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Centre of African Studies: People


Wolfgang Zeller

Wolfgang Zeller
Dr Wolfgang Zeller
Senior Research Fellow - African Governance and Space project (AFRIGOS)
4.04 18 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK EH8 9LN
+44 (0)131 651 3134
Research Interests
Political anthropology, political geography, African borderlands, secessionism, border towns, Policing, vigilantism, smuggling, transport corridors, Mineral extraction, Namibia, Zambia, Lozi kingdom, Uganda, port cities, 'traditional' authority, Roads and infrastructure

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • by appointment


BA (Hons) Geography (University of Münster); MSc Geography (University of Helsinki); PhD Development Studies (University of Helsinki)


After completing my BA degree in Geography at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster I left my native Germany in 1994 on a one-year ERASMUS scholarship at the geography department of the University of Helsinki, Finland. I wrote my MSc dissertation on traditional authority and resource management in Namibia’s Caprivi Region in 1999. In 1999/2000 I worked at the Embassy of Finland in Windhoek as a research trainee. In 2006 I was a guest PhD researcher at Roskilde University’s Department for International Development Studies.

In 2007 I was a founding member of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE). Since 2009 I have served as the network's coordinator, administering a 5-year grant by the European Science Foundation (ESF) until 2014. I received my PhD in Development Studies from the University of Helsinki in 2015. My doctoral dissertation was a comparative study of state- and boundary making in the Namibia/Zambia and Uganda/South Sudan borderlands. My long-term research interests are the interface between formal and informal regulation of the movement of goods and people across state boundaries and along transport corridors in Africa.

Since January 2016 am working as Senior Research Fellow on the African Governance and Space project (AFRIGOS), studying transport corridors, border towns and port cities in southern Africa (Namibia, Zambia and DRC) and West Africa (Ghana and Burkina Faso).  

I am an editor of the Journal of Critical African Studies and a series editor of the ABORNE-Palgrave Series in African Borderlands Studies.

As part of my work for ABORNE I have ongoing collaboration with the African Union Border Programe (AUBP), the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Support for the AUBP, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).


I have developed and taught on-campus and distance learning postgraduate courses on Development & Security in Africa, Governing Mineral Extraction in Africa, African Borderlands, Africa in International Politics, International Development, Research Methods in Africa and Colonial Legacies in Post-colonial Africa at the Universities of Helsinki and Edinburgh.


Zeller, Wolfgang and Henning Melber (2018): United in Separation? Lozi Secessionism in Namibia and Zambia, In Lotje de Vries; Pierre Englebert; Mareike Schomerus and (eds), Secessionism in African Politics: Aspiration, Grievance, Performance, Disenchantment. 293-328. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2015): What Makes Borders Real - In the Namibia-Zambia and Uganda-South Sudan Borderlands. Helsinki: Unigrafia.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2013): Editorial - Special Issue: African Borderlands. Journal of Critical African Studies 5(1). 1-4. 

Zeller, Wolfgang (2013): Get It While You Can – Governance Between Wars in the Uganda-South Sudan Borderland, In Benedikt Korf and Timothy Raeymaekers (eds.), Violence on the Margins. States, Conflict, and Borderlands. 193-218. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2012): Sezession am Sambesi. Afrika Süd 3/2012. 29-31.  

Zeller, Wolfgang (2012): Editorial – Special Issue: Mineral Extraction. Journal of Critical African Studies 4(7). 1-3.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2010): Neither Arbitrary nor Artificial: Lozi Chiefs and the Making of the Namibia-Zambia Borderland. Journal of Borderlands Studies 25(2). 6-21.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2010): "No tenemos tiempo para esa gente". Separatismo lozi y la politica de la Autoridad Tradicional en Zambia, In Jordi Tomas (ed), Secesionismo en Africa. 295-328. Barcelona: Edicions Bellaterra.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2010): Illicit Resource Flows in Sugango – Making War and Profit in the Border Triangle of Sudan, Uganda and Congo-DRC, In Henni Alava (ed), Exploring the Security-Development Nexus. Perspectives from Nepal, Northern Uganda and 'Sugango'. 111-130. Helsinki: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2009): Danger and Opportunity in Katima Mulilo: A Namibian Border Boomtown at Transnational Crossroads. Journal of Southern African Studies 35(1). 133-154.

Zeller, Wolfgang and Bennett Kangumu Kangumu (2007): ’Caprivi Under Old and New Indirect Rule: Falling off the Map or a 19th Century Dream Come True?’, In H. Melber (ed), Transitions in Namibia – Which Changes for Whom? 190-208. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2007): Chiefs, Policing and Vigilantes: “Cleaning Up” the Caprivi Borderland of Namibia. In L. Buur and H. M. Kyed (eds), State Recognition and Democratization in Sub-Saharan Africa: A New Dawn for Traditional Authorities? 79-104. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2007): ”Now we are a Town”: Chiefs, Investors, and the State in Zambia's Western Province. In L. Buur and H. M. Kyed (eds), State Recognition and Democratization in Sub-Saharan Africa: A New Dawn for Traditional Authorities? 209-231. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Zeller, Wolfgang (2000): Interests and socio-economic development in the Caprivi Region - from a historical perspective. Namibia Economic Policy Research Unit Occassional paper 19. Windhoek: NEPRU.

PhD Supervision

Dr. Penda DialloMineral Extraction and Politics in Guinea - completed October 2015

Mariama Khan: Transport, Trade and Religion in the Gambia-Senegal Borderland - completed November 2017

Ismaël Maazaz: Water and the Production of (Imagined) Public Spaces in N’Djamena - started September 2015 

Kristin Fedeler: Between Ruins and Revival: Impacts of Institutional Infrastructure on the Evolution of Tana-Beles Projects in Ethiopia, 1980s-Today. - started September 2016

Elisa Gambino: (Doctoral Researcher on the AFRIGOS project): Chinese Infrastructure Investment in East Africa and Africa's Role in the Belt and Road Initiative - started September 2017

Topics interested in supervising

Due to my contractual obligations on the AFRIGOS project I am not currently available to take on new PhD or MSc supervisees. For advise on other potentially suitable supervisors, please visit the web pages and (via the application link) contact the Directors of the relevant PhD programmes: