Justin Williams

Justin WilliamsThe effects of an intervention on state-society relations: the Merhabete Integrated Rural Development Project, Amhara Region, Ethiopia

Supervisors: Dr Jonathan Fisher and Dr Claire McLoughlin

Justin’s research explores the effects of an international development intervention on state-society relations. Through an ethnographic-historical study of the Merhabete Integrated Rural Development Project, implemented by the NGO Menschen für Menschen in Amhara region, Ethiopia between 1988 and 2009, his research investigates material and ideational consequences of this intervention, focusing on three key areas:

  1. Construction of infrastructure and its effects on state reach;
  2. Distribution of resources and their effects on state patronage;
  3. Use of development discourses and their effects on state legitimacy.

Research interests: international interventions, development aid, state-society relations, infrastructure, legitimacy, anthropology and history of development.


Justin has worked since 2003 at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), now integrated into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). He has been a governance adviser since 2014, working on anti-corruption and now on media development. He has spent time living and working in Syria, Tanzania and Ethiopia but now lives in London.

Research interests

  • Development Aid
  • Oral history
  • History of Development
  • Development Politics
  • Development Theory
  • Causation in International Relations
  • Actor-Network-Theory in studies of Development


  • Williams, Justin (2020), ‘The "Ethnographic Turn" in Peacebuilding: Emancipation, Emotion, and Ethics', Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 14(3), pp 459-463.

Conference Papers

  • European Conference on African Studies 2023 (Cologne): ‘Strong state, crumbling buildings: infrastructure and state-society relations in a rural development intervention in Ethiopia’
  • Development Studies Association 2021 (online): ‘“Our Government is Karl”: The Micropolitics of a Rural Development Intervention in Ethiopia, 1988-2009’
  • Africa Studies Association 2020 (Washington DC/ online): ‘Entrenching the State or a Rival Source of Power? Power Relations in a Rural Development Project in Ethiopia, 1988-2009’
  • European Conference on African Studies 2019 (Edinburgh): ‘Studying a rural development project in Ethiopia in the 1990s and early 2000s: the value of historical methods’

Contact details:

Email: jxw1023@student.bham.ac.uk