Reverend Martin Gainsborough

Reverend Martin Gainsborough

Reverend Martin Gainsborough
Professor of Development Politics

Room G.01, 3 Priory Road,
11 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol
(See a map)

Telephone Number (0117) 331 0851

School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Personal profile

British Academy Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Warwick, 2001-03. Lecturer in South East Asian Politics at SOAS, University of London, 2003-04. Lecturer at Bristol, 2004-08. Reader at Bristol, 2008-12. Professor since 2012. Ordained priest in the Church of England in 2010.  Member of the General Synod of the Church of England since 2015.  Canon Theologian Bristol Cathedral since 2016.


I have research interests in political theology, environmental and development politics.  I have country expertise on Vietnam.  I am particularly interested in  in bringing theological perspectives to bear in thinking about the problems of politics and development. 

I did graduate study at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, specialising on South East Asia.  In time, this took me to Vietnam which formed the basis of my PhD, was central to my early career, and led to my first book on that country (Changing Political Economy of Vietnam:  The Case of Ho Chi Minh City, Routledge, 2001).  The book, which debunks many of the myths surrounding what constitutes ‘reform’ in that setting, was republished in paperback in 2015 and has become something of a classic.

After my PhD I continued to conduct field work on Vietnam, publishing in areas such as local politics, corruption, state enterprise reform, the politics of aid, and political change.  I also worked as a consultant to international business and the donor aid community, including a secondment at the United Nations Development Programme in Hanoi in 2005-06.  This work laid the foundation for my second book on Vietnam (Vietnam:  Rethinking the State, Zed Books, 2010).

Since this book was published, I have broadened my research interests beyond an exclusive Vietnam focus.  This in part reflects my changed circumstances and the emergence of my theological interests.   I now combine my academic work with the post of Canon Theologian at Bristol Cathedral where I am responsible for its social justice work.  Prior to this, I spent six years as curate and then priest-in-charge of an inner city parish.  This was hugely influential in recasting my research interests not least in broadening my thinking about development to take in issues of poverty and marginality in the global north. 

I am presently working on projects relating to Vietnam politics, environmental politics, and political theology.


My teaching is closely related to my research.

In 2016/17 I am teaching Development Studies (POLI21213) and Faith and Development (POLIM0003)

I welcome applications from research students and post-docs who wish to work on projects in the field of environmental and development politics, theology and politics, or indeed any area which impinges on my research interests as set out above.

Key publications

  1. Gainsborough, J, 2010, ‘Vietnam: Rethinking the State’. Zed Books and Silkworm Books
  2. Gainsborough, JM, 2013, ‘The Future of Autocracies in South East Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos’. in: Larry Diamond, Mark F Plattner, Yun-Han Chu (eds) Democracy in East Asia: Prospects for the Twenty-First Century. Johns Hopkins University Press
  3. Gainsborough, J, 2003, ‘Changing Political Economy of Vietnam: The Case of Ho Chi Minh City’. Routledge Curzon

Latest publications

  1. Gainsborough, M, 2018, ‘Transitioning to a Green Economy? Conflicting Visions, Critical Opportunities and New Ways Forward’. Development and Change, vol 49., pp. 223-237
  2. Gainsborough, M, 2018, ‘Malesky vs Fforde: How Best to Analyze Vietnamese Politics?’. Journal of Vietnamese Studies, vol 13., pp. 1-26
  3. Gainsborough, M, 2018, ‘The Myth of a Centralised Socialist State in Vietnam: What Kind of a Myth?’. Journal of Current Southeast Asian affairs, vol 36., pp. 119-143
  4. Gainsborough, M, 2017, ‘Priest in the Inner City: Subjecting the Ecclesiology of John Milbank and Rowan Williams to Empirical Scrutiny’. Ecclesiology, vol 13., pp. 11-31
  5. Gainsborough, M, 2016, ‘Understanding the Political Realm’. in: Paul Cloke, Mike Pears (eds) Mission in Marginal Places: The Praxis. Paternoster Press, Milton Keynes, pp. 78-97
  6. Gainsborough, J, 2012, ‘Elites Vs. Reform in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam’. Journal of Democracy, vol 23., pp. 34 - 46
  7. Gainsborough, JM, 2012, ‘Debating Flinders’. Contemporary Politics, vol 18., pp. 24-26

Full publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

Edit this profile If you are Reverend Martin Gainsborough, you can edit this page. Login required.