Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

"Given that Nigeria is currently undergoing a democratic regime change, this is a fantastic chance to gain insights and shed light on a sensitive issue right at the moment of political transition."

Marcus Walton

Spotlight on Graduate Student Research: Marcus Walton

The Graduate Program in Development (GPD) is an interdisciplinary initiative that promotes social science research on social, political, and economic transformation in the developing world, with a special focus on inequality. Open to all PhD candidates at Brown, the program provides the interdisciplinary skills necessary for innovative research. Each year the program awards fieldwork research grants. This is the first in a series of Spotlights on Graduate Student Research highlighting that work.

August 4, 2015

Marcus Walton is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science. He received a summer travel grant to conduct research in Nigeria. He has been affiliated with the GPD program since his first year at Brown. He was drawn to the program, and the field of development in general, through his interest in political processes and experiences of the Global South. These interests are based primarily on his experience of living in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. Moreover, his work is interdisciplinary, which is one of the core values of the GPD program.

Here he describes his fieldwork and its connection to Watson’s development focus. 

My research looks at the politics of state-controlled resources in Africa. Specifically in Nigeria, I am studying oil, corruption, and the effects on fuel prices. The GPD travel grant provides me with a great opportunity to conduct research in Lagos and Abuja, establish contacts, and identify field sites. Given that Nigeria is currently undergoing a democratic regime change, this is a fantastic chance to gain insights and shed light on a sensitive issue right at the moment of political transition.

In the field of development, my work contributes to an understanding of the welfare state in non-Western contexts. Social welfare and resource distribution have been central to a great deal of political protest across the Global South in the past 15 years. I hope that my research this summer will provide me with the experience and perspective to make a contribution to this growing literature in the future.

Housed at Watson and co-directed by Patrick Heller, professor of sociology and international affairs, and Barbara Stallings, William R. Rhodes Research Professor, the GPD is supported by an IGERT (Integrated Graduate Education Research and Training) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). More information.