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About Cynthia Howson

My research in the political economy of development focuses on rural labor issues. My two concurrent projects include ongoing fieldwork in the Chinese wine industry as well as an ongoing project based on my dissertation research on women smugglers in Senegal, West Africa. Both projects emphasize contradictory norms and legal ambiguity in the competition for rural resources and labor.
My courses focus on economic development, with particular emphasis on gender, political economy, globalization, and the law. In each course, my objective is to introduce students to new ideas, skills and ways of thinking that will be meaningful regardless of the career path they choose.
As a development political economist, my research focuses on the role of regulation in people's competition for resources in poor and emerging economies. My background is in mixed-method, mostly qualitative research, where field work is the central source of data. Most of my work is focused on African development, but I have recently expanded my work with a project in China, for several reasons. First, China is one of the most important regions in the study of economic development, so the ability to connect theoretical questions across regions is extremely valuable. Second, I am fascinated by sectors that are misunderstood or understudied. My work in Senegal is among very few studies on gender and corruption, anywhere. Similarly, in China, there is almost no scholarship at all on the exploding wine industry, despite it's relevance to so many important questions.
These two completely different projects teach us about topics that matter everywhere in the world.
What determines access to rural land and labor and how do agricultural and non-farm economies intersect in the same villages?
How do people negotiate ambiguous and contradictory rules and laws in order to find work or keep their businesses afloat?
What kinds of informal rules and relationships create give opportunities to some and exclude others?


Present Lecturer, University of Washington Tacoma School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

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Contact Information

Phone: 253-692-4897
Room: GWP 228


Books (1)

Editorials (8)

Articles (2)

Conference Proceedings (1)