He previously taught political economy and how to rebuild countries after wars at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and international development policy at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. He has consulted for the World Bank, was Assistant Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme in East Timor, and Advisor to Cambodia’s first private equity fund Leopard Capital.
A TED Fellow, Fulbright Specialist, Delphi Fellow of BigThink, Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, and Fellow of Salzburg Global Seminar, he is a Trustee of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Partners for Development, and on the Board of Directors of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center and Southeast Asia Development Program.
Dr. Ear is Vice-Chair of Diagnostic Microbiology Development Program, a non-profit that builds laboratory capacity in the developing world. He advises the Faculty of Development Studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and serves on the Boards of the Journal of International Relations and Development (Palgrave), the International Public Management Journal (Taylor & Francis), Journal of South-East Asian American Education & Advancement (University of Texas), and Politics and the Life Sciences (Allen Press).
He is the author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2013, http://amzn.to/UXhoWc) and co-author of The Hungry Dragon: How China’s Resources Quest is Reshaping the World (Routledge, 2013, http://amzn.to/WkxCEf).
He wrote and narrated the award-winning documentary film “The End/Beginning: Cambodia” (47 minutes, 2011, news blurb http://youtu.be/QwsSDPRI25E) based on his 2009 TED Talk (http://on.ted.com/skNE) and has appeared in several other documentaries.
A graduate of Princeton and Berkeley, he moved to the United States from France as a Cambodian refugee at the age of 10.
I earned my Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2006, and spent the academic year 2006-07 as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. I also have three master’s degrees: a Master of Science in Agricultural and Resource Economics, a Master of Arts in Political Science (both from UC Berkeley) and a Master in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. My Bachelor of Arts degree, also from UC Berkeley, was in Economics and Political Science.
Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 23 October 2012.
Reviewed in Asia Times Online, Huffington Post, Asia Unbound (Council on Foreign Relations), International Public Management Review, Cambodia (Asian Human Rights Commission), Contemporary Southeast Asia, Governance: A Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, Asian Affairs, the Journal of Southeast Asian Economies (formerly ASEAN Economic Bulletin), The Diplomat, New Mandala Review LXII, Pacific Affairs, and Small Wars Journal.
Using cross-national statistical evidence and his immense knowledge of Cambodian society, Sophal Ear has produced an important book on the perverse effects of development aid on governance. If this could be the starting point from which future discussions began, there would be a much greater chance of outsiders truly helping poor countries to develop.
–James Robinson, Harvard University
Sophal Ear’s Aid Dependence in Cambodia is both passionate and level-headed. Inspired by his family’s history and based on extensive field interviews and careful case studies, it offers a sustained criticism of how aid policies have contributed to dependence and helped undermine fragile democracies. There are valuable lessons here for all countries attempting to build peace and development with international assistance.
–Michael Doyle, Columbia University
Khmer Rouge survivor Sophal Ear is uniquely qualified to address the issue of aid and dependence in developing countries. Much more than academic criticism, Aid Dependence in Cambodia also charts a path for Cambodian reform. Although it is highly unlikely, Cambodian leaders would be wise to heed Ear’s advice.
Peter Maguire, author of Facing Death in Cambodia
…offers valuable lessons not just for policy-makers working on Cambodia but also for other countries emerging from conflict or upheaval.
Sebastian Strangio, Asia Times
Sophal Ear’s work stands out for its social science rigour, its cohesion, as well as its probing quality, offering a new standard of scholarship on aid dependence not only applicable to the Cambodia case but easily replicable around the developing world.
Geoffrey C. Gunn, Asian Affairs
An important and timely contribution to the field. It raises awareness around Cambodia, and sheds light on what is otherwise widespread apathy and complacency.
Peter Tan Keo, The Diplomat
[Ear's] concise study provides valuable insights into the role of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in promoting governance in post-conflict societies.
D. Gordon Longmuir, Pacific Afairs
A refreshing and badly needed effort at teasing out the relationship between governance and aid.
Sophie Richardson, author of China, Cambodia, and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence
‘The hungry dragon provides an outstanding vision of China’s quest to engross oil and other natural resources … this book is a must read.’- Dr Marco A. Palma, Associate Professor and Extension Economist, Texas A&M University
Burgos and Ear, already authorities on China’s appetite for resources across the world in journals … have written a book of incredible scope and breadth.’ – Wei Liang, Monterey Institute of International Studies and co-editor, China and Global Trade Governance: China’s Ten-Year Experience in the World Trade Organization
‘The authors write with fluid style and frame the key elements that pertain to this seminally important issue that applies to everyone.’ – Jack Odle, Distinguished Professor, North Carolina State University
‘A very useful corrective to simplistic alarmism, this volume deserves a wide readership among both development and international relations scholars and policy makers.’ – Simon Dalby, CIGI chair in the Political Economy of Climate Change, Balsillie School of International Affairs
‘… a complete research on the China’s economy for the interest of the international community … The research of Burgos Cáceres and Sophal Ear is easily accessible to a general audience interested in understanding how China became a global power in our century, but also provides enough data to orient any study on the topic for academic specialists and policy practitioners.’ -Albeiro Rodas, International Public Management Review
‘With its hard realist no-nonsense subtext on China’s voracious appetite for finite resources matched by genuine concerns over potential for conflict and alarming environmental trends, the authors have produced a compelling, if fact-packed, text that should seek a wider audience.’ – Geoffrey C. Gunn, Asian Affairs
I'd really love to hear from you so why not drop me an email?
I will talk with reporters about my academic areas of interest — namely, Comparative politics and political economy of development; Southeast Asia; Post-conflict reconstruction (particularly Cambodia); Aid effectiveness and governance. A segment I did in April 2006 for Australia Television is available here and a very brief cameo for a KION-46 piece for Theology on Tap is here. I am quoted and have written for a number of news outlets, including Asia Times Online, the Cambodia Daily, the Daily Journal, the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, the Pacific News Service, the Phnom Penh Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Washington Times.
The best way to get an appointment is by email.
Please email me a list of the subjects you are interested in before the interview, preferably in the form of specific questions. You aren’t limited to those questions, but I like to have an idea of what you are interested in.
As a condition for any interview, I require a reasonable opportunity to check your post-edit piece for factual errors before publication. You can satisfy this requirement either by giving me the piece or by reading to me all quotes and relevant descriptions or paraphrases.
Research Assistants and Coauthors
I am searching for volunteer research assistants to work on current projects – the tradeoff between democracy and security in post-conflict countries (Cambodia, East Timor, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq). Most of your time will be spent answering questions by writing memoranda and reading and commenting on my work or the work of other RAs.
It should be clear that you do RA work to learn something, and hopefully to lead to a strong letter of recommendation.
If you are interested in doing this, you should email me a resume and a description of your interests.
I am very inclined to coauthor pieces with people who take up this invitation and who do good work. In past years, we have placed articles in Asian Development Review (Asian Development Bank), Asian Survey(University of California Press), Development and Change (Institute of International Studies, The Hague), World’s Poultry Science Journal (Cambridge University Press), in World Fascism: A Historical Encyclopedia(ABC Clio, 2006), and World History Encyclopedia (ABC Clio, forthcoming).