Philip Proudfoot is an anthropologist based in the Power and Popular Politics Cluster at IDS. A Middle East specialist, his geographic interests centre on Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Thematically, Philip’s work engages with questions of economic inequality, forced migration, gender and sexuality, the humanitarian-development nexus, protracted conflict, and populist mass movements.
Before joining IDS, Philip was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bath and Assistant Director of the British Institute in Amman, part of the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL).
His forthcoming book, ‘Rebel Populism,’ documents the everyday lives and political aspirations of Syrian migrant labourers in Lebanon. Grounded by ethnography, each chapter describes why rural-to-urban workers came to support the anti-regime opposition. Drawing insights from analytical work on populism, the book proposes that the de-development impacts of kleptocratic market liberalisation lay the structural foundations on which an unruly mass movement took shape.
At present, Philip is working on his British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship, ‘Humanitarianism as a Social Movement.’ This project scrutinises the emergence of activist-led assistance networks in the UK and beyond. What makes these groups unique is that they conceptualise their support practices for vulnerable populations as less the product of apolitical legal obligations or amoral imperatives and more as prefigurative commitments to an alternative socio-political vision of the world, often derived from traditions of mutual aid, solidarity, and unhindered human mobility.