research. Prior to this, I developed my research communications expertise with Making All Voices Count, a large programme funded by DFID, USAID and Sida, which examined the role of ICTs in the relationship between citizen voice and responsive, accountable governance.

I have worked as a researcher for many years, and am widely published. My interests include sustainable agriculture and rural livelihoods, especially in semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa; transparency, participation and accountability in governance; participatory research and adaptive learning; and development policy processes.

My degree, from Liverpool University, was in Modern History and Politics, and I have an MSc in Rural Resources and Environmental Policy from Wye College, University of London.

Astrid Jamar
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Since 2006, I have undertaken research at the intersection of peace, conflict and development studies from anthropological, feminist and decolonial perspectives. My research has addressed social and political consequences of mass violence and questions how aid-dependent policies tackle issues of accountability in conflict-affected contexts. I am particularly interested in the interplay of actors, institutions and norms, as well as pluriversal approaches to peacebuilding and knowledge production. From 2008–2011, I worked with several transitional justice NGOs in Rwanda and Burundi. Prior to joining SOAS, I was a Lecturer in Development at The Open University (2019–2021), and a researcher in the Political Settlements Research Programme, School of Law, University of Edinburgh (2015–2019).

Within Drugs & (dis)order, I undertake comparative research about peace processes across the three countries and coordinate the production of distance learning material. This role provides me with a great opportunity to collaborate with a stimulating global team, to draw attention to how gaps between policy and practice affect beneficiaries of development and peacebuilding policies, and to jointly produce impactful research for academic, policy and public spheres.