Community Economies

Katharine McKinnon

Contact Details:

Community Planning and Development
Faculty of Humanities and Social Science
La Trobe University
Bendigo, VIC 3552, Australia
[email protected]


PhD (The Australian National University)
BAHons (Victoria University of Wellington)

Research Areas:

Subjectivity and social transformation
Development professionalism and practice
Communty economies of health care, particularly around birth


The Geopolitics of Birth

Katharine McKinnon

This paper explores the territoriality and politics of birth. Engaging with debates that are largely polarised between discourses of natural versus medical birth, in this paper I take an in depth look at one birth story, and look for a different way to think through how women’s birth experiences might be understood. Written at the beginning of a year of research into women’s birth experiences this paper represents my early thinking in the study.

McKinnon, K. (published online Sept 2014) ‘The Geopolitics of Birth’ Area


Katharine McKinnon

Written with Robyn Dowling this chapter offers a discussion of theories of identity in human geography, and draws on recent research by each of the authors to elaborate new challenges to the way geographers think about identity. Includes consideration of the impacts of J.K. Gibson-Grahams thinking around subjectivity, collectivity, and social change to geographers engagements with identity across different fields.

Dowling, R. and McKinnon, K. (2014) ‘Identities’, for Lee, R., Castree, N., Kitchin, R., Lawson, V., Paasi, A., Radcliffe, S., Withers, C.W.J., (eds) Sage Handbook of Human Geography, Sage Books

Strategic localism for an uncertain world: A postdevelopment approach to climate change adaptation

Katharine McKinnon

Phil Ireland and I collaborated on this paper during his PhD studies while I was at Macquarie University. We sought to bring together his work on Climate Change Adaptation with my thinking on post-development. We argue that when it comes to efforts to support Climate Change Adaptation in the majority world, it is important to challenge technocratic approaches that dismiss the value of local innovations. Instead we draw inspiration from the work of J.K. Gibson-Graham and their injunction to ‘refuse to know too much’.

Ireland, P. and McKinnon, K. (2013) ‘Strategic localism for an uncertain world: A postdevelopment approach to climate change adaptation’ Geoforum 47: 158-166

A different kind of difference: Knowledge, politics and being Antipodean

Katharine McKinnon

Written as a response to a series of commentaries on ‘Antipodean Economic Geography’ this piece draws on my fieldwork experience to question whether it is useful to invoke the ‘otherness’ of the Antipodes. I call for a habituation of the practice of ‘looking for difference’ as a way of cutting across the Antipodean-Metropole binary invoked in the discussion.

McKinnon, K. (2013) ‘A different kind of difference: Knowledge, politics and being Antipodean’ Dialogues in Human Geography 3(2) 213-216

Development Professionals in Northern Thailand: Hope, Politics and Practice

Katharine McKinnon

McKinnon, K (2011) Development Professionals in Northern Thailand: Hope, Politics and Practice ASAA Southeast Asia Publications Series, published by Singapore University Press in conjunction with University of Hawaii and NIAS.

This book is a critical history of development practice and professionalism in nothern Thailand, exploring how a postdevelopment perspective informed by the work of J.K. Gibson-Graham can shed new light on the nature of development practice and hope for the future.

Being indigenous in northern Thailand

Katharine McKinnon

The chapters in this edited collection were envisioned as conversations between scholars and indigenous collaborators from around the world. My contribution was drew from a Roundtable session with highland activists and community representatives who met in Chiang Mai in 2007 to discuss how to represent themselves as indigenous. It demonstrates an early engagement with a methodology of conversation

McKinnon, K. (2012) “Being indigenous in Northern Thailand”, in Venkateswar, S. (ed) The Politics of Indigeneity: Dialogues and reflections on indigenous activism, Zed Books: 145-171


Katharine McKinnon

In this chapter I consider what identification is from a social geography perspective. Drawing on fiedwork with indigenous activists in Thailand I explore what identification is, what it means and how it works. Engaging with a range of social theorists such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Ernesto Laclau, Judith Butler and J.K. Gibson-Graham I discuss the processes through which we are identified in the systems of governance and power that prevail in the contemporary world and what these processes mean both for how we are subjected to the machinations of power in the world and how we may act within and upon them.

McKinnon, K. (2011) “Identification”, in Del Casino, V., Thomas, M., Panelli, R. A Companion to Social Geography, Blackwell Publishing: 37-54

Diverse present(s), alternative futures.

Katharine McKinnon

This chapter appeared in a volume that brought together work on alternative economic and political forms. My piece is in the section on ‘Alternative spaces of social enterprise and development’ and considers how post-development thinking, such as that present in the work of geographers like J.K. Gibson-Graham or Lakshman Yapa, can support concrete efforts for real change in the world.

McKinnon, K. (2010) “Mapping absence, generating the present”, in Fuller, D., Jonas A.E.G., and Lee, R. (eds) Alternative spaces of economy, society and politics: Interrogating alterity, Ashgate Press: 259-272

Taking postdevelopment theory to the field: Issues in development research, Northern Thailand

Katharine McKinnon

Reflecting on the process of field research this paper explores the challenges of bringing together empirical research and the experience of doing development work, with the complex and often speculative theorising of contemporary political and social philosophy.

McKinnon, K.I. 2008. Taking postdevelopment theory to the field: Issues in development research, Northern Thailand, Asia Pacific Viewpoint. 49(3), 281-293.

Postdevelopment, Professionalism and the Politics of Participation

Katharine McKinnon

In response to the accusation that development can only serve to perpetuate uneven power between the '1st' and '3rd' worlds, this paper explores possibilities for new postdevelopment approaches founded on an understanding of development as a political engagement.

McKinnon, K. 2007. Postdevelopment, professionalism and the politics of participation, Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 97(4): 772-785

(Im)Mobilisation and Hegemony: ‘Hill Tribe’ Subjects and the ‘Thai’ State

Katharine McKinnon

The first paper published during my PhD studies, this article explores how the movement to obtain citizenship rights for highland minorities in Thailand is carefully engaging with dominant discourses of ‘Thai-ness’ in ways that open up the incompleteness of Thai state hegemony.

McKinnon, K. (2005) “(Im)Mobilisation and Hegemony: ‘Hill Tribe’ Subjects and the ‘Thai’ State”, The Journal of Social and Cultural Geography, 6 (1): 31-46

An orthodoxy of ‘the local’: post-colonialism, participation and professionalism in northern Thailand

Katharine McKinnon

The emergence of a participatory orthodoxy in the development industry has had enormous positive impact, however discourses of participation are also being used in surprisingly political ways. This paper explores how a ‘pro-local’ discourse amongst development professionals in northern Thailand is being deployed in ways that undermine the goals of empowerment and emancipation that are central to the aims of participatory approaches.

McKinnon, K. (2006) “An orthodoxy of ‘the local’: post-colonialism, participation and professionalism in northern Thailand”, The Geographical Journal, 172 (1): 22-34

Politics and professionalism in community development: examining intervention in the highlands of northern Thailand

Katharine McKinnon

This paper offers a synopsis of the key findings of my PhD Thesis which explored the politics of development practice and theories of postdevelopment. Drawing on a series of case studies from northern Thailand, I argue that development is always political, whether it is being shaped by a politics of emancipation or the international geopolitical concerns of the day. Thus what is required in development practice is a much more aware engagement with the political dynamics at play.

McKinnon, K. (2005) “Politics and professionalism in community development: examining intervention in the highlands of northern Thailand” Centre for Indigenous Governance and Development Working Paper Series, December.