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 book 'From Slavery to Aid: Politics, Labour, and Ecology in the Nigerien Sahel, 1800-2000' (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
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 Anthropology at the University of Birmingham in January 2012.