My research focuses on how law, regulation, and governance shape economies, societies, and subjectivities, especially in terms of gender and sexuality.
In 2009 I published a book exploring the impact of the World Bank’s development lending on gender and sexuality, with case studies of Ecuador and Argentina. Rather than exploring areas of lending that were already marked as being about sex, such as HIV/AIDS or reproductive health, I analysed lending that seemed to be about other things, such as export promotion in floriculture, or institutional strengthening in the aftermath of economic crisis. The book showed how multi-lateral development institutions like the Bank played a key role in shaping gender and sexuality in the Global South. It called for much greater debate about this on the part of academics and development practitioners. As a result of this work, I was invited by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development to write a report on care debates in the UN, which looked at sexuality and disability. In 2014, in the aftermath of World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s critique of Uganda for passing anti-gay legislation, I was invited to the Bank to give a presentation on sexuality and development. My research has also been used by Sexuality Policy Watch, a global sexual rights organisation, and by the gender team in the Bretton Woods Project, an organisation that monitors the Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Another strand of my research considers the gendered political economy of gambling regulation. Critical political economists have long used gambling to think through capitalism, but they tend to do so via analogies with casinos. I am interested in other, differently gendered, more vernacular gambling forms. I am especially interested in bingo, a lottery-style game popular in many parts of the world about which there is almost no academic research, and certainly not in law. Bingo has a very different demographic to casinos, being especially popular with older, working class women, and, in North America and Australia, with indigenous populations. In addition, bingo is intriguing because it is associated with mutual aid and charitable fundraising as much as, if not more than, commercial gambling in many places. I wanted to know what impact that mix had on regulatory priorities in different places, and what that in turn could teach us about the political economy of gambling regulation. After some pilot projects in England and Canada, in 2013 I was awarded a large ESRC grant to research the comparative regulation of bingo. The research team have generated a number of academic and non-academic outputs, including a public debate about bingo regulation in the UK, and major policy report exploring Brazil, the UK, the EU, and Canada (https://www.kent.ac.uk/thebingoproject/). I have also submitted evidence from the research to the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, as part of their policy work on responsible gambling and online gambling. My academic monograph on what bingo can teach us about regulating capitalism won the 2020 Hart-SLSA book prize.
My current research is on the increasing role played by law within debates about gender, sexuality, and development. For example, I have analysed what early debates about gender and development said about law, in an effort to re-write our histories of law and development. Working with academics in Ecuador, I have explored the role of criminal law within Ecuadorian attempts to combat domestic violence.