Dr Marco Di Nunzio BA, MA, DPhil

Dr Marco Di Nunzio

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Lecturer in African Studies and Anthropology

Contact details

Fry Buiding
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

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

Feedback and office hours

  • Autumn Term: Tuesdays 3.30 - 5.30 
  • 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.


  • 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, entitled The Act of Living. Street life, Marginality and Development in urban Ethiopia, is forthcoming from Cornell University Press. The Act of Living 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.



Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

  • 2019. ‘Not my job: Architecture, Responsibility and Inequalities in an African metropolis’. Anthropological Quarterly. 92 (2): 375 - 402
  • 2017. ‘Marginality as a Politics of Limited Entitlements. Street life and the Dilemma of Inclusion in Urban Ethiopia, American Ethnologist, 44 (1): 91 - 103
  •  2015. ‘What is the alternative?: Youth, Entrepreneurship and the Developmental State in Urban Ethiopia’, Development & Change 6 (4) : 1179-1200
  • 2014. ‘Do Not Cross the Red line: the 2010 General Election, Dissent and Political Mobilization in Urban Ethiopia’, African Affairs 113 (452): 409 - 430
  • 2014. ‘Thugs, Spies and Vigilantes: Community policing and street politics in inner city Addis Ababa’, Africa 84 (3): 444 - 465 
  • 2012. ‘ “We are good at surviving”. Street hustling in Addis Ababa’s inner city’, Urban Forum 23(4): 433 - 447
  • 2009. ‘ ”Voglio essere come l'obelisco”: identità giovanili ad Axum, Etiopia [“I want to be like the obelisk”: youth identities in Axum, Ethiopia], Afriche e Orienti 11 (3-4): 170 – 185

Peer Reviewed Book Chapters

  • 2015. ‘Embracing Uncertainty. Young people on the move in Addis Ababa’s inner city’, in Cooper L., Pratten D. (eds) Ethnographies of Uncertainty in Africa. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 149 – 172
  • 2010. ‘Amm Adam: analytic problems and interpretative perspective’, in Szwewcyz M., Zych I. (eds) Between the Cataracts. Proceedings of the 11th Conference of Nubian Studies. Warsaw: Warsaw University Press: 329 – 357

Book Reviews

  • 2013. A review of ‘Andrew Burton and Hélène Charton-Bigot (eds.), Generations Past: Youth in East African history. Athens: Ohio University Press’, Africa 83 (2): 347 - 349
  • 2013. A review of ‘Daniel Mains, Hope is Cut. Youth, Unemployment and the Future in Urban Ethiopia. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press’, Journal of Modern African Studies 51 (2): 366 - 367
  • 2012. A review of ‘Paula Heinonen Youth Gangs & Street Children. Culture, Nurture and Masculinity in Ethiopia’. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books’, Africa 82 (4): 662 – 663

Blogposts, Popular Press and Interviews

Under Preparation

  • “Development through dislocation: Aesthetics and the Governance of Urban Futures in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia”.
  • “Work, Hustling and the Politics of Refusal in urban Ethiopia” 
  •  “Marginality, Multiplicity and Becoming: A View from an African Success Story”

View all publications in research portal