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Panel discussion on "Challenging ‘progress’: from life-course research to the geopolitics of ‘development"

Join us for a thought-provoking roundtable that brings together scholars researching human "development" with those examining social and political "development." This experiment in cross-topic conversation will feature panelists discussing their research on environmental justice, planetary instability, reproductive rights in India, early life development science in South Africa, and health activism in Brazil.

Unpacking key concepts such as "progress," "growth," and the "normal/abnormal" in the social and biological sciences, panelists will address how the research community can challenge these core concepts by drawing from emerging movements in unlearning, post/anti-development, degrowth, and decoloniality. In conversation with the audience, panelists will share strategies for breaking down disciplinary silos between the humanities, biological sciences, psychology, and social sciences to think creatively about alternative futures. 

This event is part of the 'Age of Health' series organised by the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine. 

Note: This is a hybrid event. A joining link will be emailed upon registration.

The panel discussion will run from 17:15 to 18:30 BST. A drinks reception will follow for in-person attendees. 

About the panelists

Dr Dominique Béhague (Chair) is Reader at the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King’s College London. Béhague’s long-term research in Southern Brazil explores the intersection of psychiatry, politics, and the rise of adolescence as an epistemic object of expertise. She co-designed the longitudinal ethnographic sub-study the 1982 Pelotas Birth cohort, one of a handful of interdisciplinary cohort studies taking place in a country in the so-called Global South. Her research has received funding from entities such as the US National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, the World Health Organization, the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and The Wellcome Trust.

Professor Navtej K Purewal is a Professor in Political Sociology and Development Studies at SOAS. Her research is concerned with the dialectical relationships between the political and social, with an interest in structures and policies which shape the field of ‘development.’ She has an interdisciplinary academic background, with a BA in Political Science from Vassar College, an MA in South Asia Area Studies from SOAS, and a PhD in Development Studies from Lancaster. She has conducted extensive field research in India and Pakistan in several research areas including sex selection and reproductive politics, bordering processes in South Asia, the arts, cultural heritage and creative industries in India (through two AHRC projects GRID Heritage project and Border Crossings) and gender, coloniality and development. Her most recent book is Beyond Religion in India and Pakistan: Gender and Caste, Borders and Boundaries (Bloomsbury, 2019).

Dr Martin Savransky is Reader and Director of the Centre for Critical Global Change at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he convenes the MA Ecology, Culture & Society. He works across social theory, decolonial thought and the environmental humanities, to explore transformations of social and political life on an unstable planet. He is the author of Around the Day in Eighty Worlds: Politics of the Pluriverse (Duke University Press, 2021) and The Adventure of Relevance: An Ethics of Social Inquiry (with a foreword by Isabelle Stengers; Palgrave, 2016), and the co-editor of After Progress (Sage, 2022) and of Speculative Research: The Lure of Possible Futures (Routledge, 2017). He has published essays in forums such as Theory, Culture & Society, Social Text, The Sociological Review, and SubStance: A Review of Literary and Cultural Criticism. He has co-curated the new After Progress digital exhibition (, and is currently working on a new book length project (tentatively) titled Exology: Planetary Social Life and the Force of the Outside.

Dr Michelle Pentecost is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Global Health. She is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and leads on the Trajectories project in collaboration with the Healthy Early Life Trajectories Initiative (HeLTI). She is an Academic Editor for PLOS Global Public Health and holds honorary affiliations to the University of the Witwatersrand, the Geneva Graduate Institute and the University of Cape Town. She is author of The Politics of Potential: Global Health and Gendered Futures in South Africa (Rutgers University Press, 2024).

Dr Francisco Ortega is a Research Professor in the Catalan Institute of Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) at the Medical Anthropology Research Center (MARC) of the University Rovira I Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. He is also Visiting Professor at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine of King’s College, London. 

At this event

Dominique Béhague

Reader in Global Health & Anthropology

Michelle Pentecost

Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Global Health

Event details

Macadam Building MB2.2 (and online)
Macadam Building
Macadam Building, Surrey Street, London, WC2R 2NS