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Dr Deval Desai

Deval Desai
Lecturer in International Economic Law

MA (Oxon), PGDipL, PGDipLP, LLM, SJD


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Dr Deval Desai joined Edinburgh Law School in 2020 as Lecturer in International Economic Law. His work focuses on law and development, administrative law and regulation, (de)colonial patterns of knowledge and authority, and theories of the state in the Global South. He has taught on these topics on the European Joint Doctorate in Law and Development; the interdisciplinary masters programs at the Graduate Institute, Geneva; Harvard's Institute for Global Law and Policy; and as a visiting professor at Manchester, Northeastern Law School, SOAS, and the Universidad de los Andes.

Deval previously held research positions at Harvard Law School and the Graduate Institute -- where he helped establish and coordinate the Global Scholars’ Academy, to support collaboration and mentorship among junior faculty in the Global South. Deval serves on the editorial board of the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, the Emerging Scholars Forum of Global Perspectives, and previously sat on the editorial board of the Harvard International Law Journal.

His ongoing research projects include:

  • A PI on a £2.1 million, four-year Swiss National Science Foundation Sinergia project entitled “Reversing the Gaze: Towards Post-Comparative Area Studies” (with B. Korf, E. Macamo, and R. Weber), which studies the politics of social scientific comparative methods as they are applied to political questions in Europe and the Global South;
  • A Swiss National Science Foundation Spark grant, “The Puzzle of Unspent Funds: The Institutional Architecture of Unaccountable Governance” (£99,375), which draws on fiscal sociology and administrative law to study social welfare provision in India and Italy, and its implications for theories of the administrative state in the Global South;
  • A book project on the nature of expertise in law and development, entitled “Expert Ignorance: The Law and Politics of Rule of Law Reform”, under contract with Cambridge University Press; and
  • An empirical study of the subnational political conditions and effects of mining regulations in India.

His work is also informed by a decade of experience working for the World Bank on rule of law and governance in sub-Saharan Africa; as well as advising the UN on rule of law issues.

He trained in history and French literature (M.A., Oxford), and law and social theory (PGDipL and PGDipLP, City University/BPP Law School; LL.M. and S.J.D., Harvard Law School). At Harvard, he held the Byse, Program on Negotiation Next Generation, and Institute for Global Law and Policy fellowships. In recognition of his work on law and development, he was awarded the inaugural Bingham Center International Rule of Law Fellowship. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Ph.D. supervision interests

Deval welcomes proposals for postgraduate research in the areas of law and development, administrative law, regulation, and law and policy.