Dr Catherine Dolan’s research spans responsible capitalism, bottom-of-the-pyramid initiatives, cultural economies of development and the intricate relationships between global markets, poverty reduction and women’s empowerment. She works both independently and in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Oxford and elsewhere.
Dolan’s research focuses on the role of non-state actors – specifically global corporations and non-governmental institutions – in the governance of food systems. It addresses two broad themes: the governance of global agri-food commodity chains and corporate social responsibility (namely the introduction of labour codes of practice and Fairtrade). The first theme includes research on African agricultural and food commodity chains to determine if and how production for global agrifood markets benefits the poor in developing countries.
Dolan’s research showed that the competitive strategies of global supermarkets led to particular governance structures that both constrained and opened up possibilities for poverty reduction in Africa, with clear consequences for the long-term viability of firms as well as for the security of farmers and workers. She has recently applied the commodity chain lens to Fairtrade to examine whether commodity chains that are organised through relational governance (i.e. norms of trust, obligation and civic ties), are more likely to reduce power asymmetries within global commodity chains as well as inequalities in North–South trade.
A new project with Professor Stanley Ulijaszek and Dr Javier Lezaun of the University of Oxford’s Department of Anthropology is examining the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in European food governance, in particular how consumers use these new systems – whether internet-based consumer organisations, mobile apps or other emergent technologies – and how their engagement is reshaping contemporary modes of food governance.
Berlan, Amanda and Dolan, Catherine, 2013, Of Red Herrings and Immutabilities: Rethinking Fair Trade’s Ethic of Relationality among Cocoa Producers in M. Goodman and C. Sage (eds) Food Transgressions: Making Sense of Contemporary Food Politics Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.
Blowfield, Mick and Dolan, Catherine, 2010, Fairtrade Facts and Fancies: What Kenyan Fairtrade Tea Tells Us about Business’ Role as Development Agent Journal of Business Ethics 93:143–162.
Dolan, Catherine, 2010, Virtual Moralities: The Mainstreaming of Fairtrade in Kenyan Tea Fields Geoforum 41(1):33–43.
Dolan, Catherine, 2010, Fractured Ties: The Business of Development in Kenyan Fairtrade Tea in S. Lyon and M. Moberg (ed.) Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies NY: NYU Press, pp147–175.
Blowfield, Michael and Dolan, Catherine, 2010, Outsourcing Governance: Fairtrade’s Message for C21 Global Governance Journal of Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society 10(4):484–499.
Dolan, Catherine, 2008, The Mists of Development: Fairtrade in Kenyan Tea Fields Globalizations 5(2):1–14.
Dolan, Catherine, 2008, Arbitrating Risk through Moral Values: The Case of Kenyan Fair Trade in ‘Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility’ Research in Economic Anthropology (28):271–296.
Blowfield, Mick and Dolan, Catherine, 2008, Stewards of Virtue?: The Ethical Dilemma of CSR in African Agriculture Development and Change 39(1):1–23.
Market-based approaches to development
Over the past decade, the private sector has been increasingly active in international development, fostering new business models, partnerships and financial instruments to combat issues ranging from malaria and HIV to trade justice and poverty reduction. There has been an upsurge in business as development models, including Fairtrade, bottom of the pyramid, social enterprise, and a range of certification schemes, each of which aims to attenuate the risks businesses confront while holding them to account for developmental outcomes.
Through empirical studies of these models (Fairtrade, bottom of the pyramid, and ethical trade), Dolan is examining the social implications of business as a development actor, focusing on: how business conceptualises engagement in development and to what effects; what normative assumptions and ethical positions underpin the private sector’s conception of development problems; and how the technologies, practices and discourses of market-based initiatives are reshaping informal economies.
Dolan, Catherine, 2012, The New Face of Development: The Bottom of the Pyramid Entrepreneurs Anthropology Today 28(4):3–7.
Dolan, Catherine and Rajak, Dinah (eds), 2011, Reigning Responsibility: Ethnographies of Corporate Ethicizing Focaal: European Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 60 (summer).
Dolan, Catherine and Rajak, Dinah 2011, Introduction: Ethnographies of Corporate Ethicizing Focaal: European Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 60 (summer):3–8.
Dolan, Catherine, 2010, Virtue at the Checkout Till: Salvation Economics in Kenyan Flower Fields in K. Browne and L. Milgram (eds) Economics and Morality: Anthropological Approaches Lanham, Md: Altamira Press, pp167–185.
Bottom billion capitalism and women’s entrepreneurship
A signature feature of bottom billion capitalism is new institutional configurations that pursue ‘development through enterprise’. One example of this is the mushrooming of trading partnerships between multinational corporations and women’s informal exchange networks that provide new opportunities for women to become micro-entrepreneurs selling a range of goods, from toiletries, light bulbs and batteries to fortified food, shoes and solar lamps.
Dolan is examining the emphasis of contemporary development models on these forms of women’s entrepreneurship and is engaged in two research projects (with Professor Linda Scott) that explore the relationship between global markets, poverty, and women’s empowerment, one on the selling of Avon cosmetics in South Africa and another on the CARE Bangladesh Rural Sales Programme, which provides poor women with an opportunity to earn an income by selling a mix of multinational and locally produced consumer goods in rural Bangladesh.
A three-year multi-method study of Avon showed that selling Avon products improved the incomes of disadvantaged, black South African women and helped to build their skills, confidence and networks – all of which have been identified as barriers for women entrepreneurs worldwide. However, while participation in Avon trading networks can be a source of economic empowerment for women living in poverty, the organisational practices that create ‘empowered’ entrepreneurs also reshape subjectivities along market lines, producing new distinctions between those who are enterprising and those who are not.
Similarly, research on the CARE Bangladesh Rural Sales Programme found that the system opened up new pathways of empowerment for some marginalised women in a context of considerable socioeconomic and cultural constraints; yet whether such schemes will have traction as a model for economic empowerment over the long term remains an open question.
With colleagues in Oxford’s Department of Geography and at the London School of Economics, Dolan is embarking on new research focused on the production of socio-cultural value through economic innovation at the bottom of the pyramid.
Dolan, Catherine, Johnstone-Louis, Mary and Scott, Linda, 2012, Shampoo, Saris and Sim Cards: Seeking Entrepreneurial Futures at the Bottom-of the-Pyramid, Gender and Development 20(1):33–47.
Scott, Linda, Dolan, Catherine, Johnstone-Louis, Mary, Sugden, Kim and Wu, Maryalice, 2012, Enterprise and Inequality: A Study of Avon in South Africa, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 36(3):543–568.
Dolan, Catherine and Johnstone-Louis, Mary, 2012, Re-siting Corporate Responsibility: The Making of South Africa’s Avon Entrepreneurs Focaal: European Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 60 (summer):21–33.
Dolan, Catherine and Scott, Linda, 2009, Lipstick Evangelism: Avon Trading Circles and Gender Empowerment in South Africa Gender and Development, 17(2):203–218.
Menstruation and the cycle of poverty
Dolan’s work in this area is based on the recognition that improving girls’ access to education positively impacts on development goals, leading to higher levels of economic growth and productivity, as well as reduced fertility rates, lower infant mortality figures, and improved health outcomes. Current work in Uganda builds on a pilot study in Ghana that found a relationship between the provision of adequate sanitary care and girls’ educational outcomes. The research is also exploring, through qualitative methods, how the material circumstances of households interweave with gender norms in ways that might expose girls to reproductive health, education, safety, and economic risks.
Montgomery, Paul, Ryus, Caitlin, Dolan, Catherine, Dopson, Sue, and Scott, Linda, 2012, Sanitary Pad Interventions for Girls' Education in Ghana: A Pilot Study PLOS One, October, 7(10).