May 4 2022

In memory of Professor Jude Howell

A portrait of Professor Jude Howell in a patterned jacket and smiling at the cameraIt 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.”

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31 Responses to In memory of Professor Jude Howell

  1. Shirin Madon says:

    I will miss Jude as a colleague and friend in the Department. I had several interactions with her over coffee in the SCR talking about our research and had the pleasure of reviewing her recent book. I really admired Jude’s passion and approach for research in China and have learnt a lot from having known her. With fond memories …

  2. Jessica Teets says:

    Jude was so gracious with her time and feedback for new scholars in the field. Her research and mentorship helped so many of us, and she will be greatly missed!

  3. Perrine Lhuillier says:

    It was an honour to have crossed your path. Your dedication to understanding civil society in China will forever remain an inspiration. Rest in peace Prof. Howell.

  4. I was extremely shocked to hear that Prof. Jude Howell (郝秋笛,Has Qiudi in Mandarin) had passed away. Still I am in deep sorrow of missing her as a brilliant colleague and a fond friend as well. It is my great honor to work with Jude at IDS in September, 2001 when I was a Gordon White Memorial Fund Visiting Fellow, I was lucky to receive invaluable guidance from Jude on the issue of legitimacy of the NGOs in transitional China. Jude is a leading figure and certainly a solid pillar of China studies especially in the field of NGOs and civil society in the global in general and in China in particular. Jude will be hugely missed and extensively talked not only as a scholar but also as a person! Rest In Peace, Jude.

  5. Farewell Jude. You will be missed!

    Jude was a great colleague, mentor, and friend. I admired and learned much from her. She was a leading scholar on civil society and development and of course on NGOs in China. It was a pleasure working with her at the now long gone LSE Centre for Civil Society and I found her to be a supportive colleague. I will miss her very much and I am sad that the lunch we had been talking about for the past 2 years, will now never take place.

    Rest in peace, Jude – your research and mentorship will not be forgotten!

  6. David Lewis says:

    Jude will be greatly missed – she set the bar very high for academics who seek to combine the highest quality research with a strong sense of social and political commitment. I worked with Jude while she was in the LSE’s Social Policy department directing the ESRC’s Non-Governmental Public Action research programme. Jude had just come to the School from IDS to take over the directorship of the Centre for Civil Society. The programme supported a wide range of high quality international research on civil society issues – all of which Jude managed and advised with the supportive attentiveness, care and attention to detail that was very much her hallmark. During this period we also co-supervised some PhD students together, many of whom have gone on to become leading researchers around the world, and I will always remember the combination of rigour and supportive commitment to all students that she brought to our sessions. This is such a sad and unexpected loss.

  7. Christopher Pallas says:

    What a sad loss! I had the privilege of having Jude as a PhD supervisor. She had the perfect combination on toughness and supportiveness. On the one hand, she would continually challenge me to produce better research or think more deeply about my conclusions. On the other hand, she provided rapid, detailed feedback and made time for frequent meetings. Only when I became a professor myself did I appreciate the amount of time she put into being an excellent advisor and the commitment that that reflected. Her model continues to inspire and challenge me.

  8. Stuart Gordon says:

    Jude was an honest and committed scholar and above all a great friend. She leaves behind a wonderful family and an amazing circle of friends, all of whom miss her dearly. I loved her work on the impact of counter terrorism policy on humanitarian NGOs and I miss our chats about this. In fact I just miss her.

  9. Barbara Harriss-White says:

    It’s hard to imagine that Jude is no longer with us but she’ll live on in her work on the politics of China’s development and in the minds of people she taught. My husband Gordon White was her PhD supervisor at IDS and he thought the world of Jude. They were working together with Shang Xiaoyuan on ‘In search of civil society’ when he died in 1998 – and Jude ran and ran with the baton. They had similar social backgrounds, learned Chinese, knew you had to soak in a society to understand it and be fearless – and that the only way to soak was to be an inter-disciplinarian. My sympathies to everyone who feels her loss and the awful shock of her death.

  10. Jude was a respected China-scholar and a wonderful colleague. Every year, some anthropology students took her course “China in Developmental Perspective”. They always found her approachable and supportive. The Jude I knew was someone who helped students and colleagues go further and explore new fields. As a scholar, she always remained curious; she knew how to draw bridges between people and between disciplines; especially around her main field, civil society in China. She never shied away from making her point (for instance, on the Xinjiang camps a few years ago at a public event at LSE), quietly poised and compelling. She will be dearly missed.

  11. I too am dismayed at our loss of Jude. She and her publications on civil society in China were vital ingredients of the multidisciplinary Masters degree on China in Comparative Perspective. But it is especially sad not to be able to arrange lunch or coffee with her. Of course her publications remain required reading.

  12. Geoff Goodwin says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Jude at LSE and she was incredibly kind and supportive to me. She was a passionate teacher, brilliant scholar and, above all, lovely human being. She always had a glint in her eye and spring in her step and that’s how I will remember her. She will be greatly missed in the department and the development studies community.

  13. Melody Mohebi says:

    What a tremendous loss! Jude was my PhD supervisor at LSE. She taught me so much about what it means to be a social scientist — leading with curiosity and care. I will always be grateful to have had her as a role model and mentor. I only wish I could have spent more time with her.

  14. Gregory Chin says:

    I was saddened to learn of Jude Howell’s passing. I only knew Professor Howell by her work, which I followed for decades. Her book, China Opens Its Doors, was a landmark. Jude’s passing is a loss for China studies.

  15. Ricardo Morais says:

    Professor Howell’s work on Chinese relations with African countries is a treasure for young academics and she was extremely helpful and caring in the dissertation workshop I had with her. Sad to hear this news. My condolences.

  16. Melisa Slep says:

    I’m so sorry to hear the news about Prof. Howell’s passing. I was extremely lucky to have witnessed her commitment to teaching about Civil Society in her DV463 course. Made us work for it, but I learned so much from her and my peers in that class. Sending my deep condolences to her loved ones, within and outside LSE.

  17. Luisa Barajas says:

    I had the honour of being Dr. Howell’s student and I have nothing but gratitude for all the knowledge that this wonderful woman transferred to us. I will always remember her class as one of my favourites during my time at LSE. Especially because it was one of the few seminars where I felt I could express my opinions freely and where Latin American knowledge was valued. A sad loss for the ID department.

  18. Hanna Suliman-Nicol says:

    I had the pleasure of being taught by Jude when taking her popular DV432 course during my Master’s. She navigated a challenging year of online learning with great adeptness, doing her best to recreate a lively classroom environment even when we were in the most miserable of lockdowns.

    She was a real credit to the academic community and will be missed sorely by many as a teacher, colleague and friend. My thoughts are with her family during this sad time.

  19. Jude’s ideas on cycles of openings in her first book helped inspire my own work terrifically. It gave serious insight into how local officials in China would come to realise that China would open, then shut down, but at the end of the cycle be more open than before.

    I will always be in her academic debt.
    David Zweig

  20. Jude will be greatly missed as a colleague and friend by so many. She had inspirational knowledge of China, its history and the challenges of civil society engagement. Her commitment to promoting social justice and international development was unending. Her energy and capacity to learn were amazing: she spoke many languages, read widely, played the piano, sang in a choir and travelled extensively – working abroad and visiting friends all over the country. I will greatly miss our ‘walks and talks’ on the Sussex Downs since returning to Brighton, her companionship and cakes always so thoughtful. She is peaceful now, but her influence will long continue.

  21. Jenny Pearce says:

    I had the great privilege to co-author our book, Civil Society and Development, and to enlist our varied field experiences in China and Latin America to engage in a debate which drew us closely together in the 2000s. it was exceptional to work with such a committed, knowledgeable and hard working colleague. We became great friends and walked the Dalesway together. We worked again on the Non-governmental Public Action research project, which she coordinated with great skill. I am still deeply shocked at her death, even though I knew she had breast cancer. She was so resilient, a marathon runner among many things, I never imagined we would lose her!

  22. Lin Chun says:

    I share the feelings of great loss with so many here. The one thing I appreciated the most about Jude was her true respect and compassion for Chinese labour. It all came to her naturally as though she had grown up with a working class background somewhere in China. Her last email dated 16 March 22 was to urge me to meet with a prominent labour scholar from Hong Kong. I’ll always miss Jude as a dedicated colleague and friend, and only wish she and I could continue our breakfast conversations at the Delaunay Counter.

  23. Joe Devine says:

    A very sad loss. Jude was a real leader in her field. Sarah White introduced me to Jude when I was looking for PhD supervisors. I remember our meeting to this date, and when talking to potential PhD candidates, I shamelessly repeat the advise Jude gave me. I enjoyed telling her this. I will continue repeating her message to me……and remember her fondly

  24. I knew Jude as a friend as well as a colleague and will really miss her; especially our walks on the Sussex Downs, by the sea and in the woods with the bluebells she loved so much. These walks were accompanied by discussion of her loving family and the many challenges of contemporary times; the rise of populism, increasing inequalities; the challenges to human rights and women’s rights in particular as well as the many aggravations of contemporary academia -while never forgetting its privileges and pleasures – of spending time reading, writing, researching, and exchanging ideas with wonderful people – students and colleagues from nearly every part of the world and especially China. Jude, thanks for being here, your contributions in writing and memories will long continue.

  25. I worked with Jude on my project on the Movement of the Unemployed in Argentina when she was Director of the ESRC Programme Non-Governmental Public Action at LSE (2005-2009). We had a wonderful and productive time, and I am grateful to her for her initiative, support and guidance. I remember she got ill during this period of intense research, and I remember that she was brave and strong.
    My condolences to her family during this sad time. A tragic loss for academia and beyond. I will never forget her.

  26. Tim Allen says:

    It is so sad to hear of Jude’s passing. She was a great colleague and loyal member of the department, whose care for her students and commitment to her research was always inspiring. She was so brave during her illness. Jude will be much missed.

  27. Laura Mann says:

    It has taken me so long to post a condolence because it doesn’t feel real that Jude is gone. She was a lovely colleague, simultaneously warm and sharp, with reliably good ideas and good spirits. A straightforwardly great human! I had been reading her book on China opening up over the winter break and it has greatly helped me to better understand that period of economic history. I wish I could keep sending her emails and asking her questions. We have lost a great member of our department and a very kind soul. I will miss her dearly. I send lots of love to all her family members.

  28. Kristal Amalia says:

    I had the honour to be Prof. Howell’s student last year in DV432. It still feels unbelievable that she is no longer with us. She was an inspiring lecturer, her expertise was admirable… our discussions on China’s development in her classes, especially on labour relations, social welfare provision, and NGOs were eye-opening, and will be of great use in our future. She will be dearly missed.

  29. Emeka Thaddues Njoku says:

    I am saddened to hear of Prof. Jude Howell’s death. Her seminal works on the impact of counter-terrorism on civil society served as a major source of inspiration for my PhD research. Her work on “civil society under strain,” in particular, helped me build a foundation for many of the ideas I’ve been studying. She will be greatly missed! RIP

  30. L Schafer says:

    I am so saddened by the news of Jude’s passing. She was a dear friend for almost 35 years. I wasn’t one of her students or an academic colleague, but we both started out as China scholars, meeting through our shared interest in, and work related to, China. I so enjoyed our discussions about China’s problems, successes and development. We witnessed together China’s rise, from its many challenges at the beginning of the 1980’s, so we could share many reminiscences of those early days of reform. While our professional lives took different paths, we had a common bond in being part of China’s changes and progress. We also shared an interest in the arts, music and good food. There was always tea and cake when visiting Jude. The prolific research and body of excellent work she leaves behind are a great legacy, and testimony to her indomitable spirit, thirst for knowledge and determination to not only share what she found with the wider world, but also to do so with an eye to helping the common good. I will never forget and will always miss my dear friend’s warmth, seriously bright mind, lively analysis on many subjects, and most of all her laughter and sunny smile.

  31. Bree Pall says:

    I feel so honoured to have met Jude – what a pleasure it was. From the moment I met her she welcomed me into the department and we built up a really lovely working relationship. We always had so much to talk about and she’d often introduce me to some of her most-loved books. I will miss you Jude but I’m so grateful to have known you – rest in peace lovely lady x

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