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Catalyzing innovative research and instruction on global development.

The Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Institute for Global Development supports theoretical and applied social science research. We fund projects and working groups that address issues ranging from economic inequality to discursive politics, contributing to Cornell’s leadership in global development. 

Established in 2001 within the Department of Development Sociology, the Polson Institute has enhanced and extended the efforts of the department members, creating space for collaboration within and between Development Sociology, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Cornell University community. Through seminars, workshops, and grants we not only plant seeds for research and academic collaboration, but contribute to educational opportunities for students outside of the classroom.

Banner image courtesy of David Sasaki on Flickr.

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Engaged Conversations Series

Jun 21, 2013

The Engaged Conversations series is a new initiative of the Polson Center, launched in the spring of 2013. The aim of this series is to spark interdisciplinary exchange around critical issues, especially those related to the theme of global crisis. So far, two of these conversations have been held, both of which brought together scholars and activists with diverse backgrounds and disciplinary affiliations to engage in critical conversations around different aspects of the multiple crises - economic, ecological, political, and social - facing the contemporary world. Read more

'Surplus' Populations and the Management of Indigence: South Africa through an Indian Lens

May 10, 2013

In this lecture, Professor Gillian Hart Professor of Geography and Co-Chair of Development Studies at the University of California, Berkeley) will engage critically with Partha Chatterjee’s enormously influential analysis of civil society and political society in The Politics of the Governed (2004) and several subsequent writings. This framework has gained traction in many parts of the world, including South Africa. Drawing on her forthcoming book, Rethinking the South African Crisis, the talk will illustrate the key limitations of Chatterjee’s approach, and why an alternative approach is important. The talk will also draw on debates surrounding primitive accumulation and methods of relational comparison explored in her 2006 article, “Denaturalizing Dispossession: Critical Ethnography in the Age of Resurgent Imperialism. Read more

Agrarian Crisis in India? April 5-6, 2013

Apr 5, 2013

There have always been agrarian crises in India — for individuals, whole classes, sectors, districts, for some crops, in some years. Our conference investigates current characterizations of crisis in both media and political circles. The Prime Minister has called the armed insurrection of ‘Maoists’ the gravest threat ever to Indian security; many accounts link radicalism to desperation and landlessness. Probably the most dominant symbol of agrarian crisis is reportage of unusually high farmer suicide rates. Read more