Robtel Neajai Pailey is Assistant Professor in International Social and Public Policy. Having joined the LSE Department of Social Policy in September 2020, she contributes to a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including convening the undergraduate module Development and Social Change, and serves as coordinator of the Department’s Race Matters Initiative (RMI).
A Liberian scholar-activist working at the intersection of Critical Development Studies, Critical African Studies and Critical Race Studies, Robtel centres her research on how structural transformation is conceived and contested by local, national and transnational actors from ‘crisis’-affected regions of the so-called ‘Global South’. Her current book project, Africa’s ‘Negro’ Republics, examines how slavery, colonialism and neoliberalism in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, respectively, have shaped the adoption and maintenance of clauses barring non-blacks from obtaining citizenship in Liberia and Sierra Leone. She has conducted multi-sited fieldwork across four continents, including in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Denmark, Ghana, India, Lebanon, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, the United Kingdom and United States.
Robtel is author of the monograph Development, (Dual) Citizenship and Its Discontents in Africa: The Political Economy of Belonging to Liberia (Cambridge University Press, 2021), which won both the 2022 African Politics Conference Group (APCG) Best Book Award and the 2023 African Studies Association of Africa (ASAA) Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award for Excellence in African Writing as well as contributed to the passage of Liberia’s dual citizenship law. Her work has also been published in academic journals such as Development and Change, Third World Quarterly, Democratization, African Affairs, Migration Studies, Citizenship Studies, and Review of African Political Economy, amongst others.
Previously a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Oxford and an Ibrahim Leadership Fellow at the African Development Bank Group, Robtel completed her doctorate in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, in 2014.