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Cathy Elliott

Teaching Fellow and PGTA in Research Methods

Cathy Elliott
  • Name: Cathy Elliott
  • Position: Teaching Fellow and PGTA in Research Methods
  • Room: 3.08, 29/30 Tavistock Sq.

I am a PhD candidate and Teaching Fellow in the School of Public Policy at UCL.

Provisional Thesis Title

The Blackmail of Democracy: Representation, Identity and Government in British Foreign Policy

My thesis investigates the ways in which the British Government goes about promoting democracy in Pakistan. It investigates what makes particular, and detailed, practices possible and shows the way they narrow down conceptions of what democracy is and can be. Whilst it is now commonplace to think of democracy as a universal value that transcends contexts and cultures, I suggest that rather than being uncritically “for” (or “against”) democracy as such, we need to understand democracy promotion as a complex and often contradictory set of techniques and technologies of government. I show that the practices of democracy promotion in Pakistan are constituted by the need to secure and legitimize a particular, electoral and procedural, conception of democracy as a key element of British identity, and that this functions to discipline and govern British/Pakistanis. This turns out to have particularly important consequences when analysed through the lens of gender.

My research is informed by the work of Michel Foucault and provides a genealogy of democracy promotion as it has been practised in the relationship between the UK and Pakistan. I am therefore particularly engaged in showing that democracy promotion relies upon a particular historical narrative, which can be contested by demonstrating that other versions of history are possible and, in my view, politically preferable.

Research Interests

  • Governmentality and the work of Michel Foucault;
  • Feminism and gender;
  • Foreign policy and international relations;
  • Democracy and good governance;
  • Development and post-development;
  • Discourse analysis;
  • The role of technology in the constitution of knowledge.

Academic Background

  • Msc Democracy and Democratisation from University College London (with Distinction);
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Development Management from the Open University;
  • BA (Hons) in French and Czech (with Slovak) from St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford.

Professional Background

I have a professional background as a development practitioner. I spent seven years managing development projects for the British Council, including three years based in Islamabad, Pakistan. During that time I was responsible for the DFID-funded Gender Equality Project, a project to support civil society worth £2.6 million, as well as other projects aimed at supporting Pakistan’s education and health systems. I also worked on the British Council’s strategic approach to democracy-promotion in Pakistan.

I am an experienced archival researcher and have undertaken a professional internship in the UK National Archives.


Cathy’s research is funded by a +3 award from the Economic and Social Research Council.


  • “The Will to Democratise: Democracy Promotion as Governmentality” in Kumar, Rajeesh (ed) Islam, Islamists and Democracy in the Middle East: Challenges, Opportunities and Responses, New Delhi: Global Vision Publications
  • “The Day Democracy Died: The Depoliticising Effects of Democratic Development" Alternatives 34 (3), 2009.

Conference and Working Papers

  • “A Pakistani Spring? The Lawyers’ Movement and the Articulation of Democracy”, presented on 7 November 2011 at Epistemologies of the Political, the Global and the International: a workshop to reflect collectively on the ways we know the ‘factual’ world we research
  • “How to Write a Genealogy of Democratic Development” presented at the International Studies Association – North East conference methods workshop, November 2010
  • “Writing the Democratic Nation: Foreign Policy and representations of Britishness, civilisation and democratic development in the wake of the London bombings” presented at Essex Conference of Critical Political Theory, June 2010.
  • “Power, Knowledge and Technology: Scratching over confused and entangled parchments using NVivo”, working paper on the pros and cons of using computer-aided qualitative data analysis specifically for Foucauldian and post-structural research (available on request).

Related links

Contact us

School of Public Policy,
The Rubin Building,
29/31 Tavistock Square,
London, WC1H 9QU.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4999,
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 4969,

Postgraduate enquiries

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4982/4950

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