Dr Robtel Neajai Pailey

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Liberian academic, activist and author with over 15 years of combined professional experiences in Africa, Europe and North America. Her core areas of research expertise include the political economy of development, migration, citizenship, conflict, post-war recovery and governance, all with respect to Africa. She has conducted multi-sited fieldwork in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Denmark, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, the US and UK.

In her Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship project, Robtel examines how socio-economic development is mediated by race and citizenship in Liberia—a country ‘founded’ by black migrants who adopted a constitutional clause that prohibits non-blacks from obtaining citizenship by birth, ancestry, or naturalisation. Seemingly ‘racist’ the clause centres blackness as an explicit property of citizenship thereby challenging white supremacy and unsettling the very foundation of citizenship as nested in a predominantly white, liberal state.

Robtel has consulted across a broad range of fields while supporting universities, governments, NGOs, media institutions, regional and multilateral agencies. She has practitioner-based proficiencies in qualitative research, capacity development, policy design and analysis, programme management, report and grant writing, journalism and strategic communications. An increasingly sought-after thought leader and public scholar, Robtel has provided expert commentary for radio, television, print and online media across the globe.

She obtained BA degrees in African Studies and English Literature from Howard University in 2004, an MSc in African Studies from the University of Oxford in 2007 and a PhD in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London, in 2014.

In the media

Journal articles and special issues

Pailey, Robtel Neajai (with David Harris) (2017) 'Liberia’s run-up to 2017: continuity and change in a long history of electoral politics', Review of African Political Economy 44 (152) 322-35
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2011) 'Evaluating the Dual Citizenship/State-building/Nation-building Nexus in Liberia', Liberian Studies Journal (36) 1 1-24
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2007) 'A Diaspora Returns: Liberia Then and Now', Humanitas 9 (1) 3-35


Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2017) 'Silver Lining, Silver Bullet or Neither? Post-War Opportunities and Challenges for Liberian Diasporas in Development'. Liberian Development Conference Anthology: Engendering Collective Action for Advancing Liberia’s Development , Monrovia, Liberia: USAID/Liberia, Embassy of Sweden and the University of Liberia
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (with Cindy Horst, Stephen Lubkemann) (2016) 'Diaspora Humanitarianism: The Invisibility of a Third Humanitarian Domain'. In Zeynep Sezgin, Dennis Dijkzeul (eds) The New Humanitarians in International Practice: Emerging Actors and Contested Principles , London and New York: Routledge
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2014) 'Patriarchy, Power Distance, and Female Presidency in Liberia'. In Baba G Jallow (ed) Leadership in Post-Colonial Africa: Trends Transformed by Independence , London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2010) 'Craft and Concerns in Helene Cooper's The House at Sugar Beach'. In JKS Makokha, Remmy Barasa and Adeyemi Daramola (eds) Tales, Tellers and Talemaking: Critical Studies on Literary Stylistics and Narrative Styles in Contemporary African Literature , Berlin, Germany: Verlag Dr Mueller (VDM)
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2007) 'Slavery Ain’t Dead, It’s Manufactured in Liberia’s Rubber'. In Patrick Bond, Firoze Manji (eds) From the Slave Trade to ‘Free’ Trade: How Trade Undermines Democracy and Justice in Africa , Nairobi, Kenya and Oxford, UK: Fahamu, Networks for Social Justice


Pailey, Robtel Neajai (with Maegan Hendow, Alessandra Bravi, Albert Kraler, Bernhard Perchinig and Katharina Schaur) (2018) 'Resilience in the Face of Adversity: A Comparative Study of Migrants in Crisis Situations', Vienna: International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (with Leander Kandilige, James Suah Shilue and Mahamadou Zongo) (2017) 'Côte d'Ivoire at a Crossroads: Socio-economic Development Implications of Crisis-induced Returns to Burkina Faso, Ghana and Liberia', Vienna: International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (with Henri Yambene Bomono and Remadji Hoinathy) (2017) ' Central African Republic at a Crossroads: Socio-economic Development Implications of Crisis-induced Returns to Cameroon and Chad', Vienna: International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (with Maegan Hendow, Alessandra Bravi) (2016) 'Migrants in Countries in Crisis. Emerging Findings: A Comparative Study of Six Crisis Situations', Vienna: International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2016) 'Women's Resilience: Integrating Gender in the Response to Ebola', Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire: African Development Bank
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2014) 'SDI's 10-year Positive Peace Crusade', Monrovia, Liberia: Sustainable Development Institute

Other publications

Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2019) 'Jaadeh! [anti-corruption children's sequel]', New York, New York: One Moore Book
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2019) 'How Africa Can Adopt a Pan-African Migration and Development Agenda', The Africa Policy Journal
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2016) 'Long-Term Socio-Economic Implications of "Crisis-Induced" Return Migration on Countries of Origin', Migrants in Countries in Crisis Research Brief Vienna: International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2014) '2014 Ebola Outbreak Exposes Large Gaps in Financing Adequate Healthcare in West African Countries', Development Viewpoint No 82 Centre for Development Policy and Research, SOAS, University of London
Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2013) 'Gbagba [anti-corruption children's book]', New York, New York: One Moore Book
13 February, 2019
Robtel Neajai Pailey publishes new children’s anti-corruption book Jaadeh!
11 December, 2018
Robtel Neajai Pailey wins International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award
31 July, 2018
Song based on Robtel Neajai Pailey’s new anti-corruption book released in Liberia
19 July, 2017
Robtel Neajai Pailey wins Ibrahim Fellowship to take up position at African Development Bank
10 July, 2017
ODID researchers win Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships
28 June, 2017
Nine academics and students to present at ECAS7 in Basel
05 June, 2017
New article by Robtel Neajai Pailey on Liberia's 2014/15 Ebola outbreak
04 May, 2017
New article by Robtel Neajai Pailey looks ahead to Liberia's 2017 election
02 May, 2017
Senior Research Officer Robtel Neajai Pailey appointed to board of Monrovia Football Academy
30 November, 2016
ODID Africa specialists to present at ASA 2016
08 Mar, 2019
'8 female anti-corruption fighters that inspire us'. Robtel Neajai Pailey features in list compiled by Transparency International
29 Jan, 2019
'The struggles for Liberian citizenship'. Robtel Neajai Pailey writes for Al Jazeera English
19 Dec, 2018
'Fighting corruption early for the good of the country'. Robtel Neajai Pailey interviewed in Free Malaysia Today
15 Oct, 2018
'When foreign "do-gooders" do more harm than good in Liberia'. Robtel Neajai Pailey writes for Al Jazeera
14 Oct, 2018
Race-based citizenship in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Robtel Neajai Pailey discusses her postdoctoral work on BBC World Service's Weekend
16 Jul, 2017
'African-American art exhibition "Soul of a Nation" opens in London'. Robtel Neajai Pailey discusses new Tate exhibition on BBC World Service
23 May, 2017
'Legal invisibility was the best thing to happen to me'. Robtel Neajai Pailey writes for Al Jazeera
09 Feb, 2017
'The bottom line is we don't have the luxury of neglecting Liberian small- to medium-sized enterprises'. Robtel Neajai Pailey comments for NPR on a conflict between ice-cream businesses in Liberia
17 Jan, 2017
'Africa’s lessons for Trump’s America'. Read first of Robtel Neajai Pailey's new columns for New African Magazine
06 Nov, 2016
'US election: What does the rest of the world think?'. Robtel Neajai Pailey comments on implications for Africa in Al Jazeera Round Table


Research interests:

Political economy of development; migration; citizenship; conflict; post-war recovery; and governance, all with respect to Africa