Research Interests

I study the intersection of public policy and the environment in the context of international development. Broadly speaking, I am interested in understanding the role of knowledge in politics, especially in a transnational context where global policy ideas influence national and local policy practices and vice versa. I am fascinated by the interplay of public policy, culture, language, and human psychology/cognition and have a strong interpretive predisposition in my research and teaching. Normatively, my research is informed by the values of equity, social justice, pluralism and the importance of the context in politics. Over the years, I developed several lines in my research as follows.

Policy Translation, Mobility and Narratives

I am interested in applying an interpretive lens to understanding policy design and implementation. By the interpretive lens, I mean the exploration of meanings of public policies to various groups of populations (so-called interpretive communities), co-existence of various framings of policy problems and solutions, and the role of politics in what we come to know and hold as the “true knowledge” in regard to policy. Methods to study policy interpretively include, among others, discourse analysis, in-depth interviews, narrative studies and ethnographic methods.

Within this broad theme, I remain interested in studying how, and to what effect, environmental and water policy innovations/models travel across various borders (often from Global North to Global South, but also from South to South and from South to North). This research line concerns itself with the three categories of policy translation during such cross-jurisdictional travel: the politics of meaning, the politics of scale and the politics of contingency (see page on Policy Translation on this blog for more details, or read Mukhtarov, 2014).

Knowledge Pluralism and Policy (Institutional) Design

I am interested in how policy-makers and public managers can make use of multiple ways of knowing in public policy and governance. Scientific knowledge is only one type of knowledge, there is indigenous knowledge, knowledge based on rituals, practices and values. They all are valuable and need to be included in the policy-making process.

The role of discourses and framing of knowledge make an important part of this research avenue, including the struggles over meanings and their plasticity. However, the key challenge in policy-making, in my understanding, is the ability of the system to allow for stitching together knowledge claims that come from different sources.

Behavioural Approaches to Public Policy

I am interested in the role of emotions and nudging in changing environmental (as well as policy) attitudes and promoting sustainable public policies in the world. I approach emotions and behavioural science from a public policy perspective and ask questions about the transition to sustainability and the place of so-called “libertarian paternalism” in it. Taken broader, this theme includes my interest in understanding the role of emotions, cognition and behavioural aspects in public policy, be it in an environmental domain or any other policy domain.

Commodification and Mobility of Water Governance Expertise through Hydr0-hubs

This is the most recent research interest of mine that sprung out of the empirical observation of various ethical and political dilemmas around the use of global water governance and international water cooperation by the Global North to pursue the twin goals of a) development in recipient countries (often Global South) and b) profits for themselves. The rise of neo-liberalism in international aid, aid and trade and, arguably, global water governance, raises serious issues around effectiveness, equity, fairness and power that need to be researched. Within this line of inquiry, I am interested in understanding the role of branding, networking and soft-power in the global field of water governance. You will find posts on this theme under “home” page.

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