Patta Scott-Villiers - Research Fellow

Power and Popular Politics; Conflict and Violence
T: +44 (0)1273 915616


Erin Lewis

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Patta is Co-Leader of 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 focusing on young people and their actions, drawing on many years of work in East Africa's borderlands and latterly in the slums of its large cities. Most important for me is to bring my research back to the people who have contributed to it. Rather than just extracting information, I bring analysis and research results back to people, stimulating conversations about what it means and what can be done. Linked to this, I'm also pursuing a line of inquiry into how people debate public issues. I study the powers and limitations of popular politics – street talk and protest – and the role that research can play in supporting it.

At present I am trying to understand the political margins from three angles:

  • Exploring the causes and effects of poor quality education on young people's lives, and its links to growing economic inequality and unraveling insecurity in the East African Region.
  • 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
  • Understanding how political violence preys on young people, discussing why people join in and how it works. I'm exploring its links to wider political economic processes as well as the efforts people make locally to resist it

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 global inequalities and insecurities;
  2. debates among people on the margins that strengthen their understanding of their situation and its possibilities; and
  3. debates between young 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

  • Maria Cascante who is asking what an international NGO campaign in Nigeria might learn from thinking like a social movement
  • Violeta Vajda, who is inquiring into identity and racism in Romania
  • Marcio Pessoa, who is studying defiant civil society in Mozambique

If you are interested in collaborating, please contact me!

The aim of this cooperation with the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation is to strengthen their Democratisation, Decentralisation and Local Governance Network's understanding, learning, and policy engagement in decentralised and democratic local governance.

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Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development (MAVC) is a four-year $45 million fund to support innovation, scaling-up, and research that will deepen existing innovations and help harness new technologies to enable citizen engagement and government responsiveness.

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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.

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A new partnership between the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and IDS has been formed with the aim of supporting SDC’s ‘Democratisation, Decentralisation and Local Governance Network’ (DLGN) between 2012 and 2014. IDS’ contribution will seek to improve DLGN’s effectiveness and impact of policy strategies and operations.

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The Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency (PVCA) project is an action research project designed by researchers at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and carried out with a number of institutional partners.

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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.

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This collaboration between IDS and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) aims to bring appropriate participatory methods into quality assurance within SDC. It will also bring new levels of rigour to the principles of participation, poverty orientation and empowerment in the work of SDC and its partners.

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IDS publications on international development research

Ethical and Methodological Challenges in Large Qualitative Participatory Studies

Participatory research studies utilizing qualitative data drawn from large, diverse samples appear increasingly common in the social sciences, particularly in international development. More details

This is the front cover to the book, 'Food Riots, Food Rights and the Politics of Provisions'.

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? More details


Innovative Methods for Research on Social and Political Action in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings

IDS Working Paper 487 (2017)

Fragile and conflict-affected settings present particular challenges for researchers seeking to study the effect of social and political action (SPA). These challenges are not simply due to prevalent violence and conflict, but contexts of insecurity can restrict the flow of information, key actors can be hard to identify, and if information can be found, vital pieces of the picture may be missing. More details

This is the cover to the report 'Precarious Lives'.

Precarious Lives: Or Why it's Vital to Protect the Right to Food in the Face of Market Volatility

The global food crisis of 2007-11 left food prices higher and more volatile than they had been for a generation. The Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility project explored the everyday aspects of people's lives, as they responded to this change in prices. The project found that people are no longer experiencing price rises as shocks but rather as a constant pressure, particularly as wages are no More details

This is the front cover to IDS Bulletin 475, 'Power, Poverty and Inequality'.

Power, Poverty and Inequality

IDS Bulletin 47.5 (2016)

Ten years on from the landmark 2006 edition of the IDS Bulletin that brought us the ‘powercube’ – a practical approach to power analysis that offered a way of confronting its complexity – we return to the question of how to analyse and act on power in development. More details

Thematic Expertise:
Conflict Violence and Security; Participatory methodologies; Politics and Power; Unruly Politics; Youth Employment and Politics.

Related Programmes and Centres:
Action for Empowerment and Accountability.

Geographic Expertise:
Sub Saharan Africa; Ethiopia; Kenya; Somalia; Sudan; Uganda.