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Personal profile


Tanja is Professor of Political Sociology, and a founding member and former director of research (2010-2014) of the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute. Tanja was also a founding member and convenor of the 2017 Manchester Migration Lab, and currently convenes the GDI Research Group on Migration, Refugees and Asylum.

Tanja has recently completed a research project on the potential role of the business sector in refugee integration and humanitarian response. She is currently the Principal Investigator of an ESRC-funded project on transnational lived citizenship and political belonging in the Horn of Africa. She is also developing a new cooperation with Prof Adriana Kemp from Tel Aviv University on inscribing mobile lives into urban peripheries.

Biographical background:

Tanja received an MA in Linguistics and Philosophy (1991) at the Free University Berlin, an MSc in Development Studies at University College Dublin (1994), and a Ph.D. in Development Studies (2003) at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. Over the past decades she has worked as a university lecturer in Dublin (1991-1993) and Asmara (2000-2001), as an education consultant in Japan (1997-1999), and as a journalist on development-related issues (1994-2000). She was assistant professor at Wageningen University from 2003-2005 with the programme African Women Leaders in Agriculture and the Environment (AWLAE), where she worked on the implications of the HIV/AIDS pandemic for rural development in sub-Saharan Africa. Tanja joined the University of Manchester in January 2006. Major themes of her research are (1) revolutions, rebel governance and new elites, explored for example in relation to the case of Eritrea in the book The Making of Elite Women: Revolution and Nation Building in Eritrea (2005); (2) patterns of global solidarity, explored in a case study from Mozambique in the book Legacies of Socialist Solidarity (2014), and the dynamics of celebrity humanitarianism (see the edited volume Visual Global Politics); and (3) global rights, explored in relation to refugee and migrant trajectories and the concepts of insurgent and transnational citizenship as forms of resistance and belonging.


Research interests

Research Grants, Philosophy and Agendas

Collaborative Research Grants

(1) Transnational lived citizenship: Practices of citizenship as political belonging among emerging diasporas in the Horn of Africa (PI; with Oliver Bakewell as Co-I); GBP 789,731.20; ESRC 2020-2024.

(2) Making Peacekeeping Data Work for the International Coomunity (with Roger Mac Ginty (PI), Bertrand Taithe and Celia Russell); GBP 994,355.40; ESRC 2014-2017.

(3) Humanitarian Relief and Conflict Response in Interdisicplinary and Applied Perspective, ESRC Seminar Series (with Bertrand Taithe (PI), Tim Jacoby and James Thompson); GBP 17,692; ESRC 2009-2011.

(4) Community based systems in HIV treatment (with Sarah Bracking (PI), Phil Woodhous and David Lawson); GBP 129,998; European Commission, 2009-2012

Individual Research Grants

(1) Moving the goalposts of citizenship? German business sector engagement and refugee integration; GBP 8,422; British Academy, 2018-2021.

(2) ‘From Refugee to Pioneer?’ (Re-)claiming Rights and a Future within the Israeli Asylum Regime: A study among the Eritrean community of Tel Aviv; GBP 6,570; British Academy, 2011.

(3) Memories of Paradise. Life journeys of a cohort of young Mozambicans after schooling and vocational training in the former German Democratic Republic; GBP 6,486; Nuffield Foundation, 2008.

(4) Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools as a mitigation tool in HIV/AIDS. A Pilot Study in Mozambique; GBP 7,500; Nuffield Foundation, 2007.

Research Agendas

I have recently completed a research project on the potential role of the business sector in refugee integration and humanitarian response.  Currently, I am the Principal Investigator of an ESRC-funded project on transnational lived citizenship and political belonging in the Horn of Africa. I am also developing a new cooperation with Prof Adriana Kemp from Tel Aviv University on inscribing mobile lives into urban peripheries.

The major philosophical threads behind my academic research to date can be summarised under the slogan aspirationandrevolution and centre on three major themes: (1) Revolution and new elites; (2) Revolution and the quest for global solidarity; and (3) Revolution and global rights.

(1) Revolution and new elites: Within an overall framework of post-revolutionary elites, my work on revolutionary states investigates how post-conflict political trajectories are determined by patterns of rebel governance. It also interrogates how the dynamics of post-revolutionary politics result in either developmental states or authoritarian polities, or a combination of both. Past work has focused extensively on Eritrea, and to lesser extents on Mozambique, Nicaragua and Vietnam. Methodologically parts of this work are based on extensive interview, life history and observation data. In addition to numerous journal articles, this work has resulted in a book on Eritrean elite women: The Making of Elite Women. Revolution and Nation Building in Eritrea, Boston and Leiden, Brill Publishers, 2005.

(2) Revolution and global solidarity: Following from my work on the politics of post-revolutionary societies and my particular interest in how major political events are played out in individual lives, another line of research deals with post-socialist legacies. Before the end of the Cold War socialism offered a different blueprint for societal development not least for a large number of post-liberation societies in the Global South. Once the Berlin Wall had fallen, many of these settings were treated as a ‘blank slate’ upon which a new future of neoliberal capitalism was to be built. Such a view ignores the pervasiveness of the political in everyday life and the fact that social-solidarity centres counter narratives are still prevalent in lived realities. My work on tracing those ethnographies of post-socialist change has resulted in my latest book entitled Legacies of socialist solidarity - East Germany in Mozambique published by Lexington Books in autumn 2014. It also engages with changing conceptions of soildarity in humanitarianism and development, with a particular focus on changing patterns of celebrity humanitarianism (see the edited volume Visual Global Politics).

(3) Revolution and global rights: Following from my work on post-socialist legacies that also engages with individual and collective identites, an new line of research has emerged on belonging and transnationalism. It interrogates the dictum on the aspiration for connection among populations of the Global South and using life history interviews and artistic expressions of refugees in different geographical settings exploresinsurgent citizenship as a form of resistance – the latter has focused on a comparative investigations into different refugee settings in Tel Aviv and Thessaloniki. It feeds into wider debates about a world order where global rights are being recognised beyond the nation state. Of late, this work has been expanded to questions of political belonging among diaspora populations.

Country Experience

Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Senegal, Japan, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba, Israel, Greece, Germany. 

Further information

Leadership Positions

2023 -

SEED PGR Director; member of SEED Senior Leadership Team

2021 - 2022

Member of the Faculty of Humanities Professorial Promotions Committee

2020 - 2021

Cluster Convenor Social Development Cluster

Programme Director International Development MSc (all 7 pathways)

2017 -

Convenor GDI Research Group on Migration, Refugees and Asylum

2017 - 2018

Cluster Convenor Social Development Cluster

Programme Director International Development MSc (all 7 pathways)

2017 - 2018

Convenor Manchester Migration Lab (http://www.migrationlab.manchester.ac.uk/)

2016 -

Core reviewer of SEED Peer Review of Teaching College

2016 - 2017

Deputy Programme Director International Development MSc (all 7 pathways)

2015 - 2018

SEED Associate Director Teaching & Learning: Teaching Assistant coordinator

2013 - 2018

Convenor of the cross-disciplinary research group Humanitarianism and Development

2010 - 2014

Director of Research, Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

2010 - 2016

SEED Representative on University Ethics Committee 5, from 2014 Vice-chair of Committee 5

2010 - 2011

Cluster Convenor Social Development Cluster

Programme Director Masters Programmes in International Development (all pathways), Development Studies and Poverty and Development

2009 - 2012

IDPM Representative on the School Ethics Advisory Group

2009 - 2010

Chair IDPM Institute Forum

2007 - 2008

Deputy Programme Director Masters Programmes in International Development (all pathways) and Development Studies


Convenor International Development Seminar Series

External Consultancy


2017 and 2019              

Consultancy for the Norwegian Programme on International  Development NORGLOBAL 2

2016 -

Consultancy as Country Expert for Eritrea for the Varieties of Democracy Project, University of Goeteborg, Sweden (yearly)


Consultancy for the Institute for Security Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Consultant to the  Programme of Strategic Cooperation between Irish Aid and Higher-Education and Research Institutes

Further information

I welcome proposals for PhD research on any aspect of revolutionary societies and/or post-liberation politics; identity, belonging and transnationalism; diaspora studies; well-being and aspirations; global health and related fields; and conceptualisations behind and practices of humanitarianism and global solidarity.

Current PhD students
Hamid Khalafallah, working on political transitions in Africa and the role of civil society based on the case of Sudan (with Pritish Behuria, ESRC Scholarship)
Zerihun Birehabu working on post-socialist politics and theatre in Ethiopia (with Steve Scott-Bottoms, AHRC Scholarship)
Leou Yang working on migrant struggles and new forms of humanitarianism in the UK (with Aoileann Ní Mhurchú)

Laura Hirst working on urban vulnerabilities in the Global South: analysing fire risk and potentials for transformative response in resource poor urban settlements (with Alfredo Stein and Steve Jordan from Operation Florian, CASE studentship)

Completed PhD students

Caroline Delgado: In/security in context: An inquiry into the relational and contextual dimensions of in/security within the Colombian peace process (HCRI scholarship). Awarded 2018.

Ana Sofia Ganho: Reshaping sovereignty powers in agriculture in the Limpopo valley, Mozambique (2004-2014). Awarded 2017.
Cathy Wilcock: Building Peace from Diaspora: UK Sudanese opposition activists, peacebuilding and hybridity (SEED scholarship). Awarded 2016.
Karolina Olofsson: The Prioritisation and Development of Accountability in Afghanistan: A norm development examination of liberal statebuilding (HCRI scholarship). Awarded 2016.
Natalie Jones: The ma(r)king of complex border geographies and their negotiation by undocumented migrants: The case of Barbados (SED scholarship). Awarded 2014.
Maura Duffy: Venezuela's "Bolivarian Revolution": Power to the People? Awarded 2012.
Sithembiso Myeni: History Matters: Exploring Women’s Political Representation in Post Apartheid KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Ford Foundation Scholarship). Awarded 2012.
Diseye Dasimaka: Faith and Development Outcomes: A Comparative Case Study of HIV/AIDS Programmes in Southern Nigeria. Awarded 2011.

Activities and esteem

2019 - 2022

Co-editor, DSA/OUP book Series: Critical Frontiers in International Development Studies

2018 -

Co-Editor, African Diaspora

Co-Editor, Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

2018 - 2021

Board Member of the International Humanitarian Studies Association and Chair of its Working Group on Ethics

2012 - 2013

International Convenor, XV Comparative Education World Congress, Buenos Aires June 2013

2012 -

Editorial Board Member, Journal of Media and Communication Studies

2010 - 2020

Review Editor, Journal of Development Studies

2009 - 2012

Member of the Executive Committee, British Association for Comparative and International Education

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Policy@Manchester
  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute
  • Global Development Institute
  • Creative Manchester


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