Award for Maria-Theres Schuler

Maria-Theres Schuler awarded prize for excellent and practice-relevant development research

Die Verleihung des Nachwuchspreises am 13. Juni 2019. Foto: KfW Bankengruppe/ Thorsten Futh.

Prize award ceremony for excellent and practice-relevant development research on June 13th 2019. Maria-Theres Schuler third from left. Photo: KfW Development Bank / Thorsten Futh.


On the occasion of this year's award ceremony for the Prize for Excellence in Applied Development Research, which is awarded jointly by the Research Group on Development Economics of the Verein für Socialpolitik and the KfW Development Bank, Maria-Theres Schuler, who received her doctorate in 2019 from ISEK-Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Zurich, was awarded the EUR 3,000 prize for her dissertation, Disability and Logics of Distribution in a Ugandan Refugee Settlement.

As part of the r4d research project Disability and Technology in Uganda from Local and Global Perspectives, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and a doc.mobility fellowship, Maria-Theres Schuler conducted her doctoral study in collaboration with other young researchers from the Disability and Technology research group on the situation of people with disabilities in refugee camps in Uganda. In her dissertation, Maria-Theres Schuler deals specifically with the logics and mechanisms of aid distribution, developing her own application-oriented anthropological approach. Her research scrutinizes the complex structure of various local institutions and NGOs distributing relief goods according to their own specifications, and critically examines the background as well as the unintended consequences of paradigm shifts in their assistance. By relating their humanitarian logic to the socio-economically grounded understanding of distribution and the expectations of those affected, as well as by embedding its effects in everyday realities, she deconstructs widespread assumptions about the situation and position of people with disabilities in a refugee camp. Drawing on a relational social-theoretical approach that combines ideas of personhood with the exchange of material goods and care, she makes a meaningful and timely contribution to the critical discussion of humanitarian and development aid.

Based on long-term field research on site using sensitive and reflective research methods, her work resulted in an extremely interesting, touching and pioneering dissertation, which received the highest grade at all levels. Maria-Theres Schuler's vision for improving conditions to enable people to lead a self-determined life in the global South – in the case of her dissertation project, people with disabilities in a refugee camp in Uganda – which she measures precisely by local opportunities as well as her protagonists’ potential, convinced the prize committee of her ability to research and to provide practical recommendations for change.

The prize for excellent and practice-relevant development research promotes the dialogue between science and practice, and honours work which is at an excellent scientific level, but also has a pronounced practical relevance. The prize was awarded on June 13th at the Annual Meeting of the Research Group on Development Economics of the Verein für Socialpolitik in Berlin.