Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
The Economic Imaginaries of Development Randomized Controlled Trials in East Africa

My dissertation research is a multi-sited ethnographic, historiographic, and science-studies-based analysis of development randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in East Africa — of the development economists who design RCTs, the researchers who carry them out, and the research participants whose behaviors they study. My aim is not to describe the economic, political, and social interventions made by these RCT projects, but rather to analyze them as sites at which different economic ideas — held by development economists, researchers, and East African research participants — intersect and interact. I ask: what are the understandings of different social forms — of markets, of actors, and of rationality — that underpin development economics RCT research in East Africa? How do these understandings relate to the long history of Western social-scientific ideas about African societies? And how do these theories and discourses about social structures of economy intersect with the many ways in which East Africans think about their societies, their economies, and their ways of being? In answering a set of answers to these questions, my project aims to build an ethnographically and historically grounded examination of the specific ways in which academic economists reshape economies and social lives in contemporary East Africa — as well as the ways in which East Africans resist these attempts at social transformation.