School of Social and Political Science

Deborah Bryceson

Job Title

Professorial Fellow

Deborah Bryceson's photo
Mobile telephone number
+44 (0) 1865 292801

Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square


Academic discipline and position

  • Geography
  • Development Sociology
  • Political Economy & African Studies

Academic profiles

Biographical background

Deborah Fahy Bryceson is a graduate of the University of Dar es Salaam (B.A. and M.A. degrees) in geography and a D.Phil degree in sociology from the University of Oxford.

She has held academic positions at the University of Dar es Salaam, the Architectural Association in London, the Afrika-Studiecentrum at the Universities of Leiden, Birmingham and Glasgow as well as research associateships with the Universities of Oxford, Copenhagen and Uppsala.

Her research consultancy work spans various United Nations agencies including the International Labour Office, FAO, UNCTAD, UNRISD, UNICEF, UN Women, United Nations University and the World Bank.

Researching African sectoral change, she pioneered the concepts of ‘de-agrarianization’ and ‘mineralized urban growth’. More generally she has gained widespread recognition for originating the concept of the ‘transnational family’.

Areas of Specialization

  • Labour, livelihoods, occupational change, work cultures,
  • Migration, artisanal mining, rural settlement patterns,
  • Deagrarianization, agrarian change, food marketing, food insecurity,
  • Mobility, inter-modal travel, rural household transport
  • Urban economic growth, social dynamics, creole societies,
  • Age and gender differentiation, women's employment patterns,
  • Transnational families, changing nature of the family


Books and special issues

Transnational Families in Global Migration: Navigating Economic Development and Family Life Cycles across Blurred and Brittle Borders. (ed.) 2019. Special Issue of Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45(16).

Mining and Social Transformation in Africa: Tracing Mineralizing and Democratizing Trends in Artisanal Production. 2014. London: Routledge Development Studies series (edited with Jesper Bosse Jønsson, Eleanor Fisher and Rose Mwaipopo), 217 pp. ISBN: 9780415833707.

Mining and African Urbanisation: Population, Settlement and Welfare Trajectories. 2013. London: Routledge, 232 pp. (with Danny MacKinnon), ISBN: 9780415826259.

How Africa Works: Occupational Change, Identity and Morality in Africa. (ed.) 2010. London: Practical Action Publishing, 296 pp.

African Urban Economies: Viability, Vitality or Vitiation? (ed.) 2006. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 353 pp. (with Deborah Potts)

The Transnational Family: New European Frontiers and Global Networks. (ed.) 2002. Oxford: Berg Press, 276 pp. (with Ulla Vuorela)

Alcohol in Africa: Mixing Business, Pleasure and Politics. (ed.) 2002. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 305 pp.

Livelihoods, Linkages and Policy Paradoxes. (ed.) 2001. Special Issue of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 19 (1), 160 pp (with Leslie Bank)

Disappearing Peasantries? Rural Labour in Africa, Asia and Latin America. (ed.) 2000. London: Intermediate Technology Publications, 333 pp (with Cristobal Kay and Jos Mooij)

Farewell to Farms: De-Agrarianization and Employment in Africa. (ed.) 1997. Aldershot: Ashgate, 265 pp. (with Vali Jamal)

Women Wielding the Hoe: Lessons from Rural Africa for Feminist Theory and Development Practice. (ed.) 1995. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 282 pp.

Liberalizing Tanzania's Food Trade: Public & Private Faces of Urban Marketing Policy 1939-1988. 1993. London: James Currey Publishers, 305 pp.

Food Insecurity and the Social Division of Labour in Tanzania, 1919-1985. 1990. London: Macmillan, 285 pp.

Journal articles

‘The Transnational Family and Neo-liberal Globalization: Past, Present and Future’ 2021. Nordic Journal of Migration Research


‘Mining Mobility and Settlement during an East African Gold Boom: Seeking Fortune and Accommodating Fate’ 2020. Mobilities 15(3): 446-463 (with J.B.Jønsson and M.Shand)

‘Getting Grounded? Miners’ Migration, Housing and Urban Settlement in Tanzania, 1980-2012’. 2019. Extractive Industries and Society 6: 948-959 (with J.B. Jønsson, C. Kinabo and M. Shand)

‘Transnational families negotiating migration and care life cycles across nation-state borders’ 2019.  in Bryceson, D.F. Transnational Families in Global Migration: Navigating Economic Development and Life Cycles across Blurred and Brittle Borders, in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 45(16), 3042-3064.

Gender and Generational Patterns of African Deagrarianization: Evolving Labor and Land Allocation in Smallholder Peasant Household Farming, 1980-2015’. 2019. World Development 113: 60-72.

‘Beyond the Artisanal Mining Site: Migration, Housing Capital Accumulation and Indirect Urbanization in East Africa’. 2017. Journal of Eastern African Studies 11(1): 3-23. (with J.B. Jønsson)

‘Artisanal Frontier Mining of Gold in Africa: Labour Transformation in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo’ 2016. (with S. Geenen) African Affairs, April 115(459), 296-317.

‘For Richer, For Poorer: Marriage and Casualized Sex in East African Artisanal Gold Mining Settlements’, 2014. Development and Change 45(1), 79-104. (with J.B. Jønsson & H. Verbrugge)

‘Prostitution or Partnership? Wifestyles in Tanzanian Artisanal Gold-mining Settlements’, 2013. Journal of Modern African Studies 51(1), 33-56 (with J.B. Jønsson & H.Verbrugge).

‘Eureka and Beyond: Mining’s Impact on African Urbanisation’, 2012. (with D. MacKinnon), 513-27.

‘Unearthing Treasure and Trouble: Mining as an Impetus to Urbanisation in Tanzania’, 2012. 631-49. (with J.B.Jønsson, C.Kinabo & M.Shand). Journal of Contemporary African Studies, October 2012.

‘Discovery and Denial: Social Science Theory and Inter-disciplinarity in African Studies’, 2012. African Affairs, April issue, 281-302.

‘Birth of a Market Town in Tanzania: Towards Narrative Studies of Urban Africa’, 2011. Journal of Eastern African Studies 5(2), 274-293.

‘Miners’ Magic: Artisanal Mining, the Albino Fetish and Murder in Tanzania’, 2010. Journal of Modern African Studies 48(3), 353-82. (with J.B. Jønsson & R. Sherrington).

‘Gold Digging Careers in Rural Africa: Small-Scale Miners’ Livelihood Choices’, 2010. World Development 38(3), 379-92. (with J.B. Jønsson).

‘Sub-Saharan Africa’s Vanishing Peasantries and the Specter of a Global Food Crisis’, 2009. Monthly Review. July-August, 48-62.

‘Rushing for Gold: Mobility and Small-Scale Mining in East Africa’, 2009. Development and Change 40(2), 249-79. (with J.B. Jønsson)

‘World Bank Urban Geography: Critical Commentary on the World Development Report 2009. “Reshaping Economic Geography”’, 2009. Urban Studies 46(4), 723-38 (with K. Gough, J. Rigg and J. Agergaard)

‘Roads to Poverty Reduction? Exploring Rural Roads’ Impact on Mobility in Africa and Asia’, 2008. Development Policy Review 26(4), 459-82 (with A. Bradbury & T. Bradbury).

Book chapters

‘Domestic Work’, in Bellucci, S. and A. Eckert (eds). 2019. General Labour History of Africa: Workers,  Employers and Governments 20th-21st Centuries. Geneva, International Labour Office, 301-333.

 ‘Artisanal Gold Rush Mining and Frontier Democracy: Juxtaposing experiences in America, Australia, Africa and Asia, Lahiri-Dutt, K. (ed.) 2018. Between the Plough and the Pick: Informal, Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in the Contemporary World. Canberra, Australia National University Press, 31-61.

‘Deagrarianisation and Depeasantisation in Africa’ in Binns, T., K. Lynch and E. Nel (eds) 2018. The Routledge Handbook of African Development. Routledge. 368-377.

‘Reflections on the Unravelling of the Tanzanian Peasantry, 1975-2015’. in M.Stahl (ed.) Looking back, Looking Ahead: Land, Agriculture and Society in East Africa. 2015. Uppsala. Nordic Africa Institute.

‘Re-evaluating the Influence of Urban Agglomeration in Sub-Saharan Africa: Population Density, Technological Innovation and Productivity’, in S.Parnell & S.Oldfield (eds) 2014. The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South, London, Routledge, 206-18.

‘Mineralizing Africa and Artisanal Mining’s Democratizing Influence’ (with J.B.Jønsson), 1-22.
‘Artisanal Miners’ Democratizing Directions and Deviations’ (with E.Fisher), 179-206. 
in Bryceson et al. Mining and Social Transformation in Africa: Mineralizing and Democratizing Trends in Artisanal Production, Development and Society series,

Ganyu in Rural Malawi: Transformation of Local Labour Relations under Famine and HIV/AIDS Duress’, in J.Abbink (ed.) 2012. Fractures and Reconnections and the Redefining of African Political and Economic Space. Leiden, African Studies Centre / Zurich, Lit Verlag, 37-59.

‘Who Cares? Family and Lineage Coherence and Caring Capacity during Rural Malawi’s AIDS Crisis’, in Bertram, H. & N.Ehlert (eds) 2011. Family, Ties and Care, Berlin, Barbara Budrich Publisher, 503-20.

‘Sub-Saharan Africa’s Vanishing Peasantries and the Spectre of a Global Food Crisis’ in F.Magdoff & B.Tokar (eds). 2010. Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance and Renewal, New York, Monthly Review Press, 69-84.

‘The Proletarianization of Women in Tanzania’. in M.Turshen (ed.) 2010. African Women: A Political Economy, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 53-69.

‘Agrarian Fundamentalism or Foresight?  Revisiting Nyerere’s Vision for Rural Tanzania’. in K.Havnevik & A. Isinika (eds). 2010. Tanzania in Transition: From Nyerere to Mkapa, Dar es Salaam, Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, 71-98.

‘Africa at Work: Transforming Occupational Identity and Morality’, in D.F.Bryceson (ed.) 2010. How Africa Works: Occupational Change, Identity and Morality, London, Practical Action Publishing. 3-26.

‘Dar es Salaam as a “Harbour of Peace” in East Africa: Tracing the Role of Creolized Urban Ethnicity in Nation-State Formation’. in J.Beall, B.Guha-Khasnobis & R. Kanbur (eds), 2010. Urbanization and Development: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 219-34.

‘Rural-Urban Transitions in Northwestern Tanzania’s Mining Frontier’ (with R.Mwaipopo), 158-174.

‘Frontier Mining Settlements: Livelihood Promises and Predicaments’ (with P.Yankson), 189-197.

in J.Agergaard, N.Fold and K.Gough (eds). 2010. Rural Urban Dynamics: Livelihoods, Mobility and Markets in African and Asian Frontiers. London, Routledge,.

‘Swahili Creolization: The Case of Dar es Salaam’. in R.Cohen & P.Toninato (eds) 2010. The Creolization Reader: Studies in Mixed Identities and Cultures, London, Routledge, 364-75.

‘The Urban Melting Pot in East Africa: Ethnicity and Urban Growth in Kampala and Dar es Salaam’ in F.Locatelli and P.Nugent (eds) 2009. African Cities: Competing Claims on Urban Space. Leiden, Brill, 241-260.

Selected research, training and consultancy reports

Agrarian Labour and Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa: Gender and Generational Change within Family Farms, 1980-2015’. UN Women Discussion Paper no. 22, March 2018, 46pp.

Youth in Urbanizing Mining Settlements: Prospecting Tanzania’s Mineralized Future’, World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER) Working paper, Helsinki, United Nations University, January 2014.

European Report on Development background paper, European Union/European University Institute, 23 pp. (with Shailaja Fennell, Prabirji Sarkar & Ajit Singh)

Creole and Tribal Urban Designs: Dar es Salaam and Kampala as Ethnic Cities in Coalescing Nation States, Crises States Research Centre Working Paper 35, London School of Economics, 2008.

Rural Development Priorities in the 21st Century: Towards a Strategy for FAO, FAO, Rome, 2008.

Social Pathways from the HIV/AIDS Deadlock of Disease, Denial and Desperation in Rural Malawi. CARE International, 100 pp. + appendices. May 2004. (with J. Fonseca, & J. Kadzandira) 

Framework for the Inclusion of Social Benefits in Transport Planning: Final Report. 2004. DFID/TRL Report PR/INT/276/04, Crowthorne, United Kingdom.  May 2004. (with A.S.C. Davis, F. Ahmed & T. Bradbury). 

Sustainable Livelihoods, Mobility and Access Needs. 2003. TRL Report 544, United Kingdom, DFID/Transport Road Laboratory (with D.A.C. Maunder, T.C. Mbara, R. Kibombo, A.S.C. Davis & J.D. Howe). 

Poverty and Urban Transport in East Africa: Review of Research and Dutch Donor Experience. 2000. Institute of Infrastructural, Hydraulics and Environmental Engineering, Delft, Report submitted to the World Bank (with John Howe)

Research interests

Research interests

Settlement, urban economies, urban growth, social dynamics, occupational change, artisanal mining, changing nature of the family, transnational families, age and gender differentiation, women's employment patterns, food marketing, agricultural policy, famine and food insecurities, creole societies, work cultures, livelihoods, mobility, migration, labour, agrarian change, de-agrarianization