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Centre of African Studies: Research


Research Themes

Politics, Law and Justice

This theme focuses on the legal regulation of social life, the politics of citizenship and belonging and the various modes of governing and transitional justice in sub-Saharan Africa. It addresses how the colonial and postcolonial experience, adapting to external influences, have shaped institutions, practices and imaginaries across Africa. It explores how assemblages of international and national organizations, businesses and other groups compete and collaborate in the exercise of sovereignty and power. It has a particular interest in identifying the impact of legal reforms on livelihoods, and the link to political marginalization due to a lack of mechanisms for redress and justice.

Security at the Margins

This theme focuses on different forms of economic, social and political security and insecurity, as experienced by those at the 'margins' of society. It identifies these multiple forms of marginality, as well as the strategies people use to counteract their marginalization. In furthering our understanding of the macro and micro-drivers of security, such research identifies links between insecurity and poverty, and, in turn, possible measures to reduce the risk and impact of different forms of violence that affect the poor and marginalized.

Economic Development and Change

This theme explores the drivers and implications of diverse processes of economic change in Africa. Given such change is shaped by complex interplay between local and global factors, this area examines how different actors, from the individual to the multinational company, navigate the terrain of the local, regional and global economy. In addition, it explores how the state and wider socioeconomic distributions of power affect the political economy of industrial policy. This theme ranges from the role of banking and finance, to agrarian change and the struggles of rural groups to negotiate the impact of extractive industries on existing land and resource governance.

Peace and Conflict

This theme explores the dynamics and dialectics of political conflict, as well as the triggers that turn such conflicts violent. Armed conflict is linked to persistent poverty and instability, meaning individuals are caught in cycles of economic and political marginalization. This area of research seeks to understand individuals' trajectories, including during armed conflict, but embraces a broader examination of insecurity and marginalization which disproportionately impact the poor. As such, it identifies measures to mitigate the impact of violence and conflict, to improve political settlements and the conditions for peacetime livelihoods and ultimately to break the poverty-conflict trap.

Science, Technology and Environment

This theme focuses on the role that science and technology play in driving development, but also the politics and practices of science, technology and research in everyday settings across Africa. It explores, for example, the politics of knowledge and research, leading to the neglect of some areas and the over-research of others. Its projects are attendant to the complex interplay between actors, policies, projects and the ecological environment that shapes behaviours and outcomes. It also, however, seeks to locate the individual within these dynamics, exploring how people draw on a range of knowledge and resources to prepare for their socio-economic futures.

Borders and Corridors

This theme focuses on all aspects of international borders and transboundary phenomena in Africa. Building on the pioneering work of ABORNE and CAS' borderlands expertise, this area of research traces borderland dynamics from the colonial period to the present. It explores how borders shape: conceptions of community and belonging; structures of local administration; land use; the movement of goods and people; and livelihoods. Recent work spotlights the 'respacing' of Africa, whereby continental integration facilitates the movement of people and goods but in a context of increased securitization, reconfiguring modes and nodes of governance and space.