Professor Jonathan Fisher

Professor Jonathan Fisher

International Development Department
Professor of Global Security
Head of the International Development Department

Contact details

Address
International Development Department
School of Government
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham,
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Jonathan's research focuses on the relationship between authoritarianism and (in)security across multiple levels – global, regional, domestic, and “the everyday”. He has a particular interest in the role of ideas and legitimacy in authoritarian systems and spaces, and has worked extensively in eastern Africa, where he has focused on the influence of guerrilla heritage on contemporary patterns of governance, conflict and cooperation. He has written over 20 articles and a number of books on these topics, including, most recently, African Peacekeeping (Cambridge University Press, 2022), with Professor Nina Wilén.

Jonathan’s research has been funded by the AHRC, Australian Research Council, British Academy, ESRC, Newton Fund, and WhatsApp and he is currently leading a Facebook-funded project on social media restrictions and civil society responses in West Africa, working with colleagues in Birmingham and the Centre for Democracy and Development in Nigeria.

Jonathan is currently Head of the International Development Department at Birmingham, and was previously Head of Global Engagement in the School of Government.

Jonathan is the former Academic Director of the GSDRC (2017-2021) and was co-editor, with Professor Paul Jackson, of Civil Wars between 2017-2022.

Qualifications

  • DPhil in International Relations, University of Oxford 2011
  • MSc in African Studies, University of Oxford 2007
  • BA (Hons) History, University College London (UCL) 2006

Biography

Jonathan joined IDD in 2011 as an ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow shortly after completing his doctorate at the University of Oxford and is currently a Professor of Global Security in the Department. His research focuses on the relationships between authoritarianism and (in)security across multiple levels – global, regional, domestic, and “the everyday”. He has a particular interest in the role of ideas and legitimacy in authoritarian systems and spaces, and has worked extensively in eastern Africa, where he has focused on the influence of guerrilla heritage on contemporary patterns of governance, conflict and cooperation.

Jonathan has held a range of leadership positions in the School of Government since 2016 and is currently Head of the International Development Department. He is also an elected Council member of the African Studies Association of the UK and the Development Studies Association.

Teaching

Jonathan currently (co-) convenes the following modules:

  • Governing States and Societies (Undergraduate Year 2)
  • Democracy, Dictatorship, and Development (Masters)

He has previously co-/convened a large number of modules (on-campus (OC) and distance-learning (DL)) at both UG and PGT level focused on conflict, security, and development. This includes Conflict and Development (MSc OC and DL), Postconflict Reconstruction and Development (MSc), War-torn States (Year 3 UG), Aid Policy and Politics (MSc), Critical Approaches to Development (MSc), and Authoritarianism and Development (MSc).

Postgraduate supervision

Jonathan welcomes new PhD applications in the areas of: Authoritarianism; conflict, and security in Africa, as well as the international politics of aid.

Jonathan is currently working with the following PhD candidates:

  • Shalle Abdi (2021-) Pastoral conflicts in the Horn of Africa (with Professor Stefan Wolff, POLSIS)
  • Emi Nishihata (2021-) The EU and democracy promotion
  • Justin Williams (2017-) The effects of Food-for-Work programmes in Ethiopia in the 1980s and 1990s (with Dr Claire Mcloughlin, IDD)
  • Nicola Heaton (2017-) More donors, more choice? "Traditional" donors, "New" donors and African agency: The case of Tanzania (with Dr Danielle Beswick, IDD)

He has supervised the following PhD students to completion:

  • Rubens Duarte. The UK and Brazil in the developmental regime (with Dr Marco Vieira, POLSIS).
  • Samara Dantas Palmeira Guimarães. Statebuilding and traditional justice in Mozambique (with Dr Nicolas Lemay-Hebert, IDD)
  • Mann Virdee. Mapping the internal and external factors shaping UK political parties' debates and discourses on international development, 1997-2015 (with Dr Danielle Beswick, IDD)
  • Arie Ruhyanto. Statebuilding through territorial reform: Pemekaran and state-society relations in Papua province of Indonesia (with Dr Simon Delay, IDD)

Research

Research Interests

  • Authoritarianism
  • Conflict, security and state-building in Africa
  • “Post-liberation” governments
  • The international politics of aid and international development

Research activity

Jonathan is currently leading a Facebook-funded project on social media restrictions and civil society responses in West Africa, working with colleagues in Birmingham and the Centre for Democracy and Development in Nigeria.

Other activities

Jonathan is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies at the University of the Free State, South Africa and was based at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies as a Visiting Fellow between July-December 2019.  He has previously been a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Ethiopia and an Honorary Research Fellow in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Africa Research Group.

Jonathan previously co-edited the journal Civil Wars with Professor Paul Jackson (2017-2022) and was Academic Director of the GSDRC between 2017-2021.  He has previously served as Head of IDD (2016-2017), School Head of Global Engagement (2017-2019) and as IDD Director of Admissions  (2014-2016).

Publications

Books:

Fisher, J and Wilén, N (2022). African Peacekeeping. Cambridge University Press.

Fisher, J (2020). East Africa after Liberation: Conflict, Security and the State since the 1980s. Cambridge University Press.

Cheeseman, N and Fisher, J (2019). Authoritarian Africa: Repression Resistance and the Power of Ideas. Oxford University Press.

Beswick, D, Fisher, J and Hurt, S (Eds, 2019). Britain and Africa in the Twenty-First Century: Between Pragmatism and Ambition. Manchester University Press.

Articles in peer-reviewed journals:

Leonardi, C, Storer, E, and Fisher, J (2021). ‘Geographies of Unease: Witchcraft and Boundary Construction in an African Borderland’, Political Geography, 90.

Fisher, J and Leonardi, C (2021). ‘Insecurity and the Invisible: The Challenge of Spiritual (In)Security’, Security Dialogue, 52(5): 383-400.

Dasandi, N, Fisher, J, Hudson, D, and vanHeerde-Hudson, J (2021). ‘Human Rights Violations, Political Conditionality, and Public Attitudes to Foreign Aid: Evidence from Survey Experiments’, Political Studies, 18(1).

Brown, S and Fisher, J (2020). ‘Aid Donors, Democracy, and the Developmental State in Ethiopia’, Democratization, 27(2): 185-203.

Cheeseman, N, Fisher, J, Hassan, I, and Hitchen, J (2020). ‘Social Media Disruption: Nigeria’s WhatsApp Politics’, Journal of Democracy, 31(3): 145-159.

Fisher, J (2019). ‘AMISOM and the Regional Construction of a Failed State in Somalia’, African Affairs, 118 (471): 285-306.

Fisher, J and Meressa Tsehaye Gebrewahd (2019). ‘Briefing “Game Over”? Abiy Ahmed, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front and Ethiopia’s Political Crisis’, African Affairs, 118 (470): 194-206.

Fisher, J (2017). 'Reproducing Remoteness? States, Internationals and the Co-Constitution of Aid 'Bunkerization' in the East African Periphery', Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 11 (1): 98-119.

Fisher, J and Marquette, H (2016). "Empowered Patient" or "Doctor Knows Best"? Political Economy Analysis and Ownership", Development in Practice, 26 (1): 115-126.

Fisher, J (2015). ‘Writing about Rwanda since the Genocide: Knowledge, Power and “Truth”, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 9 (1): 134-145

Fisher, J (2015). “Does it work?” Work for whom? Britain and Political Conditionality since the Cold War’, World Development, 75 (November 2015): 13-25.

Fisher, J and Anderson, DM (2015). ‘Authoritarianism and the securitization of development in Africa’, International Affairs, 91 (1): 131-151.

Fisher, J (2014). 'Uganda's war, Obama's advisers and the nature of 'influence' in Western foreign policy-making', Third World Quarterly, 35 (4): 686-704

Fisher, J (2014). 'When it pays to be a "fragile state": Uganda's use and abuse of a dubious concept', Third World Quarterly, 35 (2): 316-332

Fisher, J (2013). 'Structure, agency and Africa in the international system: Donor diplomacy and regional security policy in East Africa since the 1990s', Conflict, Security and Development, 13 (5): 537-568

Fisher, J (2013). 'The limits - and limiters - of external influence: Donors, the Ugandan Electoral Commission and the 2011 elections', Journal of Eastern African Studies, 7 (3): 471-491

Fisher, J (2013). "Some more reliable than others": Image management, donor perceptions and the Global War on Terror in East African diplomacy', Journal of Modern African Studies, 51 (1): 1-31

Fisher, J (2012). ‘Managing perceptions and securing agency: Contextualizing Uganda’s 2007 intervention in Somalia’, African Affairs, 111 (444): 404-423

Book chapters and encyclopedia entries:

Fisher, J (2021). ‘How I Dealt with my Ethics Committee, and Survived’, in R Mac Ginty, R Brett, and B Vogel (Eds), The Companion to Peace and Conflict Fieldwork. Palgrave.

Fisher, J (2018). ‘African Agency in International Politics’, in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Fisher, J (2018). “Success” and “Failure” in International Development: Assessing Evolving UK Objectives in Conditional Aid Policy Since the Cold War’, in A Kruck, K Oppermann and A Spencer (Eds), Political Mistakes and Policy Failures in International Relations. Palgrave.

Fisher, J and Beswick, D (2017). ‘The African State and Special Procedures: Agency, Leverage and Legitimacy’, in A Nolan, R Freedman and T Murphy (Eds), The United Nations Special Procedures System. Brill/Martinus Nijhoff.

Fisher, J and Anderson, DM (2016). ‘Authoritarianism and the Securitization of Development in Uganda’, in T Hagmann and F Reyntjens (Eds), Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa: Development without Democracy. Zed Books and University of Chicago Press.

Fisher, J (2015). "Image management" in East Africa: Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and their donors', in Julia Gallagher (Ed), Image and Africa: Creation, Negotiation, Subversion. Manchester University Press.

Fisher, J (2014). ‘The limits – and limiters – of external influence: The role of international donors in Uganda’s 2011 election’, in S Perrot, S Makara and J Lafargue (Eds), Uganda’s 2011 Multiparty Elections: Towards a Consolidated Democracy? Fountain Publishers, Kampala.

Fisher, J (2013). 'Image management and African agency: Ugandan regional diplomacy and donor relations under Museveni', in W Brown and S Harman (Eds), African Agency in International Politics. Routledge.

View all publications in research portal

Expertise

Authoritarianism, security and development policy

Jonathan is a political scientist working on authoritarianism, security and development, with a particular focus on Africa. He has worked principally in the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Djibouti) and the Great Lakes region (Uganda, Rwanda), as well as in South Africa, Namibia, and Nigeria.

Expertise

Foreign, security and development policy

Jonathan is a political scientist working on politics, security and development in Africa.  Working primarily in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa and South Sudan and am increasingly focused on forms of authoritarian rule. 

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