Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Institute Focus on Inequality Addresses Pressing Global Issue

January 29, 2011

From the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland, to popular protests across Egypt, inequality is increasingly the watchword for global leaders and local activists alike. In this time of growing emphasis, the Watson Institute’s five-year-old strategic focus on inequality represents the vanguard of academic research and training, producing new analysis and next-generation leadership to address a pressing problem.

This week, the Watson Institute faculty has begun a new semester of research and training for doctoral students in its Graduate Program in Development (GPD). A major component of GPD is a five-year NSF funded 3.1 million IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Training and Research Traineeship) program on development and inequality. Also in recent weeks, Brown’s Office of International Affairs opened applications to the third year of Brown International Advanced Research Institutes (BIARI) for summer 2011, with Watson faculty members annually leading an institute for young scholars from around the globe on “Development and Inequality in the Global South.”

While GPD-IGERT promotes and supports research in the general area of development studies, it is especially focused on the one of the most crucial – but intractable – problems of the twenty-first century: the persistence of old and the production of new forms of inequality in the developing world.

The program, co-directed by Professors Patrick Heller and Barbara Stallings, is home to 25 trainees, most recently welcoming Mariana Chudnovsky, a PhD candidate at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Argentina, as a visiting researcher this month. All GPD trainees are pursuing PhDs in economics, political science, anthropology, or sociology, while also receiving advanced interdisciplinary training in the area of development and inequality.

Targeted GPD research on inequality brings together 30 faculty members from across Brown – and from partner institutions in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa – to advance such related initiatives as Democratic Governance and Participation; Global Governance and Inequality; Global Inequality, Climate Change, and Environmental Protection; Markets and Social Inequality; Public Health and Social Disparities; and Urban Transformation and Inequality.

Among these initiatives’ recent outputs, from a collaboration with Brown’s Sociology Department and the University’s Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) Initiative, is an interactive online mapping application on "Urban Transformation in South Africa,"  including extensive reports produced with partner institutions in South Africa.

As GPD advances through the spring, this summer’s BIARI is also in preparation. Its Inequality Institute will promote knowledge about innovative theory, research, and methodologies for studying inequality in developing countries. Particular emphasis will be placed on exploring the specific dimensions and impacts of inequality on development across regions of the global south, and developing a comparative understanding of these dynamics. It is being led by Institute Associate Professor Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Heller, Faculty Associate Daniel Smith (Brown Associate Professor of Anthropology), and Faculty Fellow Richard Snyder.