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Reader in the Anthropology of Africa and Law, SOAS, University of London

I have undertaken development-related research in Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and Botswana. I have also conducted research on refugees in Ethiopia and on the UK refugee system.

Research for my doctorate was conducted in the town of Koforidua, Ghana in the mid-1970’s on aspects of the political economy of urban development. Immediately following the defense of my thesis I went to the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I taught in the sociology department for four years when I became involved in archival and policy-based research on the city of Dar es Salaam. After leaving Tanzania I worked for Oxfam-UK in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1987-88) where I was responsible for setting up a five-year slum-upgrading project that attempted to address issues of inadequate shelter, water, employment and sewage problems. I was also given the welcome task of assisting with Oxfam’s rural development projects. In 1990 I re-entered academic life in the Department of Anthropology at The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland where I began to write up material on Ethiopian development.

In 1991, I joined the University of Wales, Swansea as a lecturer in social anthropology where I taught and became increasingly engaged in development consultancy as a social development adviser. Some of the issues I was involved with included: participation in the World Bank Poverty Mission to Kenya (1994); undertaking a study of the NGO sector in Ethiopia (1996); involvement with several UK-DfID funded projects based in the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaborone, Botswana (1996-98); a review of Kenyan civil society (1998); evaluation of an NGO project in coastal Kenya (1999); and reviewing UK-DfID funding to Kenyan-based NGOs (1999).

I joined SOAS in 2001 and my interests focused on development and refugees. Between January 2007 and January 2009 I was away from SOAS undertaking research funded by an ESRC Grant (RES-062-23-0296) entitled "Refugees and the Law: An ethnography of the British Asylum System". This research sought to follow refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia who were seeking asylum in the UK. In April 2009 I convened a conference at SOAS to present research our findings and to look at how European states’ and the USA handle and assess asylum applications [the papers from this conference can be found at:].


  • –present
    Reader in the Anthropology of Africa and Law, SOAS, University of London


  • 1980 
    University of Sussex, UK, Phd Social Anthropology