Dr Kearrin Sims is a critical development scholar, with training in International Relations and Sociology. 

Kearrin’s primary interest is how power and politics shape people’s lives. He is concerned by the ways in which so-called “development” processes often serve elites and further disadvantage the vulnerable and impoverished. Accordingly, his research combines political economy analysis with critical discourse analysis and a range of qualitative methods to interrogate the uneven effects of efforts to bring about good change, as well as to learn from the lived experiences of the underprivileged.

Kearrin has oriented his academic career toward the pursuit of social justice. Valuing coalition-building and public dialogue, he has sought to maintain a diverse academic profile that has included research, programme evaluation and policy inputs, service to his field(s), academic and non-academic publishing, teaching, and curriculum design. His research focus has centred around three core themes.


1.     Development geopolitics and Asian regionalism

Research under this theme has examined the relationships between multi-scalar transnational connectivity efforts, shifting regional development priorities, new development financing (particularly from China), material infrastructure expansion, and the geopolitics surrounding development’s entanglements. Empirically, this research has centred on Laos and the wider Greater Mekong Subregion, including the China-Indochina Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Corridor. A guiding question of this theme has been the ways in which the intensification of Asian regionalism and associated, uneven, geographies of global capitalism are presenting novel challenges/opportunities for equitable and inclusive development.Seeking to draw out locally-grounded aspirations and understandings, this research has also sought tocritically interrogate the persistent privileging of western-centric theorising within Development Studies.

2.     Technopolitics and Econocentrism

This research grapples with  top-down, apolitical, technocratic and econocentric development interventions. Such heavily-critiqued, yet enduring, approaches to development ignore place-based knowledge and frequently harm the already impoverished and disadvantaged. Drawing on more than a decade of fieldwork in Mainland Southeast Asia, research under this theme seeks to engage directly with communities that have been ill-affected by “development” in order to examine hidden power dynamics, knowledge-power relations, and to give voice to the voiceless.

Overlapping with Theme 1, this empirically diverse research has included analysis of casino economies and special economic zones, airport infrastructures, built environments and heritage zones, as well as state incorporation of ethnic minorities, forced resettlement, political oppression, subaltern resistance and enforced disappearance. Of relevance to Theme 3 (below), this research has also emphasised the importance of community knowledge systems and cultural sensitivities to equitable development, as well as how development discourses are invoked to legitimise the expansion of state and elite power.

3.     Practice-Oriented Alternatives

This research stream represents my primary efforts to translate complex academic concepts and research findings into knowledge forms that are of relevance to policy and practice. Engaging with end-users, this research has a strong applied focus, including monitoring and evaluation, participatory partnerships, and knowledge co-production. Previous and ongoing research partners include local government, non-profit organisations, and the private sector. Key thematic areas of previous and current projects include community leadership and cross-cultural dialogue, arts-based practices and road safety, wellbeing services for cancer patients, and (international) service learning. In addition to end-user partnerships, research and engagement activities under this theme have also sought to promote innovative pedagogies for Development Studies.


Kearrin welcomes applications from prospective PhD candidates interested in any of the above research themes. He is currently seeking candidates with an interest in international service learning and community-based service learning, as well as in tourism and development.

Kearrin also welcomes applications to the two Master’s programs that he convenes: JCU's Master of Global Development (MGD) and Master of Public Health-Master of Global Development (MPH-MGD).


  • SC5900: Special Topic (Level 5; CNS)
  • SC5901: Special Topic 1 (Level 5; CNS)
  • SC5902: Special Topic 2 (Level 5; CNS)
  • SC5903: Literature Review (Level 5; CNS)
  • SC5909: Minor Project and Seminar (Level 5; CNS)
  • 2019 to 2022 - Review Editor, Asian Studies Review
  • 2019 to 2022 - (Interim President), Vice President, ECR Committee Member, Development Studies Association of Australia (Australia)
  • 2018 to 2022 - Chair, JCU Sustainable Development Working Group, JCU (Australia)
  • 2017 to 2022 - Research Fellow, Cairns Institute (James Cook University)
  • 2020 to 2021 - Executive Committee Member, Research for Development Impact (RDI) Network (Australia)
  • 2020 - Vice-Chancellor OneJCU Committee, JCU (Australia)
  • 2017 to 2020 - Treasurer, Association of Mainland Southeast Asia Scholars (AMSEAS) (Australia)
  • 2016 to 2017 - Adjunct Fellow, Humanitarian and Development Relief Initiative (HADRI), School of Social Sciences and Psychology (Western Sydney University)
  • 2015 to 2017 - Research Associate, Institute for Culture and Society (Western Sydney University)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2017 - Pacific Affairs 2017 William L. Holland Prize. Article: "Gambling on the Future: Casino Enclaves, Development, and Poverty Alleviation in Laos"
  • 2015 - Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography Shortlist - Best Graduate Student Paper - "The Asian Development Bank and the production of poverty: Neoliberalism, technocratic modernization and land dispossession in the Greater Mekong Subregion"
  • 2017 - Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Affiliate Member Representative for JCU
  • 2015 - Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA)

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 51+ research outputs authored by Dr Kearrin Sims from 2011 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

JUTE Theatre Company - Contract Research

Monitoring and Evaluation for JUTE Theatre Company Transport Main Roads Dare 2 Dream Project.

Indicative Funding
$120,000 over 4 years
The purpose of this research is to conduct monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) for JUTE Theatre Company?s `Remote Road Safety Road Show?. The research will be used to improve future project delivery by JUTE Theatre Company, and to produce scholarly outputs.
Kearrin Sims (College of Arts and Society & Education)
Monitoring and Evaluation; Regional Development; Theatre for Development; Northern Australia; Indigenous Futures; Arts-based methods

JUTE Theatre Company - Contract Research

JUTE Theatre Company Build Back Better Monitoring and Evaluation.

Indicative Funding
$10,000 over 2 years
The research will undertake monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of JUTE Theatre Company's Build Back Better project, deploying the Most Significant Change (MSC) Methodology, and using interviewing, surveys and focus group workshops as its primary methods. This contract research will seek to improve program delivery for the end user, demonstrate project impact, and produce scholarly outputs.
Kearrin Sims (College of Arts and Society & Education)
Theatre; Regional Economies; Impact Assessment; Creative Arts; Monitoring And Evaluation

Cairns Organisation United for Cancer Health - Contract Research

COUCH Accommodation ? Needs Analysis and Feasibility Study.

Indicative Funding
This research project is primarily an independent needs analysis and market demand study which will provide data and evidence in relation to the planned Remote Patient and Carer Accommodation. The research results will form the evidence base and recommend the best possible land use for a currently vacant building site next to the COUCH Wellness Centre in Cairns, Australia.
Kearrin Sims and Bianca De Loryn (College of Arts and Society & Education)
remote patient accommodation; Palliative Care; healthcare management; cancer support services; Oncology / cancer care; cancer care facility

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • ReStorying: Place (in)Vested Governance (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Building Peace in A Complex Heterogeneous State: A Study of South Sudan’s Conflict Complexities, Peacebuilding Opportunities and Adaptive Practices (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Children’s Conceptions of Hope for our Future World (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Global Governance in the era of COVID-19: Application of regime theory in the comparative study of the global response to SARS in 2003 and COVID-19 in 2020 (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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  • D3.130, The Cairns Institute (Cairns campus)
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