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Dr Nicholas Bernards

Contact details
Tel.: +44(0) 24765 28445
Room: R3.19 Ramphal Building

Office Hours:
Wednesdays 1-3pm, or by appointment


Prior to starting at Warwick in 2017, I held a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University, Canada, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I completed a PhD in International Relations at McMaster University in 2016.


My book, The Global Governance of Precarity (Routledge, 2018), examines the governance of irregular forms of labour in sub-Saharan Africa through a historical study of the activities of the International Labour Organization. I draw together analyses of ILO policy towards forced labour, unemployment, and social protection for irregular workers in sub-Saharan Africa from 1919-present. The project draws on archival research conducted primarily at ILO headquarters in Geneva, extensive documentary research, as well as interviews with key ILO staff across these issue areas in Geneva and at field offices in Pretoria and Dakar.

My current research is focused primarily on the ways in which labour and processes of production intersect with global financial markets. I am interested in highlighting and thinking about the multi-sided, complex, and highly varied intersections between financial markets, work, and precarious livelihoods. Empirically, this project currently involves research along two main tracks. The first is a historical examination of the ways in which the structures of credit and commodity markets have affected the organization of work in the mining sector in South Africa. The second is an examination of new forms of financial practices intended as tools for reducing poverty, especially psychometric credit scoring and microinsurance. I am interested in the ways in which these emergent forms of financial practice seek to manage the vulnerabilities implicit in informal or precarious livelihoods and render them into calculable forms of financial risk.


My teaching interests revolve around the role of the organization of work, financial markets, and governance in creating and alleviating relations of poverty and underdevelopment. I aim to encourage students to think critically about the ways in which politics and relations of power shape the prospects and challenges of global sustainable development.

In 2018-2019, I will be teaching a new Year Three optional module on 'Debt, Money, and Global Sustainable Development', and co-teaching the Year Three optional core module 'Worlds of Work: Global Perspectives on Labour and Livelihoods'.

Selected Publications


(2018) The Global Governance of Precarity: Primitive Accumulation and the Politics of Irregular Work, Routledge/RIPE Series in Global Political Economy.

Journal Articles:

(In Press) 'The Truncated Commercialization of Microinsurance and the Limits of Neoliberalism', Development and Change.

(2017) 'The Global Politics of Forced Labour', Globalizations 14 (6): 944-957.

(2017) 'The ILO and African Trade Unions: Tripartite Fantasies and Enduring Struggles', Review of African Political Economy 44 (153): 399-414.

(2017) 'The Global Governance of Informal Economies: The International Labour Organization in East Africa', Third World Quarterly 38 (8): 1831-1846.

(2016) 'The International Labour Organization and the Ambivalent Politics of Financial Inclusion in West Africa', New Political Economy 21 (6): 606-621.