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Dr Oliver Owen

ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellow

Prior to joining ODID, Olly studied for a DPhil at Oxford University’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, where he undertook an ethnographic study of the Nigerian Police Force. Before that, he worked in London and Lagos, first with West African civil society groups, and then as an investment risk analyst covering the West Africa sub-region. Prior to that, he took an undergraduate degree in Social Anthropology in Cambridge, and an MSc in African Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He has also worked as a journalist and consultant.

Olly's current research is a study of new transformations in revenue and fiscal governance in Nigeria, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. This three-year study looks at taxation relationships between the state and citizens, and how questions of social contract and political accountability are popularly understood. Alongside this, he continues a focus on policing structures and practices in Nigeria, and is working with stakeholders in this field within Nigeria to feed research into policy debates. He also continues other work related to longstanding interests in politics and governance in the West African sub-region and in political anthropology.

In 2015, Olly won an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize for his research on the Nigerian Police Force, coming second in the Outstanding Early Career Impact category. Watch a video about the work here.

Olly teaches on the MPhil in Development Studies.

Books and Monographs

Owen, Oliver (with J Beek, M Goepfert & J Steinberg) (eds) (forthcoming) Police in Africa: The Street-Level View, London: Hurst

Journal Articles and Special Issues

Owen, Oliver (2016) 'Government Properties: The Nigeria Police Force as Total Institution? ', Africa 86 (1): 37-58 (Download from external site)

Owen, Oliver (with Zainab Usman) (2015) 'Briefing: Why Goodluck Jonathan lost the Nigerian presidential election of 2015', African Affairs 114 (456): 455-71 (Download from external site)

Owen, Oliver (with S-J Cooper-Knock) (2014) 'Between vigilantism and bureaucracy: Improving our understanding of police work in Nigeria and South Africa', Theoretical Criminology 19 (3): 355-75 (Download from external site)

Owen, Oliver (2013) 'The police and the public: Risk as preoccupation', Sociologus 63 (1-2): 59-80 (Download from external site)

Owen, Oliver (2012) 'Policing Nigeria: Towards a History of State Sovereignty', Politique Africaine 128

Owen, Oliver (2009) 'Biafran Pound Notes', Africa 79(4)


Owen, Oliver (forthcoming) 'Policing after Colonialism'. In B Bradford, B Jauregui, I Loader and J Steinberg (eds) SAGE Handbook of Global Policing, London: SAGE

Owen, Oliver (forthcoming) 'Risk and motivation in police work'. In J Beek, M Goepfert, O Owen and J Steinberg (eds) Rethinking Policing in Africa, London: Hurst

Owen, Oliver (2013) 'Positions of Security and the Security of Position: Bureaucratic Prebendalism Inside the State'. In Wale Adebanwi, Ebenezer Obadare (eds) Democracy and Prebendalism in Nigeria: Critical Reinterpretations, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Other Publications

Owen, Oliver (2015) 'Film: The forgotten army of WWII: West Africa's soldiers in Burma', (Download from external site)

Owen, Oliver (2014) 'The Nigeria Police Force: predicaments and possibilities', NRN Working Paper No 15, Nigeria Research Network, Oxford Department of International Development

Owen, Oliver (2013) 'Policing Communal Conflicts: The State, Parallel Security Providers, and Communities', NRN Policy Brief No 4 Nigeria Research Network, Oxford Department of International Development (Download from external site)


+44 (1865) 271914

West Africa, Nigeria, policing, governance, the state and society, political anthropology, political economy, public policy and public culture.

International Development: increasing well-being and reducing inequality in global society