About GPD

A PhD With a Difference

The Graduate Program in Development (GPD) is an interdisciplinary initiative sponsored by the Watson Institute for International Studies and supported by an IGERT (Integrated Graduate Education Research and Training) grant from the NSF. GPD seeks to promote social science research on processes of social, political and economic transformation in the developing world with a special focus on the persistent problem of inequality. Inequalities of well-being and opportunity represent the most difficult and persistent obstacles to promoting equitable, democratic and sustainable development. As the problems of development and inequality become ever more complex and global, GPD aims to provide graduate students with the interdisciplinary skills that innovative research calls for.

The program supports training and research for PhD candidates in Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, and Sociology by offering specialized courses, funding field-based research, providing fellowships, hosting visiting faculty and promoting collaborative research initiatives with partner institutions in the global south. The program builds on a core group of faculty internationally renowned for their research and scholarship in the area of development and inequality.

Program activities are open to all PhD students at Brown. In addition to hosting trainees supported by their department, the GPD program admits 4-8 fellows a year who receive full support for two years. All trainees and fellows are eligible for summer fieldwork research grants.

The program is directed by Prerna Singh.


The Case for Interdisciplinary Training in Development and Inequality

Understanding and promoting economic, social, and political development is one of the primary challenges for the world in the twenty-first century. Despite the tremendous efforts over the last fifty years, a large share of the world’s population–in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and some of the Transition Economies–still lives in abject poverty. And while many countries have made the transition to democracy, pervasive inequalities, weak political institutions, and fragile civil societies continue to pose significant challenges to the exercise of genuine democratic freedoms. The “problem” of development has moreover become an increasingly global challenge as issues of security, governance, economic stability, and environmental sustainability have become internationalized. Recent cases of economic collapse, political upheaval, and resurgent nationalism provide jarring reminders that we still have much to learn. Success stories that defy traditional trajectories of development-growth in East Asia, cases of social development without growth, and waves of democratic transitions-call for new explanatory models. In sum, coming to terms with these complexities requires modes of thinking, forms of knowledge, and tools of research that borrow from all the social sciences.

GPD is a PhD with a difference because it recognizes that the differences in perspective and technique that often separate social science disciplines are, in fact, a source of strength and innovation. By fostering multidisciplinary training, GPD aims to create a new generation of scholars with the intellectual breadth and the range of research skills required for coming to terms with the challenges and complexities of development in the 21st century.