It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our colleague, Professor Jude Howell, on 29 April 2022. Jude was strongly committed to the interdisciplinary field of Development Studies and a leader in it, both in the department and well beyond.
Jude joined LSE in 2003, bringing well-established expertise on China to her teaching and research. Her 1989 D.Phil at the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Sussex addressed China’s Open Policy of 1978-1988, and resulted in her first book, published in 1993. Before joining the Department of International Development, she held positions at the University of East Anglia, the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Sussex, and LSE’s Department of Social Policy. In Jude’s own words, she was a “happy bunny” in her final university home and the department can confirm she was much-loved and appreciated in it.
Jude’s research has continued to explore the field of International Development, matching theoretical sophistication with intensive fieldwork-based research. She was fluent in Chinese and had strong academic and personal networks with scholars and activists across the Global South. While primarily a scholar of China, she also lived and worked in India, Mozambique, and Jordan. She published four more co-authored books and seven edited or co-edited ones, as well as many articles and book chapters.
Jude’s research on civil society is particularly notable, receiving many research grants and generating some of her best-known publications. Her most recent book, NGOs and Accountability in China: Child Welfare Organisations (Palgrave 2018, with XY Shang and K Fisher) showcased her dual concern with how NGOs can be held accountable even as they hold other institutions accountable. Like most of her work, this book is attentive to power relations and hierarchies in the particular conditions of authoritarianism. These are central concerns in the field of Development Studies and Jude was a leading figure in their analysis.
Beyond the academy, many governmental and non-governmental organizations sought Jude’s advice on civil society, China, and related topics. These included UNDP, UNICEF, ILO, Australian Aid, Ford Foundation, Department for International Development UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office UK, Save the Children, British Council, Christian Aid, and Asia Monitor Research Centre. For example, her research established a set of principles for the effective working of civil society that was used in Australia to develop a new Civil Society Engagement Framework. Its implementation led to an increase of more than $200 million in funding to NGOs.
James Putzel, a long-time colleague and fellow Professor of Development Studies, wrote:
“It is with great sadness that we witness the passing of our dear colleague Jude Howell. Jude was a modest scholar whose many decades of research and publication made her a giant in Development Studies. Her work on China and particularly her insights on civil society and labour in the country were unique and make an important and lasting contribution to our understanding of this complex giant. But her research stretched much further as indicated by the book she co-authored with Jeremy Lund that delved into the impact of the “war on terror” on civil society across the developing world. Jude was a devoted teacher, who demonstrated infinite patience even when she felt extremely impatient. She was above all an honest scholar and a principled colleague who believed deeply in the value of interdisciplinary development studies. We, at LSE, will miss her dearly, as will, I am sure, the community of scholars across the world who are trying to make sense of the problems of ‘late development’.”
Jude was a thought-provoking and effective instructor, rising to the challenges of novel forms of teaching in the pandemic. Several decades of students have taken her demanding DV432 course, China in Developmental Perspective, learning about Chinese development experiences at home as well as its relations with other countries. In recent years, she has returned to her Development Studies roots to be a core instructor in DV442, a required core course for the department’s MSc’s in Health and International Development and International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies.
One recent student, Han Yibo (MSc Development Studies 2019-2020) gave her a fitting eulogy, noting: “We talk about her, ‘hate’ her, and we love her. She is famous among Chinese students and her work on China is a must-read. Sometimes we ‘hate’ her because she is so outspoken and level-headed to our society, and it is so difficult and awkward for us to admit that she is upright… and so right. She inspires us to challenge our deep-rooted thoughts and look at China in the mirror. We all love her.” We hope that her other students can add recent memories in the “Responses” section below.
Finally, colleague Kate Meagher adds some texture to our remembrances of Jude by reminding us of who she was as a person and the things that motivated her to the very end:
“Jude was a deeply committed scholar who engaged with International Development as a vocation driven by the pursuit of justice, and interdisciplinary as well as cross-cultural understanding. She spoke of her Welsh origins and working class background as formative of her profound respect for knowledge, labour struggles and just regulatory authority. Her fluency in Chinese allowed her to decipher the complex permutations of labour struggles in China, which often took the form of labour NGOs – always with sensitivity to the risks faced by those she engaged with. Jude was active in supporting Chinese activists and scholars at risk, as well as being genuinely supportive of colleagues and a committed member of the UCU. But above all she was a vibrant and warm human being, with her maroon hair, marathon running, love of good food and joyous refusal to give up. We will miss her dearly.”