UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Dr Kate Maclean

Associate Professor

Director of Education

Research Summary

My research explores new ways of imagining the economy and the politics behind inclusive ideas of value and prosperity successfully framing policy. My starting point is the livelihood strategies of those who are dealing with the contradictory pressures of prevailing economic models on a daily basis, with a particular focus on how women marginalised by gender, race and rurality earn a living in ‘informal’ popular markets. My latest monograph Cash, Clothes, and Construction Rethinking Value in Bolivia’s Pluri-economy, (University of Minnesota Press, 2023) brings experiences of women earning a living in Bolivia’s vast informal markets into dialogue with decolonial and feminist critiques of political economy. It offers a gendered analysis of ‘pluri-economy’ - the concept at the centre of Andean visions of a post-neoliberal, decolonised modernity. The women selling second-hand high street clothes from the USA in the vast peri-urban markets of Bolivian cities; the Aymaran fashion designer of new pollera [traditional Andean dress] fashions who showed her collection in New York fashion week; and the powerful, rich Chola Paceña whose real estate investments, often in cash, are transforming the cultural maps of La Paz and El Alto, all defy the tropes which underpin both orthodox and heterodox conceptualisation of economic value.

My first monograph, Social Urbanism and the Politics of Violence, (Palgrave Macmillan 2015), explored the politics behind the ‘Medellín Miracle’, the dramatic reduction in violence experienced in Medellín, Colombia, which has been attributed to inclusive urban planning policies known collectively as Social Urbanism. However, rather than the ‘impact’ of the policies themselves, many involved in the city’s governance emphasise that the apparently miraculous transformation was due to co-ordinated efforts between progressive politicians, academics and activists over decades which had changed the city’s political processes in which violence had become ingrained. I have also published extensively on credit and financial subjectivity, with a particular focus on gender, risk and value. My co-edited collection Seduced and Betrayed: Exposing the Contemporary Microfinance phenomenon (University of New Mexico Press, 2017), includes critical analyses from a range of disciplines of the exclusionary effects of mainstream microfinance lending, and considers alternative approaches to inclusive finance at community and state level. I have also worked on masculinity, risk and the 2008 financial crisis, and am currently exploring how debates around cryptocurrencies recreate gendered notions of value.

I have an interdisciplinary background with degrees in philosophy, politics, and women’s studies, and have held academic positions in the geography departments of King’s College London, Northumbria University and Birkbeck, where I was Director of Birkbeck Gender Sexuality (BiGS). My regional focus is Latin America, but I have also lived and worked in Paris, Barcelona, and Bangkok, and conducted consultancies in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. I joined the IGP in August 2022, and am currently Chair of the Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society.

As of July 2023, I am Editor of Gender, Place and Culture: A journal of feminist geography

I am accepting PhD applicants on topics including economic diversity, gender and leadership, urban governance and inclusive approaches to finance.

Photo by davidxgreen.com