Modern South Asian Studies Seminar: Peopling Policy Processes? Methodological Populism in the Bangladesh Health and Education Sectors


Conveners: Matthew McCartney, Mallica Kumbera Landrus and Rosalind O'Hanlon

Policy-makers are often seen as being out of touch with the communities they serve. But closing the “gap” between policy makers and people is not straightforward. An experimental initiative in Bangladesh known as the “reality check” attempted to influence policy makers in the health and education sectors by providing them with 'light touch' ethnographic data about how ongoing reforms were experienced at community level over a five year period. The case is analyzed through a lens of a “methodological populism” and while it achieved only limited traction with policy makers it generated important questions about what can be considered as acceptable evidence for policy.


David Lewis is Professor of Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science. An anthropologist by background, he teaches and undertakes research on the theory and practice of international development, specialising in social development policy, rural development, and NGOs/civil society. He has mostly undertaken fieldwork in Bangladesh, but also has experience working in the Philippines, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. He is author and co-author of several books including Anthropology and Development: Challenges for the 21st Century (with Katy Gardner, 2015) and NGOs, Management and Development (2014). He has carried out advisory work for organizations that include include Oxfam, The Asia Foundation, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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