Record-breaking turnout at DSA conference
13 July 2023
A record number of delegates attended the Development Studies Association (DSA) Conference 2023 that recently took place at the University of Reading to tackle problems caused by human-induced environmental changes.
DSA2023 was the Association’s first in-person conference since 2019 with 466 people from 70 countries attending in-person and a further 265 online. The focus of this year’s conference was the critical theme of the “Crisis in the Anthropocene: Re-thinking Connections and Agency for Development.”
This gathering of global experts, policymakers, researchers, and activists in the field of development studies shed light on the pressing challenges posed by human-induced environmental changes and their implications for development interventions and practice were explored. Additionally, funding from the University of Reading and the DSA enabled more than 20 delegates to attend from the global South.
Dr Alex Arnall, Research Division Lead for Global Development at the University of Reading and conference convenor, said:
“We wanted to choose a contemporary conference theme, one that reflected the strengths of the environmental research and commitment to sustainable development here at the University of Reading.
"As we know, the Anthropocene emphasises the impacts of humans on the natural world, but we're also interested in how human relationships with nature are becoming increasingly complex, difficult to manage, and seemingly beyond the capacity of human-development systems to respond to. These are some of the key ideas that we wanted to explore throughout the conference.”
Throughout the conference, Reading researchers and PhD students presented their leading research on climate change adaptation, agricultural development, participatory action methodologies and wildfires across a diverse range of panel sessions, workshops, and roundtables. Early career researchers made up a good portion of delegates and specific sessions developed writing skills and publishing knowledge for books and journals as well as masterclasses for PhD candidates.
Professor Dominik Zaum, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation at the University of Reading said:
“Reading has a long tradition of development studies research, especially in Agriculture, and many of our distinctive research facilities and institutes – from collections in the MERL to the Cocoa Quarantine Centre and the Walker Institute – support development research. For the first time, we submitted to Development Studies in the REF in 2021, the results of which underlined the international excellence of our research in that area.
I am therefore delighted that we could to welcome the DSA conference to the University of Reading this year under the thought-provoking theme of ‘Crisis in the Anthropocene,’ and to experience the breadth of the conversation and engagement that meeting in person again enabled.”
The conference opened with an insightful plenary presentation delivered by Jay Mistry, Professor of Environmental Geography at Royal Holloway University of London. Professor Mistry discussed her experiences of working with indigenous peoples in South America within the areas of conservation and environmental governance and how these reflected on questions about ethics, equity and justice.
The conference closed with the DSA’s Annual General Meeting, where Uma Kambhampati, Professor of Economics at the University of Reading was elected as President of the DSA Council, succeeding Professor Sam Hickey, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester. Professor Kambhampati previously served as Secretary of the Council and will serve in her new role for three years.
Professor Kambhampati said:
“It is an honour to have been elected as President of Council for the DSA. The main thing that I want to carry forward is increasing the diversity of the DSA both in terms of disciplines, but also in terms of race, ethnicity and gender. I would also like to engage with students and with Early Career Researchers in a more proactive and dynamic manner.”