Doctoral Research

Doctoral Research

The Oxford School of Global and Area Studies is proud to announce the launch of a new and distinctive DPhil in Area Studies to complement its existing world-renowned master’s programmes. Applications for our doctorate will be accepted from September 1st 2016, for entry in October 2017.

In addition to offering supervision to the new DPhil in Area Studies students, our academics also offer supervision across a number of disciplinary departments across the collegiate university. 
The University attracts a large number of doctoral students (currently over 150) working on topics relating to Africa across the disciplines, and many of them attend the research seminars, workshops, lectures and other events organized through the African Studies Centre. Prof Adebanwi, Prof Pratten, Prof Tendi and Prof Larmer all supervise doctoral students, and welcome enquiries from well-qualified prospective students. Many of our current doctoral students embark upon DPhil research having completed the MSc in African Studies.
At present there are a large number of doctoral students working on African themes across the university in various disciplines including:

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • International Development
  • Geography & the Environment
  • History
  • Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine
  • Politics
  • Social Policy and Social Work
  • Criminology

The following profiles are indicative of the exciting range of doctoral research being conducted on African topics at the University of Oxford, both past and present.


My research examines religion and popular culture in post-genocide Rwanda. In particular, I am interested in the rise of the new Pentecostal churches and the reconstruction of the local music industry after 1994, and how they act as spaces wherein alternative narratives about the country's past, present, and future can be articulated, often in indirect and/or allegorical ways.

I am studying the way in which hunter-gatherer identity changed from the mid-Holocene in the Tuli Block, eastern Botswana. Since coming into contact with farming communities in the beginning of the first millennium AD until the early second millennium AD, hunter-gatherer's cultural material changed and eventually disappeared altogether in the archaeological record. My research addresses the social, cultural and environmental changes that led to the reformation of a local hunter-gatherer community resulting in the breakdown of their traditional way of life.

I am completing my DPhil in Development Studies. My research is a qualitative study on HIV/AIDS treatments to displaced communities in Northern Uganda. It addresses the histories of HIV/AIDS responses in Northern Uganda, and its role in the current "success story"; forms of biosociality and stigma in displacement camps; and the challenges and vulnerabilities of the return process for those living with HIV and treatment problems.


I am focusing on informal settlement upgrading policies with a particular focus on the changing responsibilities of international organizations, binational aid organization, and national and local governments. My research focuses on South Africa in particular and economic development in Africa and Latin America more generally.

Emilie Bourgeat,
I am studying 'State violence and Punishment in Kenya (c. 1930-1978)'. Other interests include colonial history, gender-based violence, criminal justice systems, civil wars and post-conflict societies.

`Criminal Deviance, Madness and the Construction of a 'Healthy' Nation in South Africa (1970-1996)'

The development of national identity in early postcolonial Kenya and Tanzania.

Building and construction investment in Nigeria, 1960-2000.

My research explores the emergence of industrial labor in Ghana, with specific focus on the southwestern gold-mines, ca. 1880 to 1920. It questions to what extent the industrial capitalists came to rely on unfree labor (other than slavery) in their formative stages of development. It also questions to what degree industrial labor can be defined as a continuation of preexisting labor relations.

My thesis is entitled 'A History of Political Mobilisation in Zambia: Explaining the Rise and Rise of Michael Sata c.1962-2011'
Using the political life of Michael Sata, the newly-elected President of Zambia, alongside a series of other less successful Zambian political leaders, my project traces the evolution of political mobilisation in Zambia from 1962 to 2011 to shed new light on the continuities and changes in the strategies that African political leaders have employed to mobilise support in different times and contexts.

Michaela Collord

My research focuses on parliamentary politics in Uganda. I am particularly interested in examining the dynamics of legislative-executive relations with an eye to assessing the scope for parliamentary independence within Uganda's 'semi-authoritarian' regime. My research is an extension of my master's work, which drew on data gathered during several months spent working in the Uganda Parliament between 2011 and 2013. Additional interests include: transitions to a multiparty system, political parties, theory and practice of representative politics.

Research: To what extent does electoral exclusion (the banning of opposition candidates in elections) increase the risk of civil wars or coups d'état, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa? Case studies: Madagascar, Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia; likely future case studies: Tunisia, Ecuador.


My DPhil dissertation explores the spatial patterns of electoral fraud in Ghana and the correlates behind these patterns. It draws on participant observations, electoral petitions, and census data, and combines anthropological methods and discrete choice models. More generally, I am interested in strategies of electoral mobilisation, both legal and illegal.

My key research interests are: political parties and party systems, donor-recipient government relations, and artisanal and small-scale mining policy. My thesis is about studying opposition party formation and their development trajectories, focusing on parties' ideology, organisation, structure and mobilisation.

In my research, I look at power-sharing and coalition building in Somalia’s civil war.

Kate Brennan,
2010-2011: Visiting at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton; Doctoral dissertation: Social Accountability in World Bank grants for health care.

Erlend Groner

My thesis compares a British-led police reform in the 'failed' state of Sierra Leone from 1998-2007 with reforms of the Colonial Police towards the end of empire. There are striking similarities in representations of 'good policing' and strategies to build police across contexts of empire and formally equal sovereignty. However, police reform has now become entangled with a number of possibly conflicting strands of intervention in post-conflict countries; such as stabilization, transitional justice, and development. Through a detailed analysis building on archival research and interviews with actors from both periods I try to bring out the shifts in security logic that has brought police reform to the forefront of the global security agenda. Successive re-interpretations of what sovereignty means for states like Sierra Leone seem to have had profound implications on what kind of coercive capacity the dominant states seek to invest them with, and police reform is at the heart of such efforts. By taking a historical perspective I also try to show how state-building -- often represented as a Cold War phenomenon -- is constrained and facilitated in important ways by earlier colonial state-building.

Beth Vale

I am a DPhil candidate in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, co-supervised by Dr Lucie Cluver and Dr Jonny Steinberg. My doctoral research is an in-depth qualitative study, exploring the medication-taking practices of HIV-positive teenagers in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Through an exploration of the lifeworlds of adolescents living with HIV, the study will investigate how health services have sought to coerce and promote treatment adherence in teenagers and what modes of agency adolescents exercise through medication-taking or not. This will not only allow for a rich exploration of the complexities of teenage antiretroviral adherence, but also a critical evaluation of how HIV-care for youth is understood, received and appropriated.

Thesis title: Multiply deprived areas or multiply deprived individuals? A comparison of two approaches to measuring deprivation at the small area level in post-Apartheid South Africa

• The politics of oil and ethnicity in Nigeria
• The politics of the Goldenberg scandal, Kenya
• NGOs and politics in Ghana
• Forestry and forests in post-colonial Tanzania
• French policy and the politics of protest in Cote dIvoire
• HIV/AIDS in Uganda
• The history of taxation in Kenya and Zambia
• Civil conflict in Nigerias Middle Belt
• The African diaspora and religion in Amsterdam
• Women combatants in the Sierra Leone civil war
• Loyalists in Kenya during Mau Mau rebellion
• Ethnic politics and the Kalenjin, Kenya
• Horizontal inequalities and conflict in Niger
• Soviet and Eastern European Cold War politics in the Horn
• State resettlement policy in Apartheid South Africa
• The role of the ICC in eastern Africa and the Great Lakes
• African women and urbanization in Cape Town
• The history of indigenous medicine in Namibia
• Youth and authority in Kibera, Nairobi
• Post-conflict criminality and resources in Liberia
• The history of Okavango (Moremi) National Park in Botswana
• The politics of Pentecostalism in Nigeria
• Military livelihoods and the Ugandan army
• Aids orphans in Nyanza, Kenya
• The role of amnesty in South Africas TRC
• Gacaca and genocide in Rwanda
• Justice and post-conflict resolution in Liberia
• Historical memory and nationalist politics in Zimbabwe
• The drugs war in Nigeria
• Aid and the international politics of Musevenis Ugandan government
• Truth and reconciliation and witness protection in Sierra Leone
• Civil society and democratisation in Kenya
• The one-party state in Zambia and Kenya
• Congolese refugees in Uganda