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. My major expertise and interests lie in governance the political economy and ecology of water resources.

Policy Translation in (Water) Governance

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). Important elements in this research are:

  • Discourses and Narratives of policy design and implementation
  • Practices of policy-making — what policy-makers and policy-takers actually “do” when they work or make use of policy
  • Novel ways of studying and narrating lived experience of policy-makers and subjects of policy processes.

Knowledge Pluralism in Policy Practices

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. A special place in this research avenue is attention to policy practices — now only what policy-makers believe and claim but also what they do when they are at work. Policy as practices requires an empirical bottom-up look at how knowledge is created in the process of work and how multiple elements of knowledge get weaved together into the tapestry of public life and administration. In this research, they key elements are:

  • Attention to practices
  • Knowledge pluralism in policy: barriers and opportunities for inclusivity
  • Competencies and orientations for critical, independent and just/inclusive use of knowledge for policy

Commodification and Mobility of Water Governance Expertise through Hydro-hubs

This is a 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 the “home” page. Some key aspects of this research:

  • Impact of Neo-liberalism in International Aid and Trade:
  • Water Governance in the South Caucasus
  • Exploring Soft Power, Branding, and Networking in Water Governance:

Global Water Governance and International Cooperation

As part of a new number of projects, funded by the European Commission and NWO, my colleagues and I are developing a research programme on studying transboundary and integrated water resources governance in the South Caucasus. This is an on-going effort that involves researchers from Koc University in Istanbul, Turkey, Oulu University in Oulu, Finland and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands as well as various associates and researchers in and from the region. Some key aspects of this research. More on this research will follow shortly.

  • Water diplomacy in the region of South Caucasus
  • Community projects, especially in the border regions
  • Lived experiences and adaptation strategies to water scarcity and floods

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