School of Social and Political Science

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CAS undertakes cutting-edge interdisciplinary research across the continent. Our scholars are committed to the critical study of a diverse range of topics as well as the pursuit of inclusive, ethical and equitable partnerships.

As the largest centre for African studies in Europe, we are at the forefront of theoretical, empirical and methodological innovation. Our rigorous research also shapes local, national and international debates and policy-making, as recognised by our "outstanding" impact rating in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework.

See some of our research projects below.

CAS core areas of research

Research in the Centre of African Studies is carried out in several core areas/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 organisations, 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.

CAS staff associated with this research theme:

Science, Technology and Innovation

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.

CAS staff associated with this research theme:

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.

CAS staff associated with this research theme:

Religion and Social Movements

This theme explores the role that social movements and religion play in the African continent in shaping and transforming the everyday lives of African citizens and communities. The theme examines how and why various groups and individuals organise to influence politics, public policies and social dynamics in Africa. It draws from research on religious groups; LGBT activism; local and global governance; social justic; mining associations; diasporic groups; and youth organisations.

CAS staff associated with this research theme:

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 marginalisation.

This area of research seeks to understand individuals' trajectories, including during armed conflict, but embraces a broader examination of insecurity and marginalisation that 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.

CAS staff associated with this research theme:

Migration and Borders

This theme is focused on migration, displacement, and movement across borders more broadly.

Much of the  entre’s research on international borders and transboundary phenomena in Africa builds on the pioneering work of ABORNE and CAS' borderlands expertise, which 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
  • livelihoods

This theme also draws on a longstanding collaboration with the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, with co-produced research that investigates the lived experience of refugees and migrants across the African continent.

CAS staff associated with this research theme:

Media and Communication

This theme explores the production, uses and textual analysis of digital media. This includes mainstream media, including journalism and PR, and social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

We study the relationship of media to conflict and security; religion, morality and sexuality; humanitarianism, human rights and other forms of activism. We also work on the role of media in the creation of publics and counter-publics; nationhood, NGO work, business and international politics.

CAS staff associated with this research theme:

Research impact

Learn more about the impact on society of CAS research here:
CAS research impact examples

Edinburgh Catalyst Fellows programme

CAS also runs the the Edinburgh Catalyst Fellows programme. This programme aims to build stronger relationships between the University of Edinburgh and Africa-based scholars, and to promote research of early-career academics in Africa.

Read more about the Edinburgh Catalyst Fellows programme.

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Research projects

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