CNR-TCRU graduate seminar: Phoebe Beedell, ‘Negotiating the dilemmas of development in Bangladesh’

CNR-TCRU Postgraduate Narrative Research Seminars, 2015-2016

Organised by the Centre for Narrative Research (CNR), University of East London

and the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), UCL Institute of Education


Phoebe Beedell, University of East London

Negotiating the dilemmas of development in Bangladesh:

A case study of local development consultants working with the garment sector


Tuesday 9th February 2016, 5 – 6.30pm

The Library, Thomas Coram Research Unit, 27 – 28 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA


All welcome, particularly graduate students.


For many years now, investigative journalists and consumer-led pressure groups have worked to expose, and protest against, the injustices and oppressive practices that take place in the manufacture and supply chains of global fashion brands. The catastrophic collapse of a factory building at Rana Plaza, Dhaka, in April 2013, once again focussed attention upon working conditions in an industry that has huge significance for the Bangladesh economy, and which has undoubtedly provided hundreds of thousands of women with a route out of poverty.   The multinational companies’ concern with improving their reputations has spawned another minor industry – that of ‘ethical consultants’, tasked with routing out child labour and other unethical practices, training factory managers and auditing and inspecting premises for so-called ‘compliance’ with particular standards. My PhD research is a psycho-social study of how a broad range of local development-oriented NGO professionals and social activists negotiate the ethical dilemmas inherent in their work. For this presentation I will explore the challenges faced by a small group of local ‘ethical business’ consultants. Using data from biographical and event-centred narrative interviews conducted in 2014, I will illustrate how these workers negotiate their way through a labyrinth of competing interests, differing values and often contradictory forces.  The stories they tell, and the experiences they reveal, demonstrate why private sector involvement in developmental initiatives should be treated with caution and consulting organisations held to account; and suggest that radical alternatives might, after all, be possible.


Phoebe Beedell is a PhD scholarship holder with the University of East London. She originally trained in graphic design and spent ten years 1989-99 living in Lesotho and Zimbabwe working in development communications, AIDS prevention and reproductive health campaigns.  After completing a Masters in Development Studies at Bristol University, she worked as a community engagement trainer and facilitator before joining the Centre of Psycho-Social Studies at the University of the West of England as a researcher.  Phoebe has undertaken qualitative research on major ESRC projects including ‘Negotiating Ethical Dilemmas in Contested Communities’ and ‘Identities, Educational Choice and the White Urban Middle Class’ in the Identities and Social Action programme; and more recently on Paired Peers, a longitudinal study on the role HE plays in social mobility.  She has published articles on motivation, class, positionality and a book chapter on psychosocial research methodology. She is planning to use Augusto Boals’s participatory theatre techniques as a means of disseminating her doctoral research and engaging non-academic audiences in further meaningful and productive dialogue.


For further details please contact Corinne Squire at

Details are also on the CNR website


Published by corinnesquire

Corinne Squire is Professor of Social Sciences and Co-Director, Centre for Narrative Research, at University of East London

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: