by Andrew Jones

In the Autumn of 2015 the Poverty Research Network was launched at the University of Warwick with the help and support of the Global History and Culture Centre, the Institute of Advanced Studies, and the Global Research Priority Group (GRP) on International Development. Set up by Warwick-based historians Julia McClure and Andrew Jones, and growing out of previous international collaborations at Harvard’s Weatherhead Initiative on Global History and the European University Institute, the network provides a platform to discuss issues of social justice, structural inequalities and distributional politics. We are particularly keen to bring together scholars from different disciplines, to compare the questions being asked and the methodologies and conceptual apparatus used in different fields of poverty research. The network also seeks to facilitate dialogue between academics and practitioners and activists broadly working in the field of social justice.

Since its launch, the Network has hosted a series of roundtable discussions, workshops, and guest lectures within this broad remit. Through these events and conversations, a research agenda has gradually crystallised around a broad set of questions and themes. This has included an interest in aesthetics and the political implications of representing and viewing poverty (on which we held an interdisciplinary workshop in June 2016), and an emerging interest in unpacking the historical relationship between charitable giving and imperialism, to shed new light on the contemporary revival of philanthropy and its repacking as ‘philanthrocapitalism’ (on which we will host a workshop in March 2017).

We have also developed an interest in critically examining, historicising and rethinking international development policy and practice. We have hosted thought-provoking lectures by guest speakers such as Jason Hickel (LSE), who articulated a scathing critique of the aid industry, and Jonathan Glennie (Ipsos MORI, formerly Director of Policy & Research at Save the Children UK), who argued that we are currently witnessing an evolution not only in the field of international development, but in international cooperation as a concept. The latter event was generously supported by GRP International Development.

This vibrant activity helped facilitate the recent award of an exciting grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to establish a Research Network for International Development. The grant will internationalise the Poverty Research Network by holding workshop events at partner institutions in Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, Slovenia, and South Africa. These will explore how different narratives of poverty and poverty reduction have been conceptualised and articulated in specific countries, to deepen our understanding of the social and political construction of poverty. These narratives will then be disseminated back to academics, practitioners and policymakers in Britain through a concluding international conference, to be held at the University of Warwick in 2018.

Key outputs of this Network will include a special issue peer-reviewed journal, a digital forum, sets of policy recommendations, and a public exhibition at Warwick. The project ultimately aspires to increase our understanding of how local contexts shape development; strengthen the voices of developing countries in governance; and promote alternative visions of current policy as set out in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

From modest beginnings, the Poverty Research Network has grown rapidly in size, stature and ambitions over the course of 2016. We believe we have an exciting and innovative research agenda now in place for the upcoming months and years, for which we are deeply grateful to our sponsors for their continuing support. We always welcome new members, so do please get in touch if you wish to participate in and contribute towards the Network’s themes and objectives. Alternatively, just come along to one of our upcoming events – all are very welcome to attend, including undergraduate students and postgraduate researchers (and there is usually free wine). Our website is frequently updated to show our forthcoming events, so do please add us to your web browser bookmarks and check back regularly.