Image of Patta Scott-Villiers

Patta Scott-Villiers

Research Fellow

Patta is Senior Fellow in the Power and Popular Politics Cluster.

I research political marginalization, asking how people on the margins explain it and resist or embrace it. People’s reaction to political marginalization has major implications not only locally, but also nationally and internationally and my research tries to make these implications clear.

At present, I am working with pastoralists on land issues in the context of oil development in northern Kenya, drawing on many years of work in East Africa’s borderlands. Linked to this, I’m also pursuing a line of inquiry into how people get involved in influencing vital issues, studying the powers and limitations of popular politics – street talk and protest – and the role that research can play in supporting it. Most important for me is to bring my research back to the people who have contributed to it, stimulating conversations about what research findings mean and what can be done. I convene the ‘designing critical enquiry’ and ‘unruly politics’ modules as part of the Masters in Power, Participation and Social Change at IDS.

At present I am looking at the political margins from two angles:

  • Explaining a contemporary politics of provision, looking at people’s and authorities’ reactions to a sharply rising cost of living in city slums and distant rural areas. I’m learning why people protest and why they don’t and I’m making connections with right to food movements to understand their part. Highlighted podcast link.
  • Exploring with pastoralists the process of representation and negotiation with government in relation to large scale land planning.  Related publication.

My perspective is from the ground up. I want to learn how people on the margins explain the mechanisms of marginalization and how they are acting in response. Adding analyses of the national and international political and economic processes that underpin these local situations, I feed research into three zones:

  1. International debates about the politics of food;
  2. Debates among people on the margins that strengthen their understanding of their situation and its possibilities; and
  3. Debates between people on the margins and those in government, civil society and the private sector who want to find new ways of narrowing the gaps.

PhD student supervision

  • Violeta Vajda, who is inquiring into critical whiteness in relation to anti-gypsyism in Romania
  • Egidio Chaimite, who is inquiring into the citizen of the party state in Mozambique
  • Effie Makepeace who is inquiring into  applied theatre, community practice and politics in Malawi, UK and India,

If you are interested in collaborating as a PhD student or co-researcher, please contact me.

Google Scholar



Learning with SPARK

Learning with SPARK is an innovative action learning partnership between the Institute of Development Studies, the Accountability Research Center and the International Budget Partnership (IBP). It aims to generate knowledge from a significant new programme run by the IBP – called SPARK...


Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA)

Action for Empowerment and Accountability is an international research programme which explores how social and political action can contribute to empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict, and violent settings, with a particular focus on Egypt, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria and Pakistan.


Food Riots and Food Rights

The objective of this research is to improve the prospects for accountability for food security at a time of volatility. This will be achieved through an exploration of the proposition that recent popular mobilisation around food has activated public accountability for hunger.


Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility

Researching the impacts of, and responses to, volatile food prices in poor communities in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zambia.



Food Riots, Food Rights and the Politics of Provisions

Thousands of people in dozens of countries took to the streets when world food prices spiked in 2008 and 2011. What does the persistence of popular mobilization around food tell us about the politics of subsistence in an era of integrated food markets and universal human rights?

16 October 2017

Patta Scott-Villiers’s recent work