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Dr David Harris

PositionLecturer in African Studies
LocationPemberton P1.09
DepartmentPeace Studies and International Development
Feedback HoursMondays 14:00-15:00, Tuesdays 10:00-11:00
Telephone01274 23 5161

Research Interests (key words only)

Sierra Leone, Liberia, conflict, elections, rebel parties, post-conflict justice, post-conflict state re-building, India in Africa

PhD Supervision


  • Lucy Scott
  • Martin Agwella
  • Scott Kean

Under review:

  • Bryn Higgs, ‘The International Criminal Court's intervention in the Lord's Resistance Army war: Impacts and Implications’, 2016
  • Julia Ruppel, ‘Ghana: From fragility to resilience? Understanding the formation of a new political settlement from a critical political economy perspective’, 2015


  • Paul Phiri, ‘Trials of a comprehensive peace agreement: an investigation into the dilemmas faced by North and South Sudan’, 2016

Teaching and Supervisory Responsibilities

  • PG Introduction to African Politics
  • UG Regional Politics
  • UG Conflict Research Skills
  • UG Dissertation Skills

Administrative Responsibilities

  • Chair of the Divisional Teaching and Learning Working Group


Dr David Harris specialises in West African politics, in particular in Sierra Leone and Liberia. His first book was published by IB Tauris in 2011 and a second book, Sierra Leone: A Political History, came out through Hurst in 2013. Collaborative articles on the elections in Liberia in 2011 and in Sierra Leone in 2012 emerged recently and a further collaborative article is planned concerning the 2017 Liberian elections. Another strand of collaborative research has led to book chapters and articles on India-Africa relations and a forthcoming book, India in Africa: The Politics of South-South Cooperation, with Hurst. A network of researchers working on fluctuating government-donor relations in Africa in three small African countries has also been formed, a panel of papers has been delivered and research and publications are planned. A co-authored pedagogical piece on the University of Bradford's Africa Study Visit comes out in 2016.

Formerly at the School of Oriental and African Studies, he became Lecturer in African Studies at the University of Bradford in 2013. He teaches African and comparative politics and has also taught courses at King’s College, London University of Nottingham, London Metropolitan University and the Instituto Rio Branco in Brasilia. He has worked on several election monitoring missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone for the Carter Center and NDI. He has also undertaken work for various European government departments and NGOs and written recent media pieces for Channel 4 and Fair Observer. He is a member of the editorial board for the re-launched Journal of Sierra Leone Studies.

Study History

PhD at SOAS, 2008:Post-Conflict Elections or Post-Elections Conflict in Sierra Leone and Liberia

Professional History

  • 2008-12: Senior Teaching Fellow (Teaching Fellow 2008-9), Department of Politics, SOAS
  • 2011-12, Visiting Lecturer, Department of History, King’s College London
  • 2011: Lecturer, Introduction to Contemporary African Politics, Instituto Rio Branco,Brasilia
  • 2010-11: Course Convener, African Politics and Development, Department of Government and International Relations,London Metropolitan University
  • 2006-8: Course Convener, Politics & Political Systems of Sub-Saharan Africa, Department of Politics,University of Nottingham
  • 2003-8: Teaching Assistant, Department of Politics, SOAS

Research Areas

Past research has focused on the intersection between conflict and elections, taking in the politics of rebel parties and post-conflict justice, in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Interest in elections in these two countries continues. More recent work has had two collaborative strands. One strand contains research into post-conflict state re-building, focusing on decentralisation and public sector reform, and the perceptions of donor staff and Sierra Leoneans of the successes and failures and the notion of social change. Government-donor relations in general in Africa are another source of interest. The second strand looks at the burgeoning presence of India in Africa and the rhetoric and politics that surround this involvement in Delhi and in African capitals.

Research Collaborations

Collaborations continue with Simona Vittorini, Tom Young, Felix M Conteh, Maria Ambrozy and Robtel Pailey (all SOAS) and Richard Lappin (Leuven/OECD).


  • Harris, D. & Vittorini, S., India in Africa: The Politics of South-South Cooperation, Hurst & Co, London, forthcoming, 2018
  • Harris, D. & Vittorini, S., ‘Taking ‘Development Cooperation’ Discourse Seriously: Indian claims and Ghanaian responses’, under consideration for a Special Edition of Global Society
  • Harris, D. & Ambrozy, M., ‘Learning in the Palaver Hut: the ‘Africa Study Visit’ as Teaching Tool’, Politics, 36/4, pp.508-21
  • Harris, D. & Vittorini, S., ‘What does 'development cooperation' mean? Perceptions from India and Africa’ in Sullivan, K. (ed.), Competing Visions of India in World Politics: India’s Rise Beyond the WestPalgrave, London, 2015
  • Harris, D. & Lappin, R., ‘Taylor is Guilty, is that all there is? The Collision of Justice and Politics in the Domestic Arena’ in Ainley, K. et al (eds.), Evaluating Transitional Justice: Accountability and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone,Palgrave, London, 2015
  • Harris, D. & Conteh, FM., ‘Swings and Roundabouts: the Vagaries of Democratic Consolidation and ‘Electoral Rituals’ in Sierra Leone’, Critical African Studies, 6/1, 2014, pp.57-70
  • Harris, D., Sierra Leone: A Political History, Hurst & Co, London, 2013
  • Harris, D. & Lewis, T., ‘Liberia in 2011: Still Ploughing its own Democratic Furrow?’, Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 51/1, 2013, pp.1-21
  • Harris, D., Civil War and Democracy in West Africa: Conflict Resolution, Elections and Justice in Sierra Leone and Liberia, IB Tauris, London, 2011
  • Harris, D. & Vittorini, S., ‘New Topographies of Power? Africa Negotiating an Emerging Multipolar World’ in Dietz T et al (eds.), African Engagements: Africa Negotiating an Emerging Multipolar World, Brill, Leiden, 2011
  • Harris, D. & Vittorini, S., ‘India Goes Over to the Other Side: Indo-West African Relations in the 21st Century’ in Mawdsley E. & McCann G. (eds.), India in Africa: Changing Geographies in Power, Fahamu Books, Oxford, 2011
  • Harris, D. & Lappin, R., ‘The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Reconciling or Re-dividing Liberia?’, Alternatives, 9/1, 2010, pp.181-91
  • Harris, D., ‘Liberia 2005: an Unusual African Post-conflict Election’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 44/3, 2006, pp.375-395
  • Harris, D., ‘From ‘Warlord’ to ‘Democratic’ President: how Charles Taylor Won the 1997 Liberian Elections’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 37/3, 1999, pp.431-455

Reviews of ‘Sierra Leone: A Political History

from the late Professor Patrick Chabal:

‘David Harris has written what will undoubtedly be seen as one of the most enlightening books on Sierra Leone. This book should be of great use to students of Sierra Leone, whether new to the subject or seasoned observers of this West African country.’

from Professor Will Reno:

‘David Harris provides an insightful and nuanced focus on the deep history of governance in Sierra Leone — but his imaginative analyses are applicable well beyond that country alone. Sierra Leone uses the real history of governance in that country to expose the dangers of wishful thinking on the part of the international community while showing the real mechanisms through which governance in this and other post-conflict countries is really transformed.’

from the London School of Economics

"David Harris convincingly draws out the policy implications of continuity and change in state-society relations. In doing so the book presents a nuanced critique of current liberal reform and democratisation in “post-conflict” societies. This is an empirically rich text with thoughtful conceptual reflection, one which does well to situate its arguments in a broader comparative-historical context. It will provide an excellent introduction to new scholars of Sierra Leone and is sure to stimulate discussion among development practitioners".

 From African Affairs (114 (455): pp.315-316) review (PDF) 


Public/Academic/Stakeholder Engagement

  • Sept 2016 ‘Reciprocal Perceptions in Contemporary Indian-Ghanaian Relations’, ASAUK conference, University of Cambridge, with Simona Vittorini
  • Jun 2016 Politics Journal Roundtable speaker, ‘Teaching Africa’, British International Studies Association conference, Edinburgh
  • Nov 2015 ‘‘Bedtime Stories’: Democracy as the Bringer of Development and Peace in Africa?’, Otley & Yeadon Labour Club
  • Jul 2015 ‘Perceptions of ‘Development’ in Contemporary Indian-Ghanaian Relations’, 6th European Conference on African Studies, Sorbonne University, Paris, with Simona Vittorini
  • Apr 2015 ‘Taking South-South discourse seriously: views from India and Ghana on contemporary Indian ‘development cooperation’’, Global Governance and the Politics of Aid Symposium, University of Bradford, with Simona Vittorini
  • Apr 2015 ‘Lessons in Political Change? Sierra Leone Before and After Ebola’, University of Newcastle
  • Nov 2014 ‘Learning in the Palaver Hut: The Merits of Field Trips in Peace Studies Programmes’, and Roundtable discussant, Peace Studies Colloquium, University of Coimbra, Portugal 
  • Sept 2014 Panel convener, ‘Evolving Donor Relationships’, ASAUK conference, University of Sussex, with Tom Young, Alexandra Löwe and Maria Ambrozy
  • Jul 2014 ‘What does ‘development cooperation’ mean? Perceptions from India and Africa’, European Conference on South Asian Studies, University of Zurich, with Simona Vittorini
  • Jul 2014 ‘Liberia and Sierra Leone’, ‘Elections in post-conflict states: the best way to legitimacy?’ panel, ODI, London
  • June 2014 Panel, ‘History and Politics of Africa’, Patrick Chabal Memorial Conference, King’s College London
  • May 2014 Roundtable with UK High Commissioner to Sierra Leone and UK Ambassador to Liberia, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London
  • Jan 2014 ‘What does ‘development cooperation’ mean? Perceptions from India and Africa’, Towards an International Society of the Future conference, University of Oxford, with Simona Vittorini
  • Dec 2013 ‘Swings and Roundabouts: the Vagaries of Democratic Consolidation and ‘Electoral Rituals’ in Sierra Leone’, Yorkshire Africa Studies Network conference, University of Leeds
  • Dec 2013 Panel, ‘From Peacebuilding towards Development: Opportunities and Challenges for Sierra Leone’s Future’, LSE
  • Oct-Nov 2013 ‘A Laboratory for State Reform and Social Change? A Historically Informed Reflection on Contemporary Sierra Leonean Politics’, Universities of Lancaster, Leeds and Leuven
  • June 2013: ‘Learning in the Palaver Hut: the ‘Africa Study Visit’ as Teaching Tool’, Teaching Africa and International Studies conference, Royal Holloway, University of London, with Maria Ambrozy
  • May 2013: ‘What does ‘development cooperation’ mean? Perceptions from India and Africa’,India in the Eyes of Others conference,University of Oxford, with Simona Vittorini
  • 2012: ‘Liberia in 2011: still ploughing its own democratic furrow?’, Liberian Studies Association Conference, Cornell University
  • 2012: ‘Is Liberia still ploughing its own democratic furrow: new or old patterns of African democracy in the 2011 Liberian elections?’, University of Bologna, with Tereza Lewis
  • 2012: ‘Sierra Leone Elections 2012: Between Democracy and Violence’, University of Oxford, with Mats Utas
  • 2011: ‘African governmental responses to Indian ventures on the continent: a changing arena of African politics?’, 4th European Conference on African Studies, University of Uppsala, with Simona Vittorini
  • 2011: ‘The Sierra Leonean State and State-Society Relations (1960-70)’, Sierra Leone: 50 Years of Independence Conference, University of Cambridge
  • 2011: ‘Unfolding Consequences of Liberalism in Sierra Leone and Liberia: liberal justice and state-building at work’, PUC-Rio, Brazil
  • 2011: ‘Unfolding Consequences of Liberalism in Sierra Leone and Liberia: liberal justice and state-building at work’, University of Edinburgh
  • 2010: ‘India Goes Over to the Other Side: Indo-West African Relations in the 21st Century’, New York State African Studies Association Conference, Binghamton University, SUNY, with Simona Vittorini
  • 2010: ‘The International Politics of Social Change: Transforming ‘Small’ Societies’, Politics & Knowledge Conference, University of Nottingham
  • 2009: ‘‘Slow, but Steady, like the Elephant’: the Politics of Indian Aid, Trade and Investment in West Africa’, 3rd European Conference on African Studies, University of Leipzig, with Simona Vittorini

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