Dr Glyn Williams

School of Geography and Planning


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Dr Glyn Williams
School of Geography and Planning
Room D11e
Geography and Planning Building
Winter Street
S3 7ND

I studied Geography as an undergraduate at St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, and continued my studies there, completing my PhD in Geography in 1996.

From 1994-2002, I was a Lecturer at Keele University, before taking up a lectureship at the Department of Geography, Kings College London (2002-2006).

I joined the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer, and was promoted to the position of Reader in 2013.

I am an active member and former Chair of the Royal Geographical Society's Developing Areas Research Group: I am also co-editor of International Development and Planning Review, and editorial board member of Contemporary South Asia.

Dr Glyn Williams talks about his teaching in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Research interests

My research interests lie in the field of international development, and more specifically in the interaction between development programmes, governance practices, and citizenship in the Global South.

My work is driven by a motivation to promote development practice which is more socially just in two key respects.

First, by critically engaging with the core agendas of development interventions, looking at their limitations, their unintended consequences, and the spaces for resistance within them.

Second, by seeking to represent more fully within academic and policy debates the agency and understanding of socially, economically and politically marginalised groups in whose name ‘development’ is often invoked.

These interests are inherently inter-disciplinary, engaging with debates at the interfaces between Development Studies, Geography, Urban Studies and Planning.

My research looks at three interlocking themes at these interfaces: state power and political practices; social marginalisation and political participation; and urban governance and city-level development.

Linking all three is a concern with the impacts that intentional plans to 'develop' the global South have for communities living there. My work critically engages with mainstream discourses of development and investigates the ways these selectively include individuals and groups within political processes.

The questions that continue to inform my research, and on which I am interested in supervising PhD students, include the following:

  • How are formal institutional and democratic processes understood, reworked and practised as ‘actually existing governance’ in post-colonial contexts?
  • What informs ideas of desirable urban change in cities of the Global South, and in whose interests do these ideas work?
  • To what degree do participatory development initiatives empower marginalised people?
  • How do development institutions define and address forms of social marginalisation, including poverty?

To date, I have investigated these questions through in fieldwork in India, where I have conducted research since 1992.

Research projects



Edited books

Journal articles


  • Williams G (2022) The State, The Routledge Handbook of Social Change (pp. 181-190). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams G (2020) Governance, Good, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (pp. 235-243). Elsevier RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams G (2016) Researching with impact in the Global South? Impact-evaluation practices and the reproduction of 'development knowledge', Knowledge Mobilisation and the Social Sciences: Research Impact and Engagement (pp. 57-70). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams GO (2015) Postscript: Viewing South Africa's urban governance from an 'Indian' perspective In Benit-Gbaffou C (Ed.), Popular Politics in South African Cities: Unpacking Community Participation (pp. 282-293). Cape Town: HSRC Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bradnock RW & Williams G (2014) Conclusion: Development in South Asia: Ground-truthing constructions of regional change, South Asia in a Globalising World: A Reconstructed Regional Geography (pp. 270-273). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams G & Bradnock RW (2014) South Asia in a globalising world: A reconstructed regional geography, South Asia in a Globalising World: A Reconstructed Regional Geography (pp. 1-16). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Corbridge S, Williams G, Srivastava M & Veron R (2012) Politics of middlemen and political society In Gudavarthy A (Ed.), Re-Framing Democracy and Agency in India: Interrogating Political Society (pp. 171-200). London: Anthem Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams G (2011) Development: Part I In Agnew J & Duncan J (Ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Human Geography (pp. 559-574). Wiley-Blackwell RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams G (2009) Governance, Good, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography: Volume 1-12 (pp. V4-606-V4-614). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams GO & Mawdsley E (2006) India's evolving political geographies In Raju S, Kumar S & Corbridge S (Ed.), Colonial and Post-colonial Geographies of India (pp. 261-278). London: Sage. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Meth P & Williams G (2006) Literature Reviews and Bibliographic Searches, Doing Development Research (pp. 209-221). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams GO (2004) Towards a repoliticisation of participatory development: political capabilties and spaces of empowerment In Hickey S & Mohan G (Ed.), Participation: From Tyranny to Transformation? Exploring New Approaches to Participation (pp. 92-109). London: Zed Books. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams GO (2004) Rethinking West Bengal's 'political stability': from party organisation to local practices of politics In Zavos J, Wyatt A & Hewitt V (Ed.), The Politics of Cultural Mobilisation in India (pp. 71-102). Delhi: OUP. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams GO & Bradnock R (2002) Development in South Asia: ground-truthing constructions of regional change In Williams GO & Bradnock R (Ed.), South Asia in a Globalising World: A Reconstructed Regional Geography (pp. 270-273). London: Prentice Hall. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Williams GO (1999) Panchayati Raj and the changing micro-politics of West Bengal In Rogaly B, Harriss-White B & Bose S (Ed.), Sonar Bangla? Agricultural Growth and Agrarian Change in West Bengal and Bangladesh (pp. 229-252). Sage RIS download Bibtex download

Book reviews

Dictionary/encyclopaedia entries

  • Williams GO (2009) Good Governance. In International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. London: Elsevier. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

I am Primary Supervisor for the following PhD students:

  • Debjani Dasgupta, State-responsiveness, Decentralisation and Poverty-reduction
  • Manuel Heckel, Urban governance and finance in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Zhen Lu, Social justice and school district housing in China
  • Pu Niu, Deliberative democracy in urban villages in China
  • Vidya Pancholi, Towards substantive public participation in urban governance: a case study of Kalyan-Dombivli, Mumbai, India
Teaching activities

I have a range of teaching experience, and teach across both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

I currently teach on the following modules:

  • TRP630, Urban Challenges in the Global South
  • TRP631, Development in the Global South
  • TRP632, Ideas and Practices in International Development