Kate Bedford

Colleges, School and Institutes


I am an interdisciplinary scholar with a background in political economy, development, socio-legal studies, and gender/sexuality studies. I joined Birmingham Law School as a Professor in 2018. I am currently the Head of Research. Yes, I really do research bingo (among other things), and yes, they did know that when they gave me a job.

My main area of expertise is international development. My first book (Developing Partnerships: Gender, Sexuality and the Reformed World Bank, 2009) explored the World Bank’s gender and development lending in Latin America, with case studies of Ecuador and Argentina. More recently, I have been researching the consequences of the turn to law within gender and development. My development research has been funded by the Ford Foundation, Overbrook Foundation, UNRISD, and the RCUK.

I am also interested in gambling, and what it can teach us about law and political economy. In 2008, I began a project on the gendered political economy of gambling regulation, using commercial and non-commercial bingo to think in new ways about the regulation of everyday speculation. Funded by a large ESRC grant (ES/J02385X/1, A Full House: Developing A New Socio-Legal Theory of Global Gambling Regulation), I and a team of researchers explored bingo regulation around the world. My second book, Bingo Capitalism: The Law and Political  Economy of Everyday Gambling, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. It was awarded the 2020 Hart-SLSA book prize.

Research interests

My research focuses on how law, regulation, and governance shape economies, societies, and subjectivities, especially in terms of gender and sexuality.

In 2009 I published a book exploring the impact of the World Bank’s development lending on gender and sexuality, with case studies of Ecuador and Argentina. Rather than exploring areas of lending that were already marked as being about sex, such as HIV/AIDS or reproductive health, I analysed lending that seemed to be about other things, such as export promotion in floriculture, or institutional strengthening in the aftermath of economic crisis. The book showed how multi-lateral development institutions like the Bank played a key role in shaping gender and sexuality in the Global South. It called for much greater debate about this on the part of academics and development practitioners. As a result of this work, I was invited by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development to write a report on care debates in the UN, which looked at sexuality and disability. In 2014, in the aftermath of World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s critique of Uganda for passing anti-gay legislation, I was invited to the Bank to give a presentation on sexuality and development. My research has also been used by Sexuality Policy Watch, a global sexual rights organisation, and by the gender team in the Bretton Woods Project, an organisation that monitors the Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Another strand of my research considers the gendered political economy of gambling regulation. Critical political economists have long used gambling to think through capitalism, but they tend to do so via analogies with casinos. I am interested in other, differently gendered, more vernacular gambling forms. I am especially interested in bingo, a lottery-style game popular in many parts of the world about which there is almost no academic research, and certainly not in law. Bingo has a very different demographic to casinos, being especially popular with older, working class women, and, in North America and Australia, with indigenous populations. In addition, bingo is intriguing because it is associated with mutual aid and charitable fundraising as much as, if not more than, commercial gambling in many places. I wanted to know what impact that mix had on regulatory priorities in different places, and what that in turn could teach us about the political economy of gambling regulation. After some pilot projects in England and Canada, in 2013 I was awarded a large ESRC grant to research the comparative regulation of bingo. The research team have generated a number of academic and non-academic outputs, including a public debate about bingo regulation in the UK, and major policy report exploring Brazil, the UK, the EU, and Canada (https://www.kent.ac.uk/thebingoproject/). I have also submitted evidence from the research to the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, as part of their policy work on responsible gambling and online gambling. My academic monograph on what bingo can teach us about regulating capitalism won the 2020 Hart-SLSA book prize.

My current research is on the increasing role played by law within debates about gender, sexuality, and development. For example, I have analysed what early debates about gender and development said about law, in an effort to re-write our histories of law and development. Working with academics in Ecuador, I have explored the role of criminal law within Ecuadorian attempts to combat domestic violence.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I am happy to read PhD proposals in the following areas:
• Law and development (especially in Latin America)
• Law and political economy
• Gender, sexuality, and law
• Gambling regulation