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Professor Gordon Cumming

Professor Gordon Cumming

Professor

School of Modern Languages

Email
cumming@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 5590
Campuses
1.47, 66a Park Place, Cathays, Cardiff, CF10 3AS
Comment
Media commentator
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

My research covers a number of disciplines, notably French studies, international development, conflict and language-based area studies. My interests focus on British, French and European foreign and development policies towards sub-Saharan Africa. They include a particular focus on policies to promote democracy and good governance as well as on the growing role of Northern Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) south of the Sahara.

As a former UK diplomat with close links to government aid agencies, thinktanks and Non-Governmental Organisations, I undertake research which is practice-focused, interview-led and theoretically underpinned. My research is designed to shed new light on, and dispel stereotypes regarding, North-South relations.

I am currently following up on on a major Leverhulme-funded research project on France's ongoing military intervention in the Sahel and on African peacekeeping coalitions.

I am also developing an impactful ESRC-backed project to encourage smaller Welsh, European and African NGOs to grasp the nettle and begin engaging with Monitoring and Evaluation. To this end, I have designed a major toolkit and website. An introduction to this toolkit and its Quick 1-2-3 method is available in English, Welsh,  FrenchSpanishPortugueseChinese or Japanese.

Biography

Career profile

Having graduated in 1988 with a First Class Honours in French Language and Literature at Glasgow University, I joined the Foreign and Commonwealth as a graduate entrant.  In this capacity, I worked in Africa Research Department, on the human rights desk in Southern African Department, in the Gulf Emergency Unit and as a negotiator and rapporteur on the Economic and Financial Committee at the United Nations in New York.

I left the Foreign Office and worked in Barclays Bank as a special entrant on the Management Development Programme. I was trained primarily in risk assessment and was responsible for evaluating large corporate loans.

In 1992, I joined Cardiff University as a lecturer in French and am now Professor of Language-Based Area Studies (specifically French and African Studies.  In this role, I have held a number of positions of responsibility, including:

  • Director of Research
  • Director of Postgraduate Research (twice)
  • Director of Postgraduate teaching
  • Convenor of the ESRC Doctoral Training Programme Pathway entitled Global Language-Based Area Studues
  • Director of the former research group EGIPP
  • Director of Admissions
  • Head of French
  • Year abroad coordinator, exams officer and Chair of the Library, IT and Equipment Committee.  
  • I also served on the University Accreditations Sub-Committee and the University Programme Approval Panel.

Research Publications (see ‘Publications' tab)

I have published four books, an edited journal, executive reports for leading think-tanks, and almost 100 peer-reviewed outputs including over 40 internationally peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. 15 articles referenced in Web of Science, a number of which have been ranked as ‘world leading’.   One book, co-authored with Professor  Gérard Bossuat and entitled France, Europe and Development Aid: From The Treaties of Rome to the Present, secured the Luc Durand-Reville prize for political science.

External Research Funding

2013-2020: Have overseen ten successful ESRC studentship bids worth over £700,000

2017-2019: Principal Invesitgator on a large Leverhulme grant bid (£90,000) on French miitary-coalition building in Africa. Co-investigators: Professor Tony Chafer (Portsmouth), and Ahmed Soliman (Chatham House)

Jan 2016: secured Cardiff University grant in competitive bidding process (£15,000)

Oct 2014: Secured ESRC Initiator Impact Grant worth £3,000 (and potentially renewable) to help to embed a culture of evaluation in Welsh and international NonGovernmental Development Organisatons

Jan. 2008– July 2012: British Academy– £78,000 (£97536 at Full Economic Cost): Secured, jointly with Professor Tony Chafer of Portsmouth University, large grant which was finally drawn down in mid-2012.

Sept. 2003 to Sept. 2004: Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship of £16,109. This led to the publication of a monograph and four refereed journal articles as well as to consultations with the French Foreign Ministry adviser to the US State Department and European Commission.

Jan. to July 2002: Home Office - £13,000. This funding was for a research management role in the Home Office

 Research impact

I am developing a major impact case study with University and ESRC funding. It seeks to encourage smaller Welsh, UK-wide, European and African Non-governmental organisations to embrace monitoring and evaluation (M&E). It uses a toolkit and method that simplify the process of M&E, opening up this process to a wider range of actors and enbaling civil society organisations to ‘professionalise’ their activities and bid more confidently for grant monies.

I have been working closely with the Welsh government, notably its Wales for Africa team, the WCVA, Hub Cymru Africa on these issues. I now provide briefings on the Welsh government’s International Learning Opportunities programme and am in contact with the French NGO training body, the F3E.

I am also regularly called upon to provide briefings to staff in the Foreign Office’s research department and I am regularly invited to take part in private briefings of and by UK officials on foreign and development policy towards Africa

In the past, I also provided oral and written briefings to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Africa Strategy Group (2009); the UK Minister for Africa (2010); and Chair of the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group on Africa.

In 2002, I secured approximately £13,000 for the School in research funding while undertaking a research management role in the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.  In this capacity, I oversaw a £1 million research budget which focused on crime prevention, security and economic development issues.

Within Cardiff University, I was also heavily involved in the establishment and evaluation of the first tranche of the University's flagship engagement programme in Namibia, namely the Phoenix Project.

External Speaking Engagements (Select List)

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, amm my speaking engagements have been cancelled in 2020-21, including as part of a fellowship at Hong Kong University and at a planned UK-wide conference involving all the Area Studies pathways linked to ESRC Doctoral Training Partnerships.

2019

  • November, Keynote, ‘The Limits on Legitimation: French Military Interventions in the Sahel’, first ever guest speaker for a seminar series hosted by the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance (IDIG)
  • October, ‘The Limits to Legitimation Strategies’, Chatham House Conference (co-authored paper)
  • October, ‘African Coalitions’, Chatham House Conference (co-authored paper)
  • October, France’s Interventions in the Sahel, Chatham House Conference (co-authored paper)
  • February, French Debt Cancellation towards Africa: A New Model of Partnership?, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Amsterdam
  • February, ‘Understanding Legitimation Strategies: France’s Evolving Approach to Military Intervention in Africa, Collegium (Lyons)

 2018

  • 14 December (with Tony Chafer and Roel van der Velde) French Military Intervention in the Sahel: Towards a New Model?, Cambridge University
  •  14 December (with Tony Chafer and Roel van der Velde) Legitimising French Interventions in Africa: A Just War Theory Perspective, Cambridge University

 2017

  • March: Paper to Atlantic College on ‘Funding the SDGs’ as part of the conference ‘Stop the Apocalypse
  • February: ‘Neocolonialism versus Empowerment’. This paper was the first in the International Development series of talks hosted by Cardiff's MLANG

 2016

  • November, ‘Transforming the AFD and French Aid: The Severino Years’, November 2016, AFD, Paris. Keynote address. Platform shared with Head of AFD, President of Africa Development Bank and former French Development Minister
  • January, ‘European African Policies: from Exploitation to Enlightened Engagement’, Sciences-Po, Lyon

 2015

  •  November, ‘From the MDGs to the SDGs’, Keynote, University of Namibia (Keynote)
  • January, ‘Regime Complexity and Europeanisation: the Case of French Aid’, paper given to EGIPP and MLANG, Cardiff

 2014

  • November 2014: Europeanisation through a Complex Regimes Prism’, Roskilde/ Copenhagen University
  • February, [Keynote] ’Entrepreneurship and the French Aid Programme’, Mittlander University, Sweden
  •  January, ‘Political Entrepreneurship in a Hostile Climate’, Centre des Relations Internationale (Sciences Po) Paris. Relaunch of sociological approaches to ‘foreign policy analysis’.

I have also been invited to speak in North America (Ottawa University, 2012), Oslo University History Department, 2011); Belgium (Institut d’Etudes Européennes, 2012), France (Paris-Diderot, 2011; Bordeaux IEP, 2003, 2005; RITIMO in Montpellier, open-ended), and UK (e.g. Swansea, 2016: ECPR, 2014; Portsmouth 2013; Cardiff 2013; Belfast 2012; Cambridge 2011, Portsmouth/ UACES, 2010; Glasgow, 2009 etc.).

Have had my research profile showcased in a European Commission newsletter, EU- Consent News, no. 3, 2006, p. 14

 

Other Esteem Indicators

Advisory Boards: On PSA Development Politics group since 2013.

Editorial Boards: member since 2016 of editorial board of the journal, Revue du Tiers Monde. Also on board of Alternatives Francophones

Awards: Luc Durand-Reville prize for political science

Fellowships: of Royal Historical Society, Learned Society of Wales, and Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Honorary Posts: Professeur invité, Sciences-Po Lyon (2016), ICS (2013), Bordeaux IEP (2003 & 2005), Sciences Po Lyon (2017)

Alumnus of the Collegium, the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities & Social Sicence, in Lyons

Public Intellectual Role/ Expertise in Demand:

  • Regularly brief staff from Foreign Office research department and invited to brief or be briefed by officials/ speakers at Chatham House.
  • Invited to contribute to the BBC Today programme, Radio France Internationale and The South Wales Evening
  • Interviewed by the French journal Afrique Contemporaine.

Positions of Responsibility:External PhD examiner, King’s, London, former External Examiner, Kingston University, Examiner for Paris Chamber of Commerce

Professional memberships

  • 2020, invited as fellow to Hong Kong Baptist University
  • 2018, Fellow (now alumnus) of the Collegium in Lyons
  • Various years: Professeur invité at Sciences-Po Bordeaux and Lyon
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Learned Society of Wales and the Institute for Commonwealth Studies
  • Association of Modern and Contemporary France

Publications

2020

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2011

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2009

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2003

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2000

1996

Teaching

I have developed and am currently teaching the following courses:

  • France and Africa: Power, Scandal and Genocide
  • The World and Language of Business French

I also contribute to the following team-taught courses:

  • National and Global Perspectives on France
  • France: Cultures in Context
  • The Dissertaion Module
  • The MA in Global Cultures

I have, in addition, developed and delivered courses on French and British African policies for 'Sciences Po' IEP (Jan-Feb 2003); on British foreign policy for Bordeaux (Jan-Feb 2005); and on EU Africa policy for Sciences Po Lyon.

In the recent past, I also developed/ oversaw the development of Master's schemes (The MA in European Studies and the LLM: a Masters degree in Law and French). Although no longer running, these schemes were closely linked to the work of EGIPP (European Governance, Identity and Public Policy), a former research group of which I was a founding member.

My research over the past 25 years has been interdisciplinary to the core, bringing together concepts, methods and practices from fields as diverse as French Studies, international development, colonial history, conflict management and Area (particularly African) studies.

My research aims to reinvigorate language-based Area Studies (scholarship which typically concentrates on the society, politics, economics and culture of a specific country), by tackling head-on the criticisms (above all the lack of theory-building capacity) that have beset research in this field. I now head up the School's research group Global Language-Based Area studies which studies the politics, society, languages and cultures of areas (including Europe, Africa, China, and Latin America) and aims to 

  • rethink and ‘decolonise’ area studies
  • break down disciplinary barriers
  • incorporate innovative and creative research methods

My current research seeks to follow up on a large Leverhulme grant on which I was the Principal Investigator and which involved Professor Tony Chafer of the University of Portsmouth (as co-investigator), Dr Roel van der Velde (as research associate) and Chatham House in a consultative capacity.

So far, this project has delivered research specifically on France's Military Intervention in the Western Sahel and the extent to which it reflect a 'new' way of intervening and a change of trajectory/ a new path dependency in the case of French military policy. It has also led to Chatham House conferences, most notably a colloqium entitled 'Mobilizing Multinational Military Operations in Africa: Quick Fixes or Sustainable Solutions?'

Related to this, we are also working on the sustainability of France's military approach in the Sahel, and more specifically on the strengths and limitations of the strategic narratives used in support of French operations. 

Another strand to our research involves African peacekeeping coalitions (AMISOM, MNJTF and the G5 Sahel) and asks whether criticisms of these groupings is misguided and based erroneously on  Western military doctrines.

My other project focuses on French debt cancellation and NGO effectiveness.

Supervision

I have recently co-supervised to completion three PhD students: Odile Bomba Nkolo (French aid to Cameroon), Jamie Lemon (the French Military Intervention and the Arab Spring) and Chris Hayes (Stereotypes in UK press reporting on Japan).

I have also overseen the successful procurement of ten ESRC studentships within Cardiff's School of Modern Languages and Department of Politics and International Relations.

I am available to supervises theses on French, UK and EU foreign, development and security policies as well as on Northern Non-Governmental Organisations and their African partners.