Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Cambridge, 2015, PhD


I’m interested in what women’s everyday experiences of caring for others can tell us about contemporary development. My speciality is institutional ethnography, which is an approach to studying how institutions organize people’s everyday lives in ways that are sometimes hard to see. It’s an action-oriented approach – it creates an understanding of power that is useful for those who seek to change it.

I’m wrapping up a project that analyzes one of the fastest growing ploys in international development — using cash incentives to change poor people’s behaviour. Mainstream accounts suggest cash incentives are effective and efficient. My study of Peru’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program revealed a host of gendered costs that are largely hidden unless we look at how women accomplish care in the context of uneven development. This research is published in Antipode:

In 2009, the Canadian government cut funding to women’s resources nationwide, and the women’s centre I worked at was forced to close its doors after 25 years of service. I came to understand this event as an indication of the state’s ‘uncaring’ priorities. I’ve worked throughout the Americas and seen similarly uncaring policies sideline women’s wellbeing in the name of fiscal responsibility. I’m motivated by the hope that a more caring world is possible, and that universities provide space to dig into what this might look like.

My current research is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) fellowship, and I am honoured to be a Gates Cambridge Scholar.


Cookson, T.P. (2017) The Unseen Gender Impacts of Conditionality: Extra Official Conditions.  UNDP IPC-IG. Available at:

Cookson, T.P. (2016) Working for inclusion? Conditional cash transfers and the reproduction of inequality. Antipode 48(5). Available at:


Holeman, I., Cookson, T.P., Pagliari, C. (2016) Digital Technology for Health Sector Governance in Lower Income Countries. Journal of Global Health 6(2). Available at: