Sarah C. White

Sarah C. White
University of Bath | UB · Department of Social and Policy Sciences

PhD

About

64
Publications
54,670
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2,981
Citations
Citations since 2017
11 Research Items
1383 Citations
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2017201820192020202120222023050100150200250
2017201820192020202120222023050100150200250
Introduction
I am building and expanding my work on relational approaches to wellbeing, developing both the theory and its application to practical challenges in the global north and global south.

Publications

Publications (64)
Article
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This article explores the movement of children between households in Zambia as a site of ‘moral navigation’. Moral navigation extends Henrik Vigh's concept of social navigation from contexts of conflict and migration to more socially stable contexts in which well-being depends critically on people's ability to manage relationships. The live, dynami...
Article
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The politics of knowledge is a foundational issue in development research. This includes questioning the processes through which knowledge is produced and the terms of the ‘partnerships’ or ‘collaborations’ involved. Such analyses tend to emphasise structural difference and can reproduce all too familiar tropes of dominating global North and defici...
Chapter
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Wellbeing constitutes a key idiom through which therapeutic culture is dispersed in popular and policy discourse. Wellbeing is, however, a notoriously broad and ill-defined concept, which is put to use in many different ways. We begin this chapter, therefore, by distinguishing between three dominant constructs of wellbeing, and identifying ‘persona...
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This entry reviews the troubled relationship between empowerment and community participation. It considers the history of each concept and some main areas of debate. It then reviews some typologies that seek to identify forms of participation that are and are not empowering, and discusses a series of critiques that suggest that either or both conce...
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Conference Paper
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This paper is a lightly edited transcript of my Inaugural Professorial Lecture on April 25, 2018. It draws on primary research in Zambia but also reflects on the promotion of wellbeing in the UK. There are three main points. 1. The need to recover a key promise of the focus on wellbeing, to move from seeing people as objects of policy to recognizin...
Article
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What are the prospects for a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary and methodologically plural approach to wellbeing? This question is addressed using Self-Determination Theory (SDT), a psychological theory based on quantitative empirical methods, to structure qualitative analysis of wellbeing in life history interviews in Chiawa, rural Zambia. Enquiry...
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The ubiquity of references to happiness and wellbeing indicates widespread anxiety that all may not be well, reflecting the erosion of the social in late capitalist modernity. The paper finds that, rather than helping to solve this problem, individualist formulations of wellbeing in policy mimic or deepen the underlying pathology. Drawing on empiri...
Chapter
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The past 20 years have seen an explosion of interest in positive approaches to mental health, happiness, and wellbeing. While these concepts vary considerably from one another, they act as bridges between Global Mental Health and the broader arena of national and international policymaking. This chapter begins by sketching out some of the trajector...
Article
This article explores why dowry inflation persists in Bangladesh, despite the country being widely heralded as a development success, especially with regard to gender. The article asks three questions. Does rural Bangladesh show changing patterns of marriage similar to those reported elsewhere in South Asia and more broadly? What might explain the...
Chapter
‘The weight falls on my shoulders’ is the way a young married woman, Mangali,2 chose to sum up her relationship with her husband on the first occasion Shreya met her, in rural Chhattisgarh (India) in 2011. The statement was striking, because in a few words it challenged a host of norms and assumptions about gender, marriage, etiquette and wellbeing...
Article
This paper responds to the recent advocacy of subjective wellbeing in policy evaluation with an investigation of food security in rural Chhattisgarh, India, in 2010–2013. Conceptually, it suggests the need to move beyond a primary focus on happiness to consider a broader-based investigation into people’s subjective perceptions. In particular, it in...
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In her novel Regeneration (1998), Pat Barker presents the following reflection of the neurologist and anthropologist W. H. R. Rivers (1864–1922) on his fieldwork in the Solomon Islands: I thought I’d go through my usual routine, so I started asking questions. The first question was, what would you do with it if you earned or found a guinea? Would y...
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This paper presents qualitative analysis of an RCT evaluating a programme aiming to delay marriage and empower adolescent girls in Bangladesh. It begins by suggesting a model of three dimensions of empowerment for use in evaluation. It then describes the social context of early marriage in Bangladesh. The model of empowerment is then used to discus...
Chapter
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White and Ramirez present data from Chiawa, Zambia, where men and women villagers were subjects both of a predominantly quantitative survey and of more in-depth, life history interviews. The research as a whole took a comprehensive approach to wellbeing, looking across a range of factors such as health and educational status and provision, liveliho...
Book
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The authors challenge psychological perspectives on happiness and subjective wellbeing. Highlighting the politics of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, case studies across continents explore wellbeing in relation to health, children and youth, migration, economics, religion, family, land mines, national surveys, and indigenous identities.
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This paper describes the conceptual development of a multi-domain, psychosocial model of ‘Inner Wellbeing’ (IWB) and assesses the construct validity of the scale designed to measure it. IWB expresses what people think and feel they are able to be and do. Drawing together scholarship in wellbeing and international development it is grounded in field...
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Well-being advocates state that it provides a more holistic, humanistic focus for public policy. Paradoxically, however, well-being debates tend to be dominated by highly quantitative, de-contextualised statistical methods accessible to only a minority of technical experts. This paper argues the need to reverse this trend. Drawing on original prima...
Chapter
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Book
Human development may encompass social, cultural and spiritual facets as well as economic improvement, and development organizations are beginning to recognize this fact. But building into programming a wider understanding of development throws up a number of questions: how do our organizations define wellbeing and quality of life? What do target c...
Article
Commentaries on contemporary Bangladesh give increasing attention to the role of religion, particularly its more “fundamentalist” forms, in public politics. Here we offer an alternative analysis that explores the significance of religion in people's everyday lives, concentrating on its articulation in community politics. We draw on an important loc...
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Contemporary studies of marriage around the world note increased emphasis on ‘choice’ and ‘conjugality.’ In South Asia, such discussions have largely displaced an earlier focus on ‘dowry’ and its implications for the gendered vulnerability of women. This paper argues that considering together discourses of affinity and practices of dowry adds signi...
Article
This paper reflects on the apparent ‘paradox’ of a contemporary Bangladesh that appears both ‘more modern’ and ‘more Islamic’, focusing on changes in the family (and the gender and generational orders that it embodies) as a central locus of anxiety and contestation. The paper begins with theory, how the paradox is framed by classical social science...
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This paper welcomes the Stiglitz Report's placing of wellbeing at the centre of policy discussions of measuring economic performance and social progress. However, the paper critiques the identification of subjective perspectives on quality of life solely with subjective well-being. The paper locates subjective well-being within psychological wellbe...
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This paper argues that discussion of religion and development sees religion in over-institutionalised ways and is biased towards Christianity over other traditions. It explores this through analysis of the World Bank-sponsored study, Voices of the Poor, and the authors' own research in India. This shows that religious identities and practice can be...
Article
This paper addresses the common question, ‘Does Islam empower women?’ in the context of contemporary Bangladesh. Its aim is not to offer a substantive answer, but to bring out the politics of the question, and to suggest some new criteria by which specific cases might be assessed. The paper begins by exploring the complexity of question, given the...
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This issue of the IDS Bulletin draws together a range of perspectives from people who have been active in recent debates on men and masculinities in gender and development (GAD). Many of the contributors have been participants in the ongoing ESRC Seminar Series Men Masculinities and Gender Relations in Development. Arising principally from presenta...
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Summaries This article offers a critical review of the new masculinities' literature in the light of the continuing dominance of patriarchal relations in society and development institutions. It argues that this necessarily challenges accepted understandings of sex/gender in GAD, representing both risk and opportunity. ‘Masculinity’ is at present a...
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This paper is a piece of advocacy for the use of wellbeing analysis in social and development policy and practice, drawing on the work of the Wellbeing in Developing Countries Research Group (WeD) at the University of Bath, UK. The paper offers a simple definition of wellbeing, and then explores the three basic dimensions that this comprises. It no...
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This paper explores the politics of agency expressed through child participation in international development. Empirically it focuses on Bangladesh, highlighting in particular the experience of one children's organisation. It asks how dynamics have changed over time, and what participation has meant for the children and their families. It raises th...
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This paper suggests that sharply divergent images of children in Bangladesh reflect different `imagined communities' of society and polity, local and global. Universal concepts of `the rights of the child' contrast strongly with a local culture of `guardianship', as the key social institution that governs children's lives. How might bringing these...
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When in 1334 the Duchess of Tyrol, Margareta Maultasch, encircled the castle of Hochosterwitz in the province of Carinthia, she knew only too well that the fortress, situated on an incredibly steep rock rising high above the valley floor, was impregnable to direct attack and would yield only to a long siege. In due course, the situation of the defe...
Chapter
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‘We are all democrats now,’ wrote John Dunn ironically in his 1979 review of Western Political Theory (Dunn 1979). Twenty-five years on, the democratic ethic of people centred governance has acquired the status of a sacred totem that commands obeisance far beyond the arena of formal politics. Rites and symbolic acts of participation have accordingl...
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While gender is highly visible in development theory and practice, race is rarely mentioned. This paper asks why this is, and how far Gender and Development (GAD) itself is implicated in the lack of recognition of race. The paper begins by acknowledging the complexity of the question: that race, gender and development are all contested terms and re...
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This paper considers the use of participatory methods in international development research, and asks what contribution these can make to the definition and measurement of well-being. It draws on general lessons arising from the project level, two larger-scale policy research processes sponsored by the World Bank, and the experience of quality of l...
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This paper considers the distinctiveness of children as development subjects and the challenges this poses to default development 'target group' approaches. It focuses on two key issues: the embeddedness of children within key relationships, and the transformative nature of age-based difference. Rather than viewing adults and children as two fixed...
Article
Drawing on primary research in development organizations and with working children themselves, this paper questions the logic of child rights, and its validity for the cultural context of Bangladesh. A strong stress on child rights at the programme level may not be sustainable and can have contradictory outcomes for poor children. Working children...
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This paper challenges the dominant 'colour-blind' stance of development, arguing that the silence on race is a determining silence, which both masks and marks its centrality to the development project. The aim of the paper is to set out a basic framework for exploring this further. Noting many continuities with colonial formations, it identifies th...
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The established rhetoric of opposition between state and NGOs as development agents has shifted to one of complementarity and common interest. Along with this, the ‘comparative advantage’ claimed for NGOs has expanded from economic and welfare benefits to encompass also the political goods of civil society and popular participation. This paper revi...
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Widening the gender perspective to include men and masculinities should broaden and deepen our understanding of power and inequality, not only between men and women but in other social relationships, and thus increase the effectiveness of development interventions.
Article
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Participation must be seen as political. There are always tensions underlying issues such as who is involved, how, and on whose terms. While participation has the potential to challenge patterns of dominance, it may also be the means through which existing power relations are entrenched and reproduced. The arenas in which people perceive their inte...

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Projects (2)
Project
What would it mean to make relational wellbeing the goal of public policy and international development?