David Lewis (academic)

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David Lewis (born February 6, 1960 in Totnes, Devon) is a British scholar who is Professor of Social Policy and Development at London School of Economics.[1]


David Lewis grew up in Bearsden, near Glasgow, Scotland, and in Bath in the west of England. He read Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge (BA/MA 1983). He has a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Bath (1989). Before becoming a lecturer at the London School of Economics & Political Science in 1995, he was briefly a freelance development researcher and consultant. He became a Full Professor in 2009.

He has a second small-scale career as a songwriter and folk/rock musician, recording extensively with college friend John Wesley Harding, touring in Europe and the USA, and releasing four albums.[2][3][4] His most recent album Old World New World was released in May 2014. In 2019 he began recording a new collection of songs provisionally entitled ‘Among Friends’.


David Lewis's main research focus is on the analysis of international development policy and the work of development organizations.

He has a particular interest in non-governmental organisations and civil society. He has also written on rural development, organisational issues in development agencies, and anthropological approaches to development.

He first went to Bangladesh to undertake a fifteen-month period of village level fieldwork for a PhD on agricultural technology and agrarian change. This was later published in book form as 'Technologies and Transactions', by Dhaka University in 1991. In the early 1990s he also worked on aquaculture and livelihoods in Bangladesh, and published 'Trading the Silver Seed' (UPL, 1996), co-authored with Geof Wood and Rick Gregory.

David Lewis’ other books have included 'Anthropology, Development and the Postmodern Challenge' (Pluto, 1996, with K. Gardner), 'The Management of Non-Governmental Organizations' (Routledge, 2001), 'Development Brokers and Translators' (Kumarian 2006, edited with David Mosse), 'Non-Governmental Organizations and Development' (Routledge 2009, with Nazneen Kanji), and 'Bangladesh: Politics, Economy and Civil Society' (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Geographical focus[edit]

His field work has been primarily in South and South East Asia, including India, Nepal. Sri Lanka and Philippines. The main focus of his work has been on Bangladesh.

Bangladesh: Politics, Economy and Civil Society (Cambridge University Press, 2011)[edit]

This was one of the first accessible overviews of contemporary Bangladesh to be published internationally for many years. It documents Bangladesh’s struggle for independence from Pakistan and its emergence as a fragile, but functioning, parliamentary democracy. It examines the economic, political and social changes that have taken place in the country over the last twenty years. Lewis argues that Bangladesh is now becoming of increasing interest to the international community as a portal into some of the key issues of our age – such as development and poverty reduction, climate change adaptation, and the role of civil society and state in promoting democracy and stability in Muslim majority countries. Despite its difficult past and many continuing challenges, the country is making remarkable progress. In this way the book offers an important corrective to the view of Bangladesh as a 'failed state'.

Development projects, civil society organizations and organisational culture[edit]

In 1999-2000, he conducted a research project (jointly with Tony Bebbington and Simon Batterbury) on culture, projects and partnership for the World Bank's poverty programs under the title Organizational cultures and spaces for empowerment? Interactions between poor people’s organizations and poverty programs (the countries covered were Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Ecuador).[5] The findings suggested that development agencies need to pay more attention to issues of power in the relationships they seek to build.

Non-Governmental Organizations, Management and Development (Routledge, 2014)[edit]

This book comprehensively updated earlier editions from 2001 and 2007 to critically explore the changing field of NGOs and development, uncovering historical perspectives and analyzing contemporary settings and issues. Taking an anthropological approach to the study of organization, Lewis argues that NGO management is a highly complex field, with organizations increasingly depending on improvisation, synthesis and hybrid approaches in difficult organizational environments. Drawing upon current research across fields such as non-profit studies, development management and organization and management theory, he analyses the important new field of NGO management. By giving equal attention to the activities, relationships and internal structure of the NGO, the author develops a composite model of NGO management that sets out the distinctive challenges faced by these organizations.

Life histories of NGO activists and leaders[edit]

Between 2006 and 2010, he was lead researcher on the ESRC funded study on Activists, Power and Sectoral Boundaries: Life Histories of NGO Leaders. This research project used the life history method to study the experiences of individuals who moved between state and civil society in different countries, including Bangladesh, Philippines and UK. The research drew attention to the importance of the blurred boundaries between government and non-state actors.[6]

The fiction and film of development[edit]

He is co-editor with Dennis Rodgers and Michael Woolcock of the 2014 book Popular Representations of Development.[7] This book had its origins in a 2008 paper by the same authors that aroused some media interest.[8][9][10][11] A public event was held on this theme at the LSE's first Literary Festival in February 2010 organized by the International Development Department's (then DESTIN) Crisis States Research Centre, and the Department of Social Policy on 'The Fiction of Development' idea - and at which three noted literary figures Giles Foden (author, The Last King of Scotland), Jack Mapanje (Malawian poet and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Newcastle University), and Sunny Singh (Indian writer and journalist) as well as Professor Lewis all discussed the topic.[12]

Practical engagement and consultancy work[edit]

He has also worked as a consultant for several development agencies, including DFID, Oxfam and BRAC (NGO) in Bangladesh.[13][failed verification][14]

Between 2006-2013 David Lewis worked as an adviser to the Bangladesh Reality Check Project - a Sida sponsored initiative that is documenting grassroots experiences and perceptions of health and education reform in Bangladesh.[15]

Anthropology and Development: Challenges for the 21st Century (Pluto, 2015)[edit]

Co-written with Katy Gardner, Anthropology and Development: Challenges for the 21st Century is a completely rewritten new edition of the best-selling and critically acclaimed 'Anthropology, Development and the Post-Modern Challenge' (1996). It aims to serve as both an innovative reformulation of the field, and as a key text for students and researchers at leading universities in Europe and North America. Gardner and Lewis update the book by engaging with nearly two decades of continuity and change in the development industry. In particular, they argue that while the world of international development has expanded since the 1990s, it has become more rigidly technocratic. Furthermore, Western aid is in decline and new set of global economic and political processes are shaping the twenty-first century. Anthropology and Development therefore insists on a focus upon the core anthropological issues surrounding poverty and inequality, and argue for a shift away from recent anthropological preoccupations with 'aidnography', and thus provide a timely redefinition what are perceived as the main issues and problems in the field.

Major publications[edit]

  • Lewis, D and Katy Gardner. 2015. Anthropology and Development: Challenges for the 21st Century. Pluto. [1]
  • Lewis, D. 2014. Non-Governmental Organizations, Management and Development. Routledge.
  • Lewis, D., D. Rodgers and M. Woolcock. 2013. Popular Representations of Development: Insights from Novels, Films, Television and Social Media. Routledge.
  • Lewis, D. 2011.Bangladesh: Politics, Economy and Civil Society. Cambridge University Press.
  • Lewis, D and Kanji, N. 2009. Non-Governmental Organisations and Development London: Routledge ISBN 0-415-45430-1[16]
  • Lewis, D. & A. Hossain. 2008. Understanding the Local Power Structure in Bangladesh. Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Stockholm: Sida Studies No. 22.
  • Lewis, D. & D. Mosse (eds) 2006. Development Brokers and Translators: The Ethnography of Aid and Agencies. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Books.
  • Lewis D. 2001. The Management of Non-Governmental Development Organisations London: Routledge ISBN 0-415-20759-2.[17] 2nd Edition (2007).
  • Lewis D. and D. Mosse (eds) 2005. The Aid Effect: Giving and Governing in International Development. London: Pluto Press.
  • Glasius M., D. Lewis and H. Seckinelgin.(eds) 2004. Exploring Civil Society: Political and Cultural Contexts. London: Routledge.
  • Lewis D and T Wallace. (eds) 2000. New Roles and Relevance: Development NGOs and the Challenge of Change. Hartford, Ct: Kumarian Press.
  • Lewis, D. (ed) 1999. International Perspectives on Voluntary Action: Rethinking the Third Sector. London: Earthscan.
  • Lewis, D. and K Gardner. 1996. Anthropology, Development and the Post-Modern Challenge. London: Pluto Press.
  • Lewis D., GD Wood and R Gregory. 1996. Trading the Silver Seed: Local Knowledge and Market Moralities in Aquacultural Development. London: Intermediate Technology Publications.
  • Lewis D. and Farringdon J. (ed) 1993. NGOs and the State in Asia: Rethinking Roles in Sustainable Agricultural development. London: Routledge.
  • Lewis D., 1991. Technologies and Transactions: A Study of the Interaction between New Technology and Agrarian Structure in Bangladesh. University of Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Social Studies.


  1. ^ http://personal.lse.ac.uk/lewisd/ Prof. Lewis on the LSE's website
  2. ^ https://myspace.com/davidlewisfornow/bio
  3. ^ http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2001-11-29/news/0111290051_1_blues-trio-david-lewis-songs
  4. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/artist/david-lewis-mn0000808760/biography
  5. ^ http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTCP/Resources/portfolio.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/ViewAwardPage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-155-25-0064 Archived 2010-04-03 at the UK Government Web Archive Esrc Society Today
  7. ^ http://www.bwpi.manchester.ac.uk/research/fictionofdevelopment/welcome.html Archived 2011-01-11 at the Wayback Machine Fiction of Development site at BWPI
  8. ^ The Telegraph Novels 'better at explaining world's problems than reports' People should read best-selling novels like The Kite Runner and The White Tiger rather than academic reports if they really want to understand global issues like poverty and migration, By Stephen Adams 06 Nov 2008
  9. ^ http://www.esquire.com/blogs/books/Development-Lit-Blog#ixzz0k80B6F5M You Don't Have To Hide Your Copy Of "The Kite Runner" Anymore November 7, 2008 at 3:21PM by Anya Yurchyshyn
  10. ^ http://www.heraldscotland.com/novels-give-best-insight-of-society-1.894116 The Herald, Novels 'give best insight of society' heraldscotland staff Published on 7 Nov 2008
  11. ^ http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2008/1110/why-novels-are-best-at-explaining-world-problems Christian Science Monitor, Why novels are best at explaining world problems, By Marjorie Kehe / November 10, 2008
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2010-04-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Crisis States Research Centre Public Events 2009-10.
  13. ^ http://www2.lse.ac.uk/socialPolicy/whosWho/academicStaff.aspx#generated-subheading9
  14. ^ https://www.copeh-mena.org/en/docs/new/Community_based_participatory_research.doc[permanent dead link] CoPEH-MENA: American University Of Beirut
  15. ^ Lewis, David and Hossain, Abul (2008) Understanding the Local Power Structure in Rural Bangladesh, Sida Studies No. 22 Art no. SIDA46929en ISBN 978-91-586-8115-6
  16. ^ Non-Governmental Organisations and Development by David Lewis and Nazneen Kanji - Reviewed by Richard Holloway 1 December 2009 Alliance magazine
  17. ^ The management of non-governmental development organizations: an introduction. David Lewis Reviewed by Duncan Scott Community Dev Journal 2002; 37: 198-199

Further reading[edit]

  • Bertocci, Peter J. (May 2014). "Bangladesh: Politics, Economy and Civil Society. By David Lewis". The Journal of Asian Studies (Review). 73 (2): 563–565. doi:10.1017/S0021911814000308.

External links[edit]