I studied Geography as an undergraduate at St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, and continued my studies there, completing my PhD in Geography from 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.
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.
Current and recent research projects
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
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
- Williams GO, Omankuttan U, Devika J & Aasen B (2018) Enacting participatory, gender-sensitive slum redevelopment? Urban governance, power and participation in Trivandrum, Kerala. Geoforum. View this article in WRRO
- Williams GO, Omanakuttan U, Devika J & Jagajeevan N (2018) Planning a 'slum free' Trivandrum: housing upgrade and the rescaling of urban governance in India. Environment and planning. C, Government & policy. View this article in WRRO
- Williams G & Nandigama S (2018) Managing political space: authority, marginalised people's agency and governance in West Bengal. International Development Planning Review, 40 (1), 1-26.
- Williams G, Devika J & Aandahl G (2015) Making space for women in urban governance? Leadership and claims-making in a Kerala slum. Environment and Planning A, 47(5), 1113-1131. View this article in White Rose Research Online
- Williams GO (2013) Researching with impact in the Global South? Impact-evaluation practices and the reproduction of ‘development knowledge’. Contemporary Social Science.
- Williams GO & Thampi BV (2013) Decentralisation and the changing geographies of political marginalisation in Kerala. Environment and Planning A: international journal of urban and regional research, 45(6), 1337-1357. View this article in White Rose Research Online
- Williams G (2012) The disciplining effects of impact evaluation practices: Negotiating the pressures of impact within an ESRC-DFID project. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(4), 489-495.
- Williams GO, Thampi BV, Nandigama S & Bhattacharyya D (2012) The Politics of Defining and Alleviating Poverty: state strategies and their impacts in rural Kerala. Geoforum.
- Williams G, Thampi BV, Narayana D, Nandigama S & Bhattacharyya D (2011) Performing Participatory Citizenship - Politics and Power in Kerala's Kudumbashree Programme. Journal of Development Studies, 47(8), 1261-1280.
- Corbridge S, Srivastava M, Williams G & Véron R (2007) Seeing the state again. Geoforum, 38(4), 611-613.
- Williams G & Mawdsley E (2006) Postcolonial environmental justice: Government and governance in India. Geoforum, 37(5), 660-670.
- Véron R, Williams G, Corbridge S & Srivastava M (2006) Decentralized Corruption or Corrupt Decentralization? Community Monitoring of Poverty-Alleviation Schemes in Eastern India. World Development, 34(11), 1922-1941.
- Williams G (2004) Evaluating participatory development: tyranny, power and (re)politicisation. Third World Quarterly, 25(3), 557-578.
- Williams G, Véron R, Corbridge S & Srivastava M (2003) Participation and power: Poor people's engagement with India's employment assurance scheme. Development and Change, 34(1), 163-192.
- Corbridge S, Williams G, Srivastava M & Véron R (2003) Brainstorming, Modified Logframes and the Conversion of Research Hypotheses into Field Questions: Reflections from Team-based Fieldwork in Eastern India. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 24(2), 242-257.
- Véron R, Corbridge S, Williams G & Srivastava M (2003) The Everyday State and Political Society in Eastern India: Structuring Access to the Employment Assurance Scheme. Journal of Development Studies, 39(5), 1-28.
- Williams G, Srivastava M, Corbridge S & Véron R (2003) Enhancing pro-poor governance in Eastern India: participation, politics and action research. Progress in Development Studies, 3(2), 159-178.
- Williams G & McIlwaine C (2003) Entanglements of participation: the theory and practice of attacking poverty. Progress in Development Studies, 3(2), 93-97.
- Williams GO, Corbrdige S, Srivastava M & Veron R (2003) Making Social Science Matter 2: How the rural poor see the State in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Economic and Political Weekly, 38(25), 2561-2569.
- Corbridge S, Williams GO, Veron R & Srivastava M (2003) Making Social Science Matter 1: How the local state works in rural Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Economic and Political Weekly, 38(24), 2377-2389.
- Srivastava M, Corbridge S, Veron R & Williams G (2002) Making sense of the local state: Rent-seeking, vernacular society and the employment assurance scheme in eastern India. Contemporary South Asia, 11(3), 267-289.
- Williams G (2001) Understanding 'political stability': Party action and political discourse in West Bengal. Third World Quarterly, 22(4), 603-622.
- Williams G (1999) Assessing Poverty and Poverty Alleviation: Evidence from West Bengal. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 24(2), 193-212.
- Williams G (1997) State, Discourse, and Development in India: The Case of West Bengal's Panchayati Raj. Environment and Planning A, 29(12), 2099-2112.