Department of Political Science


Cathy Elliott

Senior Teaching Fellow in Qualitative Research Methods and International Development & Departmental Graduate Tutor

Cathy Elliott
  • Name: Cathy Elliott
  • Position: Senior Teaching Fellow in Qualitative Research Methods and International Development & Departmental Graduate Tutor
  • Room: 3.08, 29/30 Tavistock Sq.
  • Telephone: 020 7679 4990


I am interested in ideas about time and history and how they shape ways of thinking about politics, particularly democracy. I am also very interested in the ways that artistic and aesthetic artefacts both reveal and produce the political. I have recently been involved in a small participatory research project with Tate galleries, working with gallery staff develop an account of the political implications of curatorial practices. 

I was awarded my PhD by UCL in 2013. My doctoral research used poststructural methods to investigate the conditions of possibility, logic and effects of British democracy promotion policy, looking particularly at the colonial and postcolonial relationship with Pakistan. My thesis began from the premise that identity is only possible as a function of difference. If someone is British, that is because they are not French or American or Pakistani and so on. I suggest that this account of identity tells us very little, however, unless we flesh out the concrete empirical detail of the identities individual subjects have by virtue of what they are not: what matters is not the fact of these divisions but how they operate and with what consequences. I showed that for contemporary practices of thought, the identification of others by means of temporal distinctions has become extremely important. Through my thesis, I empirically examined the temporal distinctions that constitute a British, democratic, national identity by dint of positing an “other” that is barbaric, alien, despotic, violent and – most importantly – backward. I argued that this form of othering sets up democracy as emblematic of the modern, developed self: in British political, policy and popular discourse, democracy is understood as the outcome of a long progressive sweep of British history in which multiple threats to it have been struggled against and overcome. It is in encountering and constantly re-narrating these threats to democracy that the British come to have a sense of an imagined, democratic community.


I currently teach an undergraduate module in International Development and Public Policy and both an introductory and an advanced module in Qualitative Research Methods. 

I have also worked with curators to design and run workshops at Tate for my students, to encourage them to reflect on how art can help us understand politics in different ways. I have also worked on integrating these workshops into the curriculum so that students can reflect on them in their essay-writing and other course-related work. I am interested in developing teaching methods that draw on the power of aesthetic productions to transform the way we see the world.

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. 


My PhD research was 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.

Recent Presentations

  • “How To Use Art Galleries for Teaching International Politics” presented by invitation at the Political Studies Association postgraduate conference at UCL, 15 December 2015
  • “Isles of Wonder: Sublime and Beautiful Histories in London and the Olympic Opening Ceremony” presented at University of Warwick at What Does Aesthetics Want From Us? (workshop) on 1 September 2014 and accepted for presentation at the International Studies Association conference, New Orleans, 19 February 2015
  • “The Art of Community: Contestations, Negotiations, Acquisitions” (co-authored with Liz Ellis, Tate Modern) presented at the University of Manchester (workshop) on 17 September 2013