The modernisation narrative was always a myth, an illusion, often even a lie. We should all learn to do without it.


                                                 - James Ferguson (1999: 253)


Dr Kearrin Sims is a critical development scholar trained in sociology and international relations.

Kearrin’s diverse research interests are built around three central themes.

1. Kearrin is advancing our understanding of how Chinese development cooperation is changing lives and reshaping geopolitics in Mainland Southeast Asia. By listening to the different development aspirations of governments, businesses, non-profit organisations and localised residents, Kearrin offers new insights on how China’s growing global social, political and economic significance is reworking the livelihoods and wellbeing of impoverished communities.

2. Kearrin is expanding knowledge on urban inclusion and sustainability. By studying the politics of urban development and design within the global South, Kearrin seeks to advance the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 11 ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’, and UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda to foster ‘Cities for All’. Kearrin is Chair of JCU's Sustainable Development Working Group and a member of JCU's Tropical Urban Design Lab.


3. Kearrin is exploring new ways of thinking about development studies pedagogy and global citizenship education. At a time when the global development sector is undergoing profound change, Kearrin’s research looks for improved methods of teaching and learning in the field of development. His work in this domain includes a focus on both tertiary and secondary education, as well as industry partnerships with service-based learning organisations.

Kearrin’s approach to academia is centered on finding creative and collaborative mechanisms for bringing together teaching, research and community engagement activities. He has taught at multiple universities and has served in a number of volunteering positions for non-profit organisations both in Australia and abroad. To date, much of Kearrin’s research and community outreach has been focused within Southeast Asia. In particular, he has had a strong interest in transnational connectivity programs and the geopolitics of development in Laos.

By approaching the field of development as a highly politicised arena of resource struggles and competing value-systems that are entered from different positions of power, Kearrin has sought to uncover how processes of social and economic power redistribution might lead to greater representation and accountability for the poor.


In 2015 Kearrin was shortlisted for best graduate student paper in the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography.

In 2017 Kearrin was awarded the Willam L. Holland prize for best paper in Pacific Affairs 


Kearrin welcomes applications from prospective PhD candidates interested in each of the above three themes.

Kearrin is currently a Member of the Development Studies Association of Australia Executive Committee and Treasurer of the Association of Mainland Southeast Asia Scholars.




Kearrin is the program convenor of James Cook University's (JCU) Master of Global Development.