Karen’s teaching in the department focuses on development assistance and aid, with a particular emphasis on the power relations that aid provisions entail, as well as on questions related to aid and citizenship.
Before coming to Birmingham, Karen worked as a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS, where she convened and contributed to several modules on migration, with a focus on forced migration.
Her research explores humanitarian aid provisions in the context of Colombia, where the state has taken on the primary responsibility for assisting the millions of people displaced due to the country’s civil war. She is interested in the complex relationship between humanitarian assistance, power, and resistance, and adopts a Foucauldian approach to studying aid.
In 2021, Karen completed her thesis in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS. Entitled Humanitarian Activist Citizens: Desplazado Protests and State Humanitarianism in Bogotá, Colombia,
the thesis examined how relations between the Colombian state and people displaced by conflict have been shaped by the state-led provision of humanitarian assistance to them. It argued that such humanitarian assistance has opened new opportunities for activism and resistance amongst the displaced, allowing them to emerge as what she calls ‘humanitarian activist citizens". By accentuating the political ambivalent outcomes of humanitarianism, the thesis contributes to the critical literature on humanitarianism, which has emphasised its depoliticising effects but paid less attention to the forms of resistance humanitarianism can make possible.