The department is a lively community that is recognised internationally as one of the top centres for research and teaching in development studies.
Professor Masooda Bano’s primary area of interest rests in studying the role of ideas and beliefs in development processes and their evolution and change. Particular emphasis is on understanding the dynamic interplay between material and psycho-social incentives and the consequences of this for individual choices and collective development outcomes. Professor Bano builds large-scale comparative studies combining ethnographic and survey data.
Professor Bano has recently completed a five-year major research project — Changing Structures of Islamic Authority and Consequences for Social Change - A Transnational Review — supported by a €1.4 million European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. Building on her earlier work where she argues that in order for beliefs to persist they must have everyday relevance, the project studied how both old and new centres of Islamic authority are responding to changed expectations of Muslim youth in Muslim-majority countries as well as those living in the West. Key publications from the project include: The Revival of Islamic Rationalism: Logic, Metaphysics and Mysticism in Modern Muslim Societies (Cambridge University Press 2020) and Female Islamic Education Movements: The Re-Democratisation of Islamic Knowledge (Cambridge University Press 2017); and two edited volumes: Modern Islamic Authority and Social Change: Evolving Debates in Muslim Majority Countries. Vol. 1. (Edinburgh University Press 2018) and Modern Islamic Authority and Social Change: Evolving Debates in the West. Vol. 2. (Edinburgh University Press 2018).
Prior to this Professor Bano held an ESRC/AHRC flagship Ideas and Beliefs Fellowship and an ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship. Currently, she is the Principal Investigator for the research package on Political Economy of Implementation (PET-I) under Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) — a £36.8 million research project funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to understand the causes of learning crisis in the developing world.
Other completed major studies resulted in two book monographs, The Rational Believer: Choices and Decisions in the Madrasas of Pakistan (Cornell University Press) and Breakdown in Pakistan: How Aid is Eroding Institutions for Collective Action (Stanford University Press).
Between 2008 and 2016, Professor Bano advised on the largest ever education sector support programme rolled out by the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) in Nigeria, leading a number of studies to understand existing education choices in the northern states of Nigeria. She has also designed specific interventions to increase children’s access to primary education under this project, one of which has been profiled by ESRC as being amongst the best examples of social science impact. She has participated in many media interviews including those for BBC World, the BBC World Service (English and Urdu), BBC Radio 4 and her research has also featured in The Guardian (UK), The New York Times (USA), the ESRC website, Oxford University publications, and the Times Education Supplement.
Professor Bano is William Golding Senior Fellow at Brasenose College.