Christopher Gibson

Associate Professor

International Studies

Christopher Gibson

Associate Professor

International Studies


Ph.D. Brown University
A.M. Brown University
M.P.P. Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School
B.A. Colorado College

Areas of Specialization

  • Development
  • Inequality
  • Political Sociology
  • Social Movements


Christopher Laurence Gibson is an Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University’s School for International Studies. His teaching and mixed-methods research examine relationships between civil society, democratic politics, social development, and inequality in the world’s three most populous, developing world democracies: Brazil, India, and Indonesia.

His 2019 monograph Movement-Driven Development: The Politics of Health and Democracy in Brazil (Stanford University Press) is available for purchase here. The book and a series of articles offer statistical analysis and a comparative-historical explanation for how activists from a social movement known as the Movimento Sanitário helped reduce infant and child mortality by over 70% in urban Brazil after 1988.  The project dialogues with sociological theories of civil society, development, and state-building by analyzing qualitative and quantitative data produced during over two years of externally-funded fieldwork.  This work draws on support from the Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Fulbright Commission of Brazil, the Inter American Foundation (IAF), and a President’s Research Startup Grant from Simon Fraser University.

With an Insight Grant from Canada’s Social Science & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Gibson recently began a new, mixed methods project called State Development Projects and Social Inequality in Urban Brazil. The project examines relationships between state development projects, local politics, and changing social inequalities in urban Brazil during the last 15 years. In particular, it explores the conditions under which local politics can mediate global and national development processes in ways that weaken, rather than exacerbate social inequalities. 

In quantitative work on the South Indian state of Kerala, his research traces expanded state provision of public housing and sanitation to women’s participation in a local direct democratic institution called the gram sabha. Published in American Sociological Review, these findings about the developmental contributions of women’s participation – and the absence of support for longstanding explanations – address sociological theories of development by contributing a new account of redistribute direct democracy in the global South.

In qualitative, comparative work on rural Indonesia, he and his colleagues have addressed how women and historically marginalized ethnic groups use direct democratic institutions to engage elites in the local politics of development projects. Findings from this collaborative research have appeared in publications including Studies in Comparative International Development.



Christopher L. Gibson. 2019. Movement-Driven Development: The Politics of Health and Democracy in Brazil. Stanford, CA. Stanford University Press.


Christopher L. Gibson. forthcoming. “Book Review of Achieving Access: Professional Movements and the Politics of Health Universalism by Joseph Harris.” Contemporary Sociology.

Jorge Alves and Christopher L. Gibson. 2019. “States and Capitals of Health: Multi-level Health Governance in Brazil” (equally co-authored). Latin American Politics & Society, 61(1), 54-77. doi:10.1017/lap.2018.59

Christopher L. Gibson. 2018. "Programmatic Configurations for the 21st Century Developmental State in Urban Brazil" Sociology of Development  4(2): 169-190.

Christopher L. Gibson. 2017. "The Consequences of Movement Office-holding for Health Policy Implementation and Social Development in Urban Brazil" Social Forces 96(2): 169-190

Christopher L. Gibson. 2016. SanitaristasPetistas, and the ‘Post-neoliberal’ Public Health State in Porto Alegre, Brazil” Latin American Perspectives. 43(2): 153-171.

Christopher L. Gibson. 2012. “Making Redistributive Direct Democracy Matter: Development and Women’s Participation in the Gram Sabhas of Kerala, India.” American Sociological Review 77(3): 409-434.

Christopher L. Gibson. 2012. “Book Review of Limiting Resources: Market-led Reform and the Transformation of Public Goods by LaDawn Haglund.” Social Forces.

Christopher L. Gibson and Michael Woolcock. 2008. “Empowerment, Deliberative Development, and Local Politics in Indonesia: Participatory Projects as a Source of Countervailing Power." Studies in Comparative International Development43: 151-180.
- Prior version published as: Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper #8. University of Manchester. UK.

Christopher L. Gibson and Michael Woolcock. 2005. “Empowerment and Local Level Conflict Mediation in Indonesia: A Comparative Analysis of Concepts, Measures, and Project Efficacy.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper #3713.Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.

Grants and Awards

  • 2014- SSHRC Insight Grant: “State Development Projects & Social Inequality in Urban Brazil”  ($303,322)
  • 2012-2014 President’s Startup Research Grant, Simon Fraser University
  • 2011-12 ACLS/Mellon Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship
  • 2010 Fulbright IIE Scholarship, Fulbright Commission of Brazil
  • 2009-2010 Inter American Foundation (IAF) Grassroots Development Fellowship
  • 2008-2009 National Science Foundation (NSF) Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant


  • IS 801 Politics, Institutions, and Development
  • IS 802 Political Economy of Development
  • IS 815/435 Theories of Latin American Development
  • IS 809/419 Social Movements in the Global South
  • IS 835/429 Social and Political Change in Latin America
  • IS 830 Analytic Approaches to International Studies
  • IS 210 Comparative World Politics: Trajectories, Regimes, Challenges