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News & Blog > Blogs: "Perspectives, Provocations & Initiatives" > The benefits of PhD exchange

The benefits of PhD exchange

Learning from others - a reflection on the Questioning Development conference and PhD symposium with Cornell and Sussex
Visita empresa agroindustrial en Romera; Ministerio de Agricultura Chile CC BY-NC 2.0
Visita empresa agroindustrial en Romera; Ministerio de Agricultura Chile CC BY-NC 2.0
At the beginning of October six IDS and University of Sussex PhD. researchers went to Cornell University to participate in the PhD. symposium organized with the Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University. The symposium was brilliant.
There were a variety of topics among the eight papers - some were even new concepts to me:
  • comprehensive sexual education,
  • social protection,
  • collective capabilities,
  • indigenous territorial rights and production,
  • agricultural input subsidies,
  • Precariousness after the Green Revolution in India,
  • vivir bien, and
  • questioning development.
We exchanged our papers beforehand so that we could make comments on the day of symposium. By reading them I learned much on each concept and its analysis. Despite the variety of topics there were a number of insightful and useful comments from the participants and attendant lecturers, all of which were useful for us to revise our thesis, prepare for the viva, and write papers from the thesis. I very much appreciated the useful comments on my paper.
I also learned a lot from the other papers and comments for them. Among them I was especially interested in the paper ‘Precariousness and downward mobility; the making and unmaking of the ‘progressive farmer’ in post-Green Revolution India Punjab’. The paper describes the precarious situation from the deepening cash economy and environmental uncertainty from environmental degradation due to rapid extractive agricultural intensification and climate change. It also analyses the downward mobility from the agricultural practices with affluent use of inputs and the accompanied ‘extravagant’ lifestyle from the Green Revolution, which made farmers continuingly indebted and demoralized. Related to my research on input subsidies in sub-Saharan Africa, I felt that I have to learn from the consequences of excessive use of inputs, it’s accompanied consumption culture, and their socio-economic consequences, and have to have a long term vision of the sound, ecological agricultural practices.
We were then given an opportunity to attend the Conference of the Development Sociology section of the American Sociology Association ‘Development in Question’, held in Cornell University, which was also excellent. There were several sessions related to my PhD. research. Among them I learned a lot from the session ‘Framing and measuring the new Green Revolution in Africa’ on how the new Green Revolution in Africa has been framed and how it should be reframed, measured and shared information. I also learned about the various cases of precariousness and vulnerability on the panel ‘The politics of precariousness and the production of vulnerability’. And the last panel ‘Class dynamics of development’ made me think about and analyse the class relations in every segment of the society.

It helped me a lot to develop the analysis of my research - Agricultural input subsidies in sub-Saharan Africa – the case of Tanzania (specifically Ruvuma region) - where the multinational or foreign input supplier companies control the prices which run through the administrative cadre to the market prices to farmers. Meanwhile, in the country the subsidy helped elite and better-off farmers, and middle-scale and small-scale farmers have the least power and are on the lowest rung of the ladder of the political economy. It seems that classes were being formed at least in Ruvuma, but also in other rural areas in Tanzania, based on the pre-existing and strengthening hierarchical relations between domestic and international capital, as well as between elites and wealthy farmers, and middle-scale and small-scale farmers.
Four days of PhD. symposium and Conference gave me a lot to learn, from exchanging and commenting on our papers in the symposium, and from presentations in the Conference. We also developed a social network to continue dialogue with each other. Both Cornell and Sussex University professors discussed that this type of symposium is meaningful and would continue to be held. I agree, it is an excellent opportunity for giving us fresh insights and incisive comments for our PhD. research with great networking in the excellent university in another Continent. I appreciate very much the support given by IDS for me to be able to attend these meetings.

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