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Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Liberian academic, activist and author with over 15 years of combined professional and personal experiences in Africa, Europe and North America. Her core areas of research expertise include the political economy of development, migration, race, 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 change is mediated by race, citizenship, 'South-South' migration and development cooperation in Liberia and Sierra Leone – ‘founded’ by black migrants who adopted constitutional clauses in the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively, that prohibit non-blacks from obtaining citizenship. Seemingly ‘racist’, the ‘Negro’ clauses centre 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 worked across a broad range of fields while supporting universities, governments, media institutions, multilateral, regional, non-governmental and community-based organisations. 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.