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Dr Sally Brooks

MA (ISS, Erasmus Rotterdam), MSc (Sussex), DPhil (Institute of Development Studies, Sussex)

  • Honorary Fellow

Visit Dr Sally Brooks' profile on the York Research Database to see a full list of publications and browse her research related activities.


Areas of expertise

  • Development studies
  • Agrarian change
  • Science and technology policy
  • Philanthropy
  • Rural politics

Academic biography

I joined the academic staff at York in 2012 from the University of Sussex where I was a researcher with the STEPS centre. Prior to that I had worked as an international development practitioner and consultant for many years. I was Programme Director of the department’s online MPA International Development between 2014 and 2017 and Senior Research Fellow on the Social Transformative Research Informing Processes of Environmental Science (STRIPES) project between 2018 and 2020. I am a member of the York Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre (IGDC) and the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI)-Europe scholar-activist network.

My research centres on critical examination of global development imaginaries, interventions and institutions; with a particular focus on the role of large philanthropic foundations. Much of this work has focused on efforts to bring about agrarian modernisation in countries in the Global South as part of what Raj Patel has called the ‘long’ Green Revolution. More recently my research interests have extended to rural politics in Europe, and to the study of conditions for and manifestations of support for right-wing populism in rural Europe.


My research can be summarised by the following three thematic areas:

Private sector, 'philanthrocapitalism' and development

The role of private philanthropy - particularly the new philanthropy or 'philanthrocapitalism' - and the private sector in development has been a core theme in my research to date. In my current research I am exploring trends towards a greater role for private finance, and financial markets and products, in development in the post-2015 era.

International agricultural research - institutions, knowledge, politics

This research employs a multi-sited ethnographic methodology to follow actors, ideas and projects through globalised interdisciplinary 'research for development' networks, particularly in the biosciences, with a focus on how 'partnership' is understood and enacted; how scientific and policy uncertainties are dealt with; and how 'impact' is conceptualised and communicated to stakeholders and publics.

Agricultural innovation, food security and environmental change

This research explores challenges facing smallholder farmers in the context of climate and market uncertainties; and the politics and policy processes surrounding different types of response at multiple scales: from international programmes of crop research (including transgenic or 'GM' crops) to local innovations by farmers themselves.

Recent publications

Selected publications

Kumar, A. and Brooks, S. (accepted 2020) Bridges, platforms and satellites: theorizing the power of global philanthropy in international developmentEconomy and Society, ISSN 0308-5147 (In Press).

Brooks, S. (2020) Brexit and the politics of the ruralSociologia Ruralis, doi:10.1111/soru.12281.

Brooks, S. (2018) Behavioural Nudges: Mildly Paternalistic or a Threat to Economic Justice for the Poor? Next Billion (18 May 2018).

Gabor, D. and Brooks, S. (2017) The digital revolution in financial inclusion: international development in the fintech eraNew Political Economy, 22(4) 423-436.

Brooks, S. (2016) Inducing food insecurity: financialisation and development in the post-2015 eraThird World Quarterly, 37(5) 768-780.

Brooks, S. (2016) Private finance and the post-2015 development agendaDevelopment Finance Agenda, 1(3) 24-27 (January 2016).

Brooks, S. and Roberts, E. (2016) ‘Simultaneous Immersion’: How online postgraduate study contributes to the development of reflective practice among public service practitionersInteractive Learning Environments, 24(7) 1692-1705.

Brooks, S. (2015) GM crops and the developing world: opposing sides miss the bigger pictureThe Conversation (12 November 2015).

Brooks, S. (2014) Enabling Adaptation? Lessons from the new ‘Green Revolution’ in Malawi and KenyaClimatic Change, 122(1-2) 15-26.

Brooks, S. (2013) Biofortification: lessons from the Golden Rice projectFood Chain, 3(1-2) 77-88.

Brooks, S. (2015) Philanthrocapitalism,  ‘pro-poor’ agricultural biotechnology and development,  in B. Morvaridi (Ed.) New Philanthropy and Social Justice: Debating the conceptual and policy discourse Policy Press: Bristol.

Brooks, S., D. Burges Watson, A. Draper, M. Goodman, H. Kvalvaag and W. Wills (2013) Chewing on Choice, in Abbots, E-J & Lavis, A (Eds.) Why We Eat, How We Eat: Contemporary Encounters Between Foods and BodiesFarnham: Ashgate.

Krätli, S., Huelsebusch, C., Brooks, S. and Kaufmann, B. (2013) Pastoralism: a critical asset for food security under global climate changeAnimal Frontiers, 3(1) 42-50.

Brooks, S. (2013) Investing in Food Security? Philanthrocapitalism, Biotechnology and Development (November 1, 2013). SPRU Working Paper Series (SWPS) 2013-12.

Brooks, S. and Johnson-Beebout, S.E. (2012) Contestation as continuity? Biofortification research and the CGIAR. In In Sumberg, J. and Thompson, J. (Eds.) Contested Agronomy: Agricultural Research in a Changing World. Abingdon: Routledge (pp. 86-101). Free to download from Scoones, I. (2017, Ed.) FreeBook: Pathways to Sustainable Agriculture, Abingdon: Routledge (pp. 83-101).

Brooks, S. and Loevinsohn, M.E. (2011) Shaping Agricultural Innovation Systems Responsive to Food Insecurity and Climate ChangeNatural Resources Forum, 5(3) 185-200.

Brooks, S. (2011) ‘Is International Agricultural Research a Global Public Good? The Case of Rice Biofortification’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 38(1) 67-80.

Brooks, S. (2011) ‘Living with Materiality or Confronting Asian Diversity? The Case of Iron-Biofortified Rice Research in the Philippines’East Asian Science, Technology and Society (EASTS), 5(2) 173–188.

Brooks, S. (2010) Rice Biofortification: Lessons for Global Science and Development. London: Earthscan.

Brooks, S., Thompson J., Odame H., Kibaara B., Nderitu S., Karin F. and Millstone, E. (2009) Environmental Change and Maize Innovation in Kenya: Exploring Pathways in and out of Maize, STEPS Working Paper 36, Brighton: STEPS Centre.

Brooks, S., Leach M., Lucas, H. and Millstone, E. (2009) Silver Bullets, Grand Challenges and the New PhilanthropySTEPS Working Paper 24, Brighton: STEPS Centre.

Brooks, S. (2008) Global Science, Public Goods? Tracing International Science Policy Processes in Rice Biofortification, PhD Thesis, Brighton: University of Sussex.

Brooks, S. (2005) ‘Biotechnology and the Politics of Truth: From the Green Revolution to an Evergreen Revolution’Sociologia Ruralis, 45(4) 360-379.

Brooks, S. (1996) Small Business Development in Papua New Guinea: Lessons, Department of Environment and Conservation/United Nations Development Programme, OPS-PNG/93/G31.

Dr Sally Brooks

Contact details

Dr Sally Brooks
Honorary Fellow