Alice Wilson

Picture of Alice Wilson
Addison Wheeler Research Fellow
Social Anthropology
Durham University
Research interests: state power, citizenship, redistribution and taxation, development, forced migration
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 forthcoming monograph, Remaking Sovereignty: state power, revolution, and exile in a Saharan liberation movement (University of Pennsylvania Press), 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, Remaking Sovereignty explores insights into state power brought to light by the changing significance of tribes amongst Western Sahara’s refugees.

In my post-doctoral 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. Following a conference in spring 2013, 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 recently held a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant for fieldwork for my second research project on citizenship practices in southern Oman.

I have taught undergraduate and graduate students across the following fields: political anthropology, economic anthropology, kinship, anthropology of development, anthropology of law, anthropology of the Middle East, and anthropology of Africa.

I joined Durham Univeristy as an Addison Wheeler Research Fellow in October 2014. Previously, I was a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. I gained my PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge (2011). During my graduate studies, I was a Research Scholar at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and a Frank Knox Fellow at Harvard University.

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

Selected publications.


  • Forthcoming September 2016 (University of Pennsylvania Press). Sovereignty in exile: a Saharan liberation movement governs.

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

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

  • 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) .
  • Wilson, A. (Forthcoming) Going under the radar in Western Sahara. In Zoubir, Y. and White, G. (eds) North Africa: from status quo to (r)evolution (London, Routledge).

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: 12th February 2015
Alice Wilson
Durham University, Department of Anthropology