Dr Benedetta Rossi BA Hons, MPhil, PhD

Dr Benedetta Rossi

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Reader in African History and Anthropology
Departmental Head of Postgraduate Studies (Taught and Research)

Contact details

I work on the history and anthropology of twentieth-century West Africa, with a focus on Hausa and Tuareg societies in the Republic of Niger. My recent publications focus on slavery; emancipation; labour; migrations; governance; and the history and impacts of planned development.


  • BA Hons (London)
  • MPhil
  • PhD (London)


I am trained as an anthropologist, but in recent years my work has become increasingly historical. I completed my PhD in 2002 at the Department of Social Anthropology of LSE with a thesis on the social impacts of planned development in the mixed Hausa and Tuareg region of Ader (southern Niger). Doctoral research included twenty months of fieldwork in Ader, during which I began to learn Hausa. This research suggested that development discourses misrepresent Ader society. Rather than understanding Ader from the perspective of aid, I decided to look at aid from the viewpoint of Ader’s longer social and political history. These questions stimulated inquiries that resulted in my forthcoming monograph ‘Ader: Governing the Desert Edge’.

At the end of a temporary teaching position at LSE, I was awarded a three-year ESRC research grant located at SOAS. I spent the first year of this grant (2005) in Ader, conducting research on transformations of social hierarchies from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. This research yielded publications on trajectories of emancipation of slaves and slave descendants. I left SOAS at the end of 2007 to take up an RCUK Fellowship at the History Department of the University of Liverpool. While in Liverpool, I conducted about five months of research in Niger in the framework of an international research consortium coordinated by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Paris). I examined how different groups (e.g. nomadic herders, free Hausa traders, slave descendants) changed their ways of moving in space throughout the twentieth century. At Liverpool I designed and directed an MA in International Slavery Studies; co-directed the Centre for the Study of International Slavery; and taught specialist modules on West African history and historiography. I joined the Department of African Studies and Anthroplology at the University of Birmingham in January 2012.


I am currently responsible for teaching the first year module 'Introduction to African Societies', the second and third year module 'Theory, Ethnography, and Research' (with Maxim Bolt), the second and third year special subject 'Trajectories of Emancipation in Twentieth Century African Societies', and I coordinate the graduate module 'Research Methods for African Studies'.

Postgraduate supervision

  • Eunice Apio, 'Children Born of War in the aftermath of the Lord Resistance Army's conflict in Uganda: the Case of the Lango Region' (funded through a Marie Curie International Fellowship).
  • Paul Naylor, 'Islamic Pluralism in the Political History of the Central Sahel: A Critical Study of Arabic Sources for West African History' (AHRC-funded through a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Grant with the British Library).
  • Joe Abell, 'The Global Program on AIDS: A Study of the World Health Organisation's Discourses and Practices in Uganda and Kenya' (PT, self funded).


Since 2005 my research has been focused on the progressive emancipation of people of slave descent. I also researched changing patterns of mobility and migrations. These two themes are interconnected, because the cases I studied involve the transformation of slave labour into migrant labour across the rural-urban divide. My recent publications emphasise the ways in which the study of how people move can provide insights into their aspirations, projects, and capabilities (i.e. their ability or inability to choose if, when, and how to move).

I have been working on collective publication and research projects that focus on various aspects of these questions. I am currently working on a study of the evolution of concubinage in Hausa and Tuareg societies in southern Niger and northern Nigeria. This fits in a collective research project on sexual slavery and forced marriage coordinated by prof. Annie Bunting at the University of York (Canada). Within this project, I look at the changing situation of former female slaves and concubines in Islamic West Africa, and to contemporary vestiges of these practices. Over the last year, I started working on a new research project on the place of Africa in XVI century Mediterranean political and economic relations.

Other activities

I am coordinating the development of the Africa Hub at Birmingham University. I am a member of an international research network on ‘Forced Marriage, Gender, and Conflict Situations’ directed by professor Annie Bunting of the University of York (Toronto, Canada). I regularly present my research at international conferences and invited lectures.


Authored books

Edited volumes

Articles in peer-reviewed journals

Chapters in edited volumes

  • ‘Kinetocracy: The Government of Mobility at the Desert’s Edge’, in J. Quirk and D. Vigneswaran (eds.), Mobility Makes States: Migration and Power in Africa. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014, pp. 223-256. 
  • ‘Without History? Interrogating Slave Memories in Ader (Niger)’, in A. Bellagamba, S. Greene, M. Klein (eds.), African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade (Cambridge and New York, 2013), pp. 536-554.
  • ‘Tuareg Trajectories of Slavery: Preliminary Reflections on a Changing Field’, in A. Fisher and I. Kohl (eds.) Tuareg Society within a Globalized World: Saharan Life in Transition. London and New York, I.B. Tauris, pp. 89-108 (2010).
  • with Anne Haour, ‘The Emergence of Hausa Identity: History and Religion’, in A. Haour and B. Rossi (eds.) Being and Becoming Hausa: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, pp. 1-34 (2010).
  • 'Being and Becoming Hausa in Ader (Niger)’, in A. Haour and B. Rossi (eds.) Being and Becoming Hausa: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, pp. 113-140 (2010).
  • ‘Introduction: Rethinking Slavery in West Africa’, in B. Rossi (ed.) Reconfiguring Slavery: West African Trajectories, pp. 1-25 (2009).
  • ‘Slavery and Migration: Physical and Social mobility in Ader (Tahoua)’, in B. Rossi (ed.) Reconfiguring Slavery: West African Trajectories, pp. 182-206 (2009).
  • ‘The Paradox of Chronic Aid’, in X. Crombé and J.H. Jézéquel (eds.) A Not-so-natural Disaster: Niger 2005. London: Hurst (English translation of original French volume), pp. 105-124 (2009).
  • ‘Les Paradoxes des Aides Chroniques’, in X. Crombé and J.H. Jézéquel (eds.) Niger 2005: Une Catastrophe Si Naturelle. Paris: Karthala, pp. 145-172 (2007)
  • 'Aid Policies and Recipient Strategies in Niger’, in D. Lewis and D. Mosse (eds.) Development Brokers and Translators: The Ethnography of Aid and Development.Bloomfield: Kumarian, pp. 27-49 (2006).
  • ‘Women, Land and Development: Gendered Paradigms of Tenure in the Rural Development Project of Keita (Niger)’, in S. Matteo (ed.) ItaliAfrica: Bridging Continents and Cultures. New York: Forum Italicum Press, pp. 119-142 (2001)

Other (podcasts, reports, interviews, encyclopedia entries, etc.)

  • 'The Everyday Gender Inequalities that Underpin Wartime Atrocities’. Article for Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, an Open Democracy blog, published online on 22 April 2015
  • Audio podcast of Benedetta Rossi’s 20-minute intervention in the panel ‘The Slave Next Door: Global and Local Labor’, Symposium on Contemporary Slavery, Exit Art Cultural Centre, New York City. Listen to the podcast (‘panel 2’, 46thminute) (2011)
  • Physical and Social Mobility in Ader (Tahoua, Niger). Final Report (40 pages) of the Research Project Mobilités Ouest-Africaines (MOBOUA) for the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) (2010)
  • Video podcast of Benedetta Rossi’s presentation ‘Without History ? Interrogating “Slave” Memories in Ader’ at the conference ‘Tales of Slavery’, University of Toronto, 24-28 May 2009
  • Interview with Benedetta Rossi, ‘Il faut penser une forme d’aide qui va aider le Niger à se passer de l’aide’, published on national newspaper of the Republic of Niger, Le Républicain, no. 932, 10-16 June 2010, p. 8 (full page).
  • Interview with Benedetta Rossi, ‘Lingering Impact of Slavery’, Research Intelligence, issue 34, Spring 2008
  • Five entries: ‘Marshall Plan’; ‘Food Aid’; ‘Power, Discourse and Development’; ‘Governmentality’; and ‘Actor Oriented Approaches,’ Routledge Encyclopedia of International Development. General editor: Tim Forsyth; London: Routledge.. General editor: Tim Forsyth; London: Routledge (2005)
  • Occasional contributions to policy-oriented bulletins and publications including Oxford Analytica (global strategic analysis), Haramata (Newsletter of the International Institute for Environment and Development), BOND (Newsletter of British Overseas NGOs for Development).

Book reviews

  • Lawrance, B. and Roberts, R. (eds.) ‘Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake: Law and the Experience of Women and Children in Africa’. Slavery and Abolition, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 677-679 (2014).
  • Spaulding, J. and Beswick, S. (eds.), ‘African Systems of Slavery’, Africa, vol. 81/2, pp. 338-339 (2011).
  • Campbell, G., Miers, S., and Miller, J. (eds.), ‘Children in Slavery Through the Ages’, Africa, vol. 80, no. 3, pp. 516-518 (2010).
  • (with Dmitri Van Den Bersselaar) Parker, J. and Rathbone, R. ‘African History: A Very Short Introduction’, Africa, vol. 79, no. 1, pp. 317-318 (2009).
  • Diouf, S. (ed.) ‘Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies’, Progress in Development Studies, vol. 7, no. 5, pp. 249-250 (2005).
  • Liberski-Bagnoud, D. ‘Les Dieux du Territoire: Penser Autrement la Généalogie’ Man/Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 10, no. 4, p. 967 (2004).
  • Pottier, J., Bicker, A., and Sillitoe, P. (eds) ‘Negotiating Local Knowledge: Power and Identity in Development’, Progress in Development Studies, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 365-366 (2004).
  • Hagberg, S. ‘Poverty in Burkina Faso: Representations and Realities’, Man/Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 173-174 (2003).
  • Bierschenk, T., Chaveau, JP., de Sardan, JPO. (eds) ‘Courtiers en Développement: Les Villages Africains en Quête de Projets’, Man/Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 581-582 (2002).
  • Casajus, D. ‘Gens de Parole: Langage, Poésie et Politique en Pays Touareg’, Man/Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 186-187 (2002)