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Dr Catherine Owen

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

I am British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, 2017 - 2020.

My project examines the extent to which citizens participate in local government decision-making processes in two large, middle-income, nn-democratic states: Russia and China. It compares the ways in which active citizenship is promoted in government discourse at the state level, and the extents to which this discourse is put into practice at the local level in two case study regions (Xi'an, China, and Samara, Russia). Global processes of public sector reform have created the need for increased citizen participation in the policy process in countries around the world; yet, like other advanced, non-democratic states, the Russian and Chinese governments face the additional task of balancing the cultivation of an active and engaged citizenry with that of limiting and directing political pluralism.

The book I am working on during the Fellowship interrogates the dynamics of this balance from a comparative perspective and aims to provide a deeper understanding of the ways in which civic participation is used to ensure both political stability and effective policy making in non-democratic states. 

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. 

I have held Visiting Fellowships at the European University at St Petersburg, Fudan Development Institute, Shanghai, and the St Petersburg branch of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

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

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