Lori Leonard


Research Focus

I study development projects as propositions about how to live and as modes of governing. I have examined the effects of a wide range of improvement projects on everyday life, ranging from an oil pipeline in Chad to public health interventions in the US to stem the spread of HIV. These studies have contributed to our understanding of the changing nature of social improvement schemes under neoliberalism. In highlighting the creative potential of people to find new ways to reconstitute themselves and to shape new social imaginaries under conditions of profound structural inequality, these studies have also contributed to our understanding of policy and how it works. My research highlights the productive and transformative capacities of policy, but without taking those capacities as given or determinant. Insights from this work have informed development practice, in clinical and other domains, by challenging the taken-for-granted assumptions and linear logics of policy as text and by drawing practitioners’ attention to the novel ways cultural materials may be assembled to subvert or instrumentalize policy in unexpected ways.


Journal Publications

  • Leonard, L. Women who change into men: A gendered history of precarity in 'useful' Chad. Africa. 89.
  • Leonard, L. (2016). Pharmaceutically-made men: Masculinities in Chad's emergent oil economy. Qualitative Sociology.


  • Leonard, L. (2016). Life in the time of oil: A pipeline and poverty in Chad. Life in the time of oil: A pipeline and poverty in Chad Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana.