Cynthia Howson, Ph.D.
My research in the political economy of development focuses on rural labor issues. My two concurrent projects include ongoing fieldwork in the Chinese wine industry as well as an ongoing project based on my dissertation research on women smugglers in Senegal, West Africa. Both projects emphasize contradictory norms and legal ambiguity in the competition for rural resources and labor.
My courses focus on economic development, with particular emphasis on gender, political economy, globalization, and the law. In each course, my objective is to introduce students to new ideas, skills and ways of thinking that will be meaningful regardless of the career path they choose.
As a development political economist, my research focuses on the role of regulation in people's competition for resources in poor and emerging economies. My background is in mixed-method, mostly qualitative research, where field work is the central source of data. Most of my work is focused on African development, but I have recently expanded my work with a project in China, for several reasons. First, China is one of the most important regions in the study of economic development, so the ability to connect theoretical questions across regions is extremely valuable. Second, I am fascinated by sectors that are misunderstood or understudied. My work in Senegal is among very few studies on gender and corruption, anywhere. Similarly, in China, there is almost no scholarship at all on the exploding wine industry, despite it's relevance to so many important questions.
These two completely different projects teach us about topics that matter everywhere in the world.
What determines access to rural land and labor and how do agricultural and non-farm economies intersect in the same villages?How do people negotiate ambiguous and contradictory rules and laws in order to find work or keep their businesses afloat?What kinds of informal rules and relationships create give opportunities to some and exclude others?
- TPOLS 123 Introduction to Globalization introduces students to the political economy of globalization, including debates on the role of international organizations, governments and multinational corporations in international trade, human rights and people's lives and livelihoods.
- TPOLS 270 Introduction to Political Economy explores the most influential perspectives in the politics of economic regulation, from Adam Smith to Karl Marx, through case studies in rich and poor countries. These include intellectual property and access to life-saving medicines, the politics of drugs and alcohol, and how we decide which public goods like health care, infrastructure, education and the environment deserve our money.
- TECON 320 Gender & Development uses insights from economics to explore how men’s and women’s roles impact incentives, opportunities and investments in the economies of developing regions. Topics include education, credit, job markets, health care, social movements, elections and the gendered economics of criminal justice.
- TPOLS 348 Gender & Law studies the way gender norms influence legal processes, and the role of the law in gendered social change. We will then explore some of the practical strategies men and women may employ in order to negotiate and use gendered constraints to their advantage. Course topics may include: sex equality arguments in constitutional law; gendered approaches to criminality and criminal justice; masculinity in law enforcement; marriage and family law; employment and discrimination; sexual harassment and gendered violence; and international law and women's human rights.
- TWOMN 420 Women in the Global Economy explores the ways in which gender roles both restrict and permit economic and social change as well as the ambiguous role of Western-inspired gendered assumptions as they impact local contexts. Unit 1 emphasizes changing theoretical debates in the context of globalization and competing notions of feminism. Unit 2 explores notions of feminine virtue and responsibility in order to analyze sources of cultural change from a political economy perspective.
- TECON 360 Poverty in Developing Countries: Why are some countries rich and others poor? How much do states and citizens control the policies and projects that impact their economic activities? How important are free trade, international debt, natural resources, corruption, health, religion and war? This course examines development processes, policies and strategies in different regions of the world.
- TIAS 305 Seminar in IAS: This 2 credit P/F class can be led by any faculty in IAS. It allows students to explore the importance of interdisciplinarity by studying one theme as it is presented by guests from different fields and disciplines. For me, the goal is to help students draw connections between their courses and their community by meeting local professionals, attending lectures by diverse faculty and volunteering in local organizations.
- African Studies Association
- Human Interactions and Normative Innovations (University of Washington)
- Labour, Movement and Development research cluster (School of Oriental and African Studies)
- African Borderlands Research Network
- Gender and Transport Community of Practice DGroup
Reviewer for the journals, World Development and Women's Studies International Forum
"Adverse Incorporation and Microfinance among Cross-Border Traders in Senegal." World Development, (42) pp. 199-208. (2013)
“Women Smuggling and the Men Who Help Them: Gender, Corruption and Illicit Networks in Senegal.” The Journal of Modern African Studies, 50(03), pp. 421–45. (2012)
"Feminist Contributions to IPE," in Dave Balaam and Brad Dillman, eds., Introduction to International Political Economy, 5th edition, pp. 118-125 (New York: Pearson Longman). (2011)
"L'intégration du genre dans les politiques publiques de la Banque Mondiale: Exemple des politiques de transport au Sénégal", MA thesis, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Bordeaux, published online by Genre en Action. (2005)