Alice Wilson

Picture of Alice Wilson
Lecturer in Social Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
University of Sussex
Research interests: state power, citizenship, redistribution and taxation, development, forced migration, veterans, liberation movements
Geographical area: Middle East, North Africa, the Sahara, Oman

See publications.

I am a social anthropologist, with research interests in the political and economic anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa. My work is concerned with transformations in the relationship between governing authorities and governed subjects. My monograph, Sovereignty in exile: a Saharan liberation movement governs (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), examines sovereignty through the case of the government-in-exile of Western Sahara’s liberation movement. Through a study of revolutionary social change, legal reform, democratization, and economic entwinements of aid and informal trade, Sovereignty in exile explores insights into state power brought to light by the changing significance of tribes amongst Western Sahara’s refugees.

Sovereignty in exile won Honorable Mention in the 2017 American Anthropological Association Middle East Section Book Award.

In related fieldwork and research, I have examined perceptions of the Arab Spring in North Africa. I have also further pursued the themes of exile, migration and social transformation from the perspective of post-exile forms of migration, and the spatial and social ambiguities of 'sedentarisation' in refugee camps for refugees who identify with life in nomadic encampments. As a member of the PROMETEE research project (summary in English) which focuses on the legal anthropology of property in Muslim contexts, I am also working on the creation of new forms of property in exile. I am a co-guest editor for a special issue with Geoforum on political legitimacy in anomalous governing authorities, such as unrecognised states, annexed territories and refugee populations.

I held a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant and Addison Wheeler Research Fellowship funds at Durham University for fieldwork for my second research project on legacies of the former liberation movement in Dhufar, southern Oman. I am currently working on my second monograph which examines how kinship practices and everyday socialising of some veterans generate ongoing social legacies of Dhufar's defeated revolution. I am also working on electoral practices which challenge traditional social hierarchies in southern Oman.

I currently teach undergraduate and graduate students across the following fields: political anthropology, economic anthropology, social theory and anthropology of the Middle East.

I joined the University of Sussex as a Lecturer in Social Anthropology in September 2016. Previously I enjoyed post-docs as an Addison Wheeler Research Fellow at Durham University (2014-2016) and as a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge (2011-2016). I gained my PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge (2011).

Working languages: English, French, Spanish (fluent); Arabic and Hassaniya dialect (excellent).

Selected publications.


    Honorable Mention in the 2017 American Anthropological Association Middle East Section Book Award.

Peer-reviewed articles (please contact me for a post-print):

Book chapters (please contact me for a post-print):

  • Wilson, A. (2018 Forthcoming). “To compensate or not to compensate? Law, property and Sahrawi refugees in Algeria” In Ben Hounet, Y. and Dupret, B. (eds) Law and property in Algeria: anthropological perspectives (Leiden, Brill).
  • Wilson, A. (2018 Forthcoming). “Keeping up with the times: the growth in support from non-state actors for the Polisario Front liberation movement.” In Abi-Mershid, O. (ed.) Social currents in the Maghreb (London, Hurst).
  • Wilson, A. (2017). “‘For us, Parliament is a Tool for Liberation’: Elections as an Opportunity for a Transterritorial Sahrawi population.” In Ojeda, R., Fernández-Molina, I. and Veguilla, V. (eds) Global, Regional and Local Dimensions of Western Sahara’s Protracted Decolonization: When a Conflict Gets Old (London, Palgrave).
  • Wilson, A. (2016) Going under the radar in Western Sahara. In Zoubir, Y. and White, G. (eds) North African politics: change and continuity (London, Routledge), pp. 128-142.
  • Wilson, A. (2016) Elecciones transterritoriales: los votantes saharauis en los campamentos de refugiados y más allá. In Barreñada, I. and Ojeda, R. (eds) Sahara Occidental: 40 años después (Madrid, Catarata), pp. 67-80.
  • Wilson, A. 2015. “Comment sont organisées les élections dans les camps de réfugiés sahraouis?” [How do elections work in the Sahrawi refugee camps?] In Vericel, D. (ed.) Lutter au Sahara. Du colonialisme vers l'indépendance au Sahara Occidental (Givors, APSO), pp. 213-230.
  • Wilson, A. 2014. “Cycles of crisis, migration and the formation of new political identities in Western Sahara.” In Pérouse de Montclos et al. (eds) Crises et migrations dans les pays du sud (Paris, L'Harmattan), pp. 79-105. (available as a working paper) .

Writing for a broader audience:

Background papers:

Book reviews:

  • Wilson, A. (2012) Review of San Martín, P. "Western Sahara: the refugee nation" , The Journal of North African Studies, DOI:10.1080/13629387.2012.702016
  • Wilson, A. (2009) Review of Finnström, S. "Living with bad surroundings. War, history and everyday moments in Northern Uganda." Cambridge Anthropology 29 (3), pp. 95-97.
  • Wilson, A. (2007) Review of Elyachar, J. Markets of Dispossession: NGOs, Economic Development and the State in Cairo. Cambridge Anthropology 27 (1), pp. 96-98.

Last updated: 18th December 2017
Alice Wilson
University of Sussex, Department of Anthropology