My name is Alex Shankland. I am English but have spent around half my adult life living in Brazil (first as a journalist, then as a manager of NGO health projects in Amazonia, then as a social development consultant and latterly as a researcher), as well as working for shorter periods in Peru, Mexico, Mozambique and Angola.
I am currently a Research Fellow in the Power, Participation and Social Change (PPSC) team of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex in the UK. The PPSC team has a long history of working on participatory methodologies, gender, power analysis, rights, citizenship, accountability and local governance, and latterly has also developed some pioneering work on sexuality and development. Between 2000 and 2010 the team was home to the secretariat of the “Citizenship DRC” (Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability), the network through which many CORD participants first came together.
I first joined the PPSC team in 2001 as the Research Manager for the Citizenship DRC. I returned in 2010 as a newly-appointed Fellow, having in the interim spent a few years in Brazil doing research for my PhD and working on various projects with indigenous peoples’ movements and the Ministry of Health.
In addition to IDS (where in addition to my PPSC team membership I work with colleagues from several other teams), I am also a Visiting Fellow with the Citizenship and Development unit of Cebrap in São Paulo, and a board member of the Brazilian indigenous health rights NGO Saúde Sem Limites (SSL).
Within the PPSC team’s core programme I have worked mainly on the theme of “Unruly Politics”, most recently examining the parallels between the political strategies of the indigenous movements with which I have worked for many years in Brazilian Amazonia and those of OccupyLSX (the London Stock Exchange / Saint Paul’s Cathedral site of the global Occupy movement). I am just about to start a project on “food rights and food riots” with three IDS colleagues and partners in Mozambique, Kenya, India and Bangladesh, which draws directly on Unruly Politics thinking. I am also working with PPSC colleagues on the monitoring and evaluation component of a programme that aims to strengthen citizen engagement in local governance in five municipalities in Mozambique.
My other engagements at IDS include working with partners in the Future Health Systems consortium (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Indian Institute of Health Management Research) on participatory methodologies for health systems analysis and research on social networks, mediation and representation in the Sundarbans region of West Bengal, with IDS Climate Change team colleagues and partners in Mexico on participatory climate vulnerability analysis with indigenous and mestizo communities in the Sierra Madre Oriental (various locations in the states of Puebla, Hidalgo and San Luis Potosí) and with IDS Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction team colleagues and partners in Brazil on a case study of nutrition monitoring in the Brazilian “Indigenous Health Subsystem” for a global UNICEF project on real-time vulnerability monitoring.
Much of my time is currently taken up with co-convening a new “network cluster” of people and organisations in the UK and the BRICS countries who are working on the role of these countries and other “rising powers” in reshaping international development. This includes the Future Development Policy Network, which brings together think-tanks seeking to influence the shape of the emerging “global development partnership” announced at the recent Busan conference, the Development Studies Learning Partnership, which brings together people in Europe and the BRICS who are interested in rethinking the teaching of Development Studies, and a nascent research programme on “Rising Powers in International Development”. Within the Rising Powers in International Development research programme I am leading on Brazil and on BRICS civil society engagements, as well as working closely with Brazilian, Mozambican and Portuguese colleagues on a study of Brazil’s engagements with African agriculture.
Last, but very much not least given my longstanding engagement with these issues, I am involved with a new network bringing together researchers and activists working on indigenous health in Latin America, traditional medicine in Africa and the health of ethnic minority peoples in Southeast Asia. This network, which is co-convened by IDS with KIT (the Netherlands Royal Tropical Institute) will have its inaugural meeting at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio conference centre in June, with the theme of “Transforming health systems to serve the wellbeing of indigenous and minority peoples”.