Sydney  Calkin Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Sydney Calkin

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
Geography Department, Durham University

Dr Sydney Calkin is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and Assistant Professor in Geography at Durham University. Her research is motivated by an intellectual and political commitment to gender equality, addressing questions at the intersection of feminism, political geography and political economy. Her research focuses on two specific areas: 1) feminist political economies of development and 2) transnational abortion politics.


I am a researcher and educator driven by feminist curiosity about politics and power relations. I began my academic career with an undergraduate degree in Arabic and International Relations, before moving into Politics for my PhD and finally into Geography for my post-doctoral Fellowship.

My work addresses questions at the intersection of feminism, political geography and political economy. The feminist political economy of development is the subject of my new book, Human Capital in Gender and Development. This book examines current trends in gender and development governance, motivated by a desire to understand the feminist debates around the relationship between neoliberalism, gender equality, and development. This work starts from a puzzle: Rhetoric about women’s empowerment is widespread among political and economic elites, and girls and women are hyper visible in mainstream development institutions who have long been criticized for policies that compound inequalities. This has provoked intense debate among feminist across disciplines: is this a case of successfully mainstreaming gender into development? Or has feminist radicalism been coopted, as so many other radical movements have found themselves coopted by neoliberalism? My work takes up these issues by looking at the 'Smart Economics' agenda developed by the World Bank and its partner organizations.

My current work takes this curiosity about political change and feminist progress to move beyond the study of mainstream global governance institutions, to look at the potential for transnational activist networks to spark broader reforms through direct action. Funded by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, I am currently researching the geographies of cross-border abortion  access, pro-choice activism and state reproductive control. I’m interested in the technological, medical, and political trends that are expanding abortion access beyond traditional state boundaries, as well as the ways states respond to these newer supra-state patterns of access. The early stages of this work have been focused on the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, where abortion law is at the centre of current political debates.


    PhD, Politics, University of York 2014
    MA Arabic and Intl Relations, University of St Andrews, 2011

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Gender Studies; Human Geography; Development Studies



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Human Capital in Gender and Development - Calkin - 1st Edition book cover


Handbook on the International Political Economy of Gender

The World Bank and the Challenge of Gender Mainstreaming for Feminist IPE

Published: Jul 03, 2018 by Handbook on the International Political Economy of Gender
Authors: Sydney Calkin

This chapter explores the evolution of gender work within the World Bank, from the early days of Women in Development to the current Smart Economics agenda. It situates the World Bank – and gender policy within the Bank – in the broader context of feminist debates about how best to shape development policy.

New Formations

’Disrupting’ Disempowerment: Neoliberal Feminism and the Private Governance of Gender and Development.

Published: Apr 01, 2017 by New Formations
Authors: Sydney Calkin

This article addresses feminist debates about neoliberal co-optation by asking: Why does neoliberalism evince concern for gender inequality as a form of inequality if it is broadly concerned with individual subjects? Empirically, the article applies this conceptual debate to Bottom of the Pyramid development initiatives, focused on the Girl Effect Accelerator.


Globalizing ‘Girl Power’: Corporate Social Responsibility and Transnational Business Initiatives for Gender Equality.

Published: Jul 12, 2016 by Globalizations
Authors: Sydney Calkin

In this paper I focus on the confluence of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda with the visibility of gender issues in development and the resultant corporate agenda for the promotion of women and girls’ empowerment. The paper draws on two gender-focused World Bank collaborations with private sector actors: the Global Private Sector Leaders Forum and the Girl Effect campaign.

Progress in Development Studies

Feminism, Interrupted? Gender and Development in the Age of Smart Economics.

Published: Jul 10, 2015 by Progress in Development Studies
Authors: Sydney Calkin

This article assesses and maps feminist accounts of co-optation and appropriation in gender and development policy in the context of the ‘Gender Equality as Smart Economics’ policy agenda. It argues against co-optation accounts of feminism as 'seduced' by neoliberalism.

International Feminist Journal of Politics

’Tapping’ Women for Post-Crisis Development: Evidence from the 2012 World Development Report.

Published: Jul 09, 2015 by International Feminist Journal of Politics
Authors: Sydney Calkin

In this article, I provide a feminist reading of Foucault’s critique of human capital to examine the discursive terrain of the “Smart Economics” agenda and to understand the knowledge it produces about female bodies, subjectivities and agency. Empirically, the article examines the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report on gender equality.

Third World Quarterly

Post-feminist spectatorship and the Girl Effect: ‘Go on, really imagine her’

Published: Jul 05, 2015 by Third World Quarterly
Authors: Sydney Calkin

This paper examines the representations of empowerment in visual (image and video) material from the Nike Foundation’s ‘Girl Effect’ campaign. I argue that this campaign is reflective of a mode of ‘post-feminist spectatorship’ that is now common to corporatised development discourses.