Student profile: Kate Roll

Kate Roll

When I first fired up my Honda SupraX in January 2012, I had only been on the back of motorbikes. Six months later I had logged over 1,000 kilometers driving across Timor-Leste – from the coffee-growing areas of Aileu to the flat plains of Lautem – tracking down former members of the resistance movement that fought Indonesian occupation for a quarter-century. This research, which resulted in the first large-scale study of this cohort and now joins a half-dozen ‘large-n’ studies on former combatants and clandestinos in the literature, was made possible with the support and guidance of the Department of Politics and International Relations. This work forms the centerpiece of my doctoral study on post-conflict reintegration and state-building in Timor-Leste.

This research also marks an extension of my interest in the use of force by non-state actors, a focus that over the last decade has motivated my study of terrorist financing, private military companies, and other irregular actors. The desire to continue to pursue these subjects, as well as my determination to step back and better understand international development after two years working in Timor-Leste, brought me to Oxford to pursue the MPhil in International Development (2011, distinction). This course immersed me in development theory and provided a foundation for understanding the nexus of poverty, global political economies, and instability in many developing countries. This was the most intense classroom learning experience of my life – an experience enhanced by the excellence and energy of my course-mates.

In 2011, remaining under the supervision of Professor Richard Caplan, I moved to the Department of Politics and International Relations, which has become my new academic home at Oxford. The Department has generously helped to fund my research, as well as providing the setting for the exchange of ideas. For example, with an eye to increasing interactive learning between students at different stages of their research, I am now co-convening the Interpretive Analysis Network (IAN). Outside of my DPhil, I am involved in research for at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, concerning bottom-of-the-pyramid and private sector approaches to development and poverty reduction. I also currently serve as a research assistant at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, focusing on questions concerning the efficacy of targeting on non-combatants during wartime.

With a year left in my DPhil, I have begun to think of next steps. In the near-term I hope to secure a post-doctoral position in order to both convert my thesis into a manuscript and explore the wealth of data that will not be included in my thesis. In the longer term, I hope to work at the intersection of teaching and policy research, combining my excitement with intellectual puzzles with the strong desire that my work in politics and international relations reconnects to the people on the ground that experience the conflicts and depravations are so often constitute the objects of study. And a final goal? To get my UK motorbike permit – I am absolutely hooked!


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