Skip to content

Prof. Keen on ‘Why Am I in Development?’

March 7, 2010

Prof. David Keen has very kindly and bravely agreed to be the first academic at DESTIN to answer ‘Why am I in Development?’ question we’ve been putting to those at DESTIN.  His view is below:


First of all, I am not too sure I am “in development” (but don’t tell anyone). I was working as a journalist and I was a world expert on the current price of Liquid Petroleum Gas. I wanted to do something more meaningful and the 1984 Sudanese and Ethiopian famines made me want to understand more about those disasters. I went back to college (a social science university near Holborn, you probably haven’t heard of it) and for my Masters dissertation I chose something that would build on my interest in ‘prices’, namely the relationship between grain prices and drought in Darfur. My big break was probably working as a consultant on Sudan for the European Community whilst I was doing my doctorate. After that, I was determined to document and analyse this kind of war-related crisis as well as I could. I was also interested in the idea that people often do bad things for good (or at least comprehensible) reasons. I wouldn’t say I was all that interested in development or even (comparing happiness in Sudan and Oxford) all that convinced that development was a good idea. Later, a job came up at LSE. There was a big argument in DESTIN over whether to appoint me or Tim Allen, so (to spare more blood on the stairs) they appointed both, and the rest, as they say, is history… but also politics, geography, psychology, anthropology and (I nearly forgot) development studies.


David Keen is Professor of Complex Emergencies. His (very good) book can be purchased here.

For an interesting debate surrounding the purpose and value of Prof. Keen’s book take a look at the SSRC Blog Making Sense of Sudan. A number of notable academics give their views on the book, including Alex De Waal, Michael Barnett & Zoe Marriage. De Waal builds on Keen’s use of James Gilligan’s work regarding shame as motivation for violence, and Zoe Marriage attempts to discover the ‘function’ of the book. Required reading!

Not feeling the academic debate? Perhaps some light acoustic music can put you in the mood. David’s 1st album ‘Shrouds of Blue’ can be found on MySpace. ‘After the Storm’  is Do No Harm’s favourite tune – perfect background music for a little DDR.

We hear reliably copies are available at a reasonable price from Sue & Dru in the DESTIN office. Get there quick though, because they’re selling like hot cakes!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    March 8, 2010 2:55 pm

    It’s true – I DO have CDs of David singing to sell! A very reasonable £3.50 – help keep an academic off the streets 🙂 Sue

  2. Yuebai permalink
    November 3, 2010 12:06 am

    David you are the geezer!!


  1. Dr. Ghuman on Why am I in Development? « Do No Harm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: