Dr Marco Di Nunzio BA, MA, DPhil

Dr Marco Di Nunzio

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Associate Professor in Urban Anthropology

Contact details

Fry Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Marginality, development, the politics of existence and the right to the city  

Feedback and office hours

  • Autumn term: Tuesdays 15:30 - 17:30 
  • Spring term: TBC 


  • BA in Archeology, University of Naples, L’Orientale
  • MA in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, University of Turin 
  • DPhil in Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford


Before joining DASA in September 2018, I held research and teaching positions at the London School of Economics, and the universities of Brussels, Sussex, Addis Ababa, Lagos and Oxford, where I also completed my doctorate in Social and Cultural Anthropology in 2012. I am the founder and co-ordinating editor of Otherwise Magazine, a magazine of ethnographic writing and storytelling. 


  • Theory, Ethnography and Research
  • Thinking Anthropologically
  • The Social Life of the Economy


As a social and political anthropologist, I am concerned with documenting how development produces marginality as well as exploring how anthropological research on the ordinary and the everyday life can help redefine what we mean by development and what development is for.

I have carried out research in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and more recently Lagos (Nigeria), Washington DC (USA) and Naples (Italy), investigating the economies of the street, crime and policing, authoritarianism and development, migration, entrepreneurship and micro-finance, the politics of justice, labour and the construction business, professional ethics and architecture practice, planning and the political economy of housing.

My first book, The Act of Living. Street life, Marginality and Development in urban Ethiopia, published in 2019 with Cornell University Press, explores the relations between economic growth and experiences of marginality in inner city Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. By documenting how the biographies of two street hustlers intertwine with Ethiopia’s history, this book investigates why development continues to fail the poor, how marginality is understood and acted upon in a time of promise and why poor people’s claims for open-endedness can constitute the grounds on which to imagine better and more just alternative futures.

I am currently carrying out research for a second book project, provisionally entitled, Conspiracies to Build: The Political and Moral Economies of City Building. Conspiracies to Build focuses on the construction industry, urban development and politics of responsibility in Addis Ababa’s construction booms. It investigates the effects of the growing investment into African cities on how, why and by whom the moral and political ownership of urban development is claimed and maintained. By outlining a critique of dominant notions of the politically significant, the economically sound and the morally just underpinning Ethiopia’s construction boom, this book is intended to be a call for an anthropological commitment to an urban politics of collective responsibility and social justice.


Recent publications


Di Nunzio, M 2019, The Act of Living: Street life, Marginality, and Development in Urban Ethiopia. Cornell University Press. <https://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/9781501735127/the-act-of-living/#bookTabs=4>


Di Nunzio, M 2022, 'Evictions for development: creative destruction, redistribution and the politics of unequal entitlements in inner-city Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), 2010–2018', Political Geography, vol. 98, 102671. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2022.102671

Di Nunzio, M 2022, 'Work, development and refusal in urban Ethiopia', American Ethnologist, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 401-412. https://doi.org/10.1111/amet.13091

Di Nunzio, M 2022, '“It is kind of rough out here”: the hard work of mobility', Anthropology & Humanism. https://doi.org/10.1111/anhu.12405

Di Nunzio, M 2019, 'Not my job? Architecture, responsibility, and justice in a Booming African Metropolis: architecture, responsibility and inequalities in an African metropolis', Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 92, no. 2, pp. 375-401. https://doi.org/10.1353/anq.2019.0019

Di Nunzio, M 2017, 'Marginality as a Politics of Limited Entitlements. Street life and the Dilemma of Inclusion in Urban Ethiopia', American Ethnologist, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 91-103. https://doi.org/10.1111/amet.12428

Di Nunzio, M 2015, 'What is the alternative? Youth, entrepreneurship and the developmental state in urban Ethiopia', Development and Change, vol. 46, no. 5, pp. 1179-1200. https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12187

Di Nunzio, M 2014, ''Do not cross the red line': the 2010 general elections, dissent and political mobilization in urban Ethiopia', African Affairs, vol. 113, no. 452, pp. 409-430. https://doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adu029

Di Nunzio, M 2014, 'Thugs, spies and vigilantes: community policing and street politics in inner city Addis Ababa', Africa, vol. 84, no. 3, pp. 444-465. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0001972014000357

Di Nunzio, M 2012, '"We are good at surviving": Street hustling in Addis Ababa's Inner City', Urban Forum. <https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12132-012-9156-y>

Di Nunzio, M 2009, '"Voglio essere l'obelisco": identita' giovanili ad Axum, Etiopia', Afriche e Orienti, vol. 3-4.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Di Nunzio, M 2015, Embracing Uncertainty: Young people on the move in Addis Ababa’s inner city. in E Cooper & D Pratten (eds), Ethnographies of Uncertainty in Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 149-172.

Book/Film/Article review

Di Nunzio, M 2013, 'ANDREW BURTON and HÉLÈNE CHARTONBIGOT (eds), Generations Past: youth in East African history. Athens OH: Ohio University Press (hb $51.95 – 978 0 82141 923 6; pb $23.95 – 978 0 82141 924 3). 2010, 312 pp.', Africa. <https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/africa/article/andrewburton-and-helenecharton-bigot-eds-generations-past-youth-in-east-african-history-athensoh-ohio-university-press-hb-5195-978-0-82141-923-6-pb-2395-978-0-82141-924-3-2010-312-pp/0144B7CA3A1E138E95FF516205F57717>

Di Nunzio, M 2013, 'Hope is Cut: Youth, Unemployment and the Future in Urban Ethiopia by D. Mains Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2012. Pp. 208. £47.00 (hbk).', Journal of Modern African Studies. <https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies/article/hope-is-cut-youth-unemployment-and-the-future-in-urban-ethiopia-by-dmainsphiladelphia-pa-temple-university-press-2012-pp-208-4700-hbk/0EFF4FD73E451926BD9860DE59642B7E>

Di Nunzio, M 2012, 'HEINONEN, Youth Gangs and Street Children: culture, nurture and masculinity in Ethiopia. New York NY and Oxford: Berghahn Books (hb $70/£42 – 978 0 85745 098 2). 2011, 192 pp.', Africa. <https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/africa/article/paula-heinonen-youth-gangs-and-street-children-culture-nurture-and-masculinity-in-ethiopia-new-york-ny-and-oxford-berghahn-books-hb-7042-978-0-85745-098-2-2011-192-pp/7CB4CCE959DD98D5B82A001ABA7A531B>

View all publications in research portal