Meet our Staff!

At Birmingham you will be taught by staff who have conducted first-hand research in their anthropological expertise. From Italy to Malawi, the USA to Nigeria, our staff have a truly global understanding of the huge range of societies, cultures, economies, and politics that influence our interconnected world.

Dr Jessica Johnson

Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Africa

Head of Department of African Studies and Anthropology

I am a social anthropologist specialising in Southern Africa, with a particular focus on the anthropology of gender and law in Malawi. I have conducted years of research and fieldwork in Malawai. My doctoral work concerned gender relations and marital dispute resolution in a matrilineal context. My more recent research focuses on the workings of a rural Magistrates’ court. 

Jessica's most recent book is In Search of Gender Justice: Rights and Relationships in Matrilineal Malawai (2018)published by The International African Academy, Cambridge University Press.

Dr Jessica Johnson

Dr Marco di Nunzio

Lecturer in Anthropology


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.

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. 

Marco's most recent book is The Act of Living: Street life, Marginality, and Development in Urban Ethiopia (2019), published by Cornell University Press.


Marginality and the Possibility of Justice - Dr Marco Di Nunzio

Dr Juliet Glibert

Lecturer in Anthropology and African Studies

I am an anthropologist with a particular interest in youth studies, religion (especially Pentecostalism), insecure livelihoods, and aspects of popular culture (fashion, beauty pageants, mobile phones). 

Since 2010 I have been carrying out fieldwork in Calabar, Nigeria. My doctoral research was based on fifteen months research between 2011 and 2012. It asked how young women imagine their futures amid uncertainty, and examined the strategies they use in the present to realise their aspirations. Focusing on how this group fashion themselves as respectable young urban women ready for various opportunities to arise, my research drew on various aspects of young women’s lives: the home, church, learning skills, and beauty and fashion. I also followed the Carnival Calabar Queen pageant for two years as a focus for my research on Nigerian beauty pageants.

Juliet's most recent article is 'Mobile identities: photography, smartphones and aspirations in urban Nigeria' published in the journal Africa (vol. 89, no. 2), p. 246.

Dr Juliet Gilbert

Dr Juliet Gilbert's Research as a Social Anthropologist

Dr Leslie Fesenmyer

Lecturer in the Anthropology of Africa

I am a social anthropologist whose research interests include transnational migration, kinship, belonging, and religion (especially Pentecostalism). I have pursued these interests in the United Kingdom and Kenya and in the context of migration between the two countries.  

I am also interested in issues of transnational caring between Africa and Europe against the backdrop of global ageing, neoliberal restructuring, and the entanglement of care regimes through migration.

Through various research projects, I am pursuing two strands of interest:

  • Religion, mobility, and the urban;
  • Kinship and care
Dr Leslie Fesenmeyer, DASA

Dr Insa Nolte

Reader in African Studies

My research focuses on the role of everyday life for the political and religious history of the Yoruba-speaking Southwest of Nigeria. My current work centres on interfaith relations between Yoruba Muslims, Christians, and traditionalists: I explore historical patterns of gendered and religious preference and the accommodation of religious difference in marriage and extended family life.

As the disciplinary divisions in modern academia do not always reflect the conceptual histories of African societies, I am committed to inter- and multidisciplinary research. This is reflected in the breadth of the over £1.6m in external funding I have raised over the course of my career.

After serving as President of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) in 2016-18, and as Head of Department in 2018-21, I hold a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship in 2021-23 to carry out research on the theme of “Muslim Men, Christian Women: An African history of gender and coexistence”.

Insa Nolte


Dr Sarah Howard

Research Fellow

I am a social anthropologist who has carried out long-term ethnographic research in Ethiopia on public service, labour, development and the everyday state.

My doctoral research explores the functioning of the Ethiopian state through the lives of rural public servants in a peripheral area of Amhara Region, challenging narratives about the strong, authoritarian and innately hierarchical nature of the developmental state. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, the thesis provides an account of the lowest level of the state through close attention to the social worlds and professional responsibilities of teachers, extension workers and administrators

Sarah Howard