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Dr Catherine Owen

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

I am British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, 2017 - 2020.

The project explores citizen participation in processes of policy making and delivery in Russia and China. In particular, it conducts an interpretive comparison of participatory budgeting initiatives and the implementation of recycling policies in St Petersburg and Shanghai. This approach seeks to remain faithful to the situated nature of local political meanings, while highlighting common trends and processes. The comparison starts from the recognition that both Russian and Chinese states face similar problems of governance as their state bureaucracies have transformed from those ‘command and control’ bureaucracies of the Communist era to forms of regulatory statehood. At the local level, this transformation is producing new relationships between citizens and municipal officials, which are expressed through new institutions and practices of participation. 
In particular, both Russian and Chinese leaders have had to devise new mechanisms that cater for both the state’s growing need to involve citizens and civic groups in the governing process and citizens’ growing desire for meaningful participation, without destabilising the broader non-democratic regime. While the solutions vary significantly, some common trends are discernible. The book explores these trends, and develops the concept ‘participatory authoritarianism’ in order to capture the way in which local practices of citizen participation are integrated into broader structures of authoritarian governance.
In September 2020, I will take up a lectureship in the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter's Penryn campus in Cornwall.

External impact and engagement

I am Research Associate at UK based think tank, the Foreign Policy Centre.

I am a trustee of two charities: the Global Centre in Exeter, UK and the Erayim Aid Trust, a UK based charity which supports the various project of a women's organisation in Bishskek, Kyrgyzstan. 


I completed my PhD in October 2014 at the University of Exeter. The project was entitled 'Obshchestvennyi Kontrol'' (Public Scrutiny) from Discourse to Action in Contemporary Russia: The Emergence of Authoritarian Neoliberal Governance' and examined discourses of civic engagement in governance during the Putin era.  It argued that the limited opportunities for civic engagement in governance in Russia can be seen as examples of 'authoritarian neoliberal governance', which combines policies of outsourcing, decentralisation and privatisation with mechanisms which aim to retain a high level of state control.

Between 2013 and 2015, I worked on the ESRC-funded project at Exeter, 'Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia', in the capacity of Research Administrator/Associate Research Fellow. Between August 2015 and January 2017, I was Lecturer in Central Asian Studies in the Department of History and Civilization, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an, China, where I remain affiliated as a Visiting Professor. In September 2020, following the completion of my British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, I will take up a position as Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Exeter's Penryn campus.

I have held Visiting Fellowships at the European University at St Petersburg (2012), Fudan Development Institute, Shanghai (2017), the St Petersburg branch of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (2018), and the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki (2019).

I speak fluent French, German and Russian, and intermediate Mandarin Chinese.

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