Dr Benedetta Rossi BA Hons, MPhil, PhD

Dr Benedetta Rossi

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Reader in African History and Anthropology

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. 

Personal website:  www.benedettarossi.com


  • 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 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.


In 2017-2018 I am not teaching any modules in DASA because I am a Visiting Fellow at the 'Re: Work' Institute of Humboldt University, Berlin. I normally teach a mix of undergraduate and postgraduate modules.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome inquiries from students interested in the history and anthropology of labor and/or slavery.

I am the primary supervisor of the following PhD researchers:

  • Paul Naylor, "God has granted us these lands": Political legitimacy in the writings of the Sokoto Fodiawa 1803-1837.
  • Joe Abell, Demanding Change? The Use of Participatory Methods in HIV Prevention in Uganda.
  • Eleanor Seymour, Sexual Violence against Women in Northern Uganda.
  • Toni Smith, Sexual and Gender Based Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I am the co-supervisor of the following PhD researchers:

  • Boniface Ojok, Reintegration and Education of Children Born of War: The Case of Northern Uganda.
  • Amy Redgrave, Struggles over Prostitution in Southern Nigeria: Colonial Anxieties and Local Debates.


  • Eunice Apio, Children Born of War in northern Uganda: Kinship, Marriage, and the Politics of Post-conflict Reintegration in Lango society (PhD awarded in 2016).

Find out more - our PhD African Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I am a historian and anthropologist of Africa. My work focuses on twentieth century African and global labor history, environmental history, slavery and other forms of unfreedom, migration, planned development aid, gender and sexuality. I am currently working on my second book project, Slavery and Freedom in Twentieth Century Africa, contracted with Cambridge University Press (New Approaches to African History Series).

I am a member of three international research networks: Conjugal Slavery in War (CSiW) ; Slavery in Africa: A Dialogue between Europe and Africa (SLAFNET); and Children Born of War (CHIBOW)  

Other activities

I am associate editor for a forthcoming World History of Slavery (Histoire mondiale de l'esclavage published by Seuil, main editor: Paulin Ismard) and a forthcoming Encyclopaedia of African Slavery, the Slave Trade and the Diaspora for the on-line Oxford Research Encyclopaedia (main editor: Martin Klein). I am Reviews Editor for the Journal of Global Slavery and I serve on the Advisory Editorial Board of African Economic History and African Studies Review (journal of the African Studies Association, US).


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.)

  • 2018 ‘Migration History and Historiography’. In The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History online:.
  • 2017 Interview with Benedetta Rossi, ‘The Power of Saviors’. Published online in the website of Humboldt University (Berlin), 18 December 2017.
  • 'Modern slavery, Brexit, migration, and development: connecting the dots'. Article for Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, an Open Democracy blog, published online on 21 November 2017.
  • '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)

View all publications in research portal



  • Slavery incl modern slavery
  • Development politics
  • Historical context and the development of aid/development sector
  • Labour policy and migration in developing countries
  • Environmental policy in the Sahel