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Department of Development Studies

Ms Robtel Neajai Pailey

BA (Howard) BA (Howard) MSc (Oxford)


Robtel Pailey
Centre of African Studies


Centre for Development Policy and Research (CDPR)

Research Officer

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies


Violence, Peace and Development Research Cluster

Research Cluster Member

Migration, Mobility and Development Research Cluster

Research Cluster Member

Ms Robtel Neajai Pailey
Email address:
Thesis title:
The Love of Liberty Divided Us Here? Factors Leading to the Introduction and Postponement in Passage of Liberia’s Dual Citizenship Bill
Year of Study:
Year of Entry 2011
Internal Supervisors


Born in Monrovia, Liberia, Robtel Neajai Pailey has worked in and conducted research on three continents. She is a Mo Ibrahim Foundation Ph.D. Scholar.

PhD Research

Having never been formally colonised and more recently emerging from 14 years of intermittent armed conflict, Liberia represents a stark case study in citizenship construction because of its idiosyncratic history of black settler state formation. Because ‘Liberian citizenship’ has historically been a tool of exclusion—once barring women, non-settlers, non-Christians, and non-blacks—it remains a violently contested space of inquiry with newer forms of citizenship now developing in Liberia and within transnational spaces.

In this thesis, I argue that conflict, migration, globalisation and post-war recovery have configured and reconfigured ‘Liberian citizenship’ across space and time, thereby influencing the introduction and postponement in passage of a dual citizenship bill proposed in 2008*.  The bill is used as a point of entry to evaluate Liberia’s long-standing struggle to construct a unique brand of citizenship that is totalising, tactical and timeless.

My findings show that contemporary constructions of ‘Liberian citizenship’ transcend the legal, textbook definition enshrined in the country’s Aliens and Nationality Law—moving from passive, identity-based citizenship to more active, practice-based citizenship. Thus, claims for and counter-claims against dual citizenship are manifestations of the hybridity of citizenship (identity + practice). Using actor-oriented analysis as my theoretical framework, I examine the interfaces between 202 Liberian interviewees—namely, homeland Liberians in Monrovia; Liberian diasporas in London, Washington, Freetown, and Accra; permanent and circular returnees; executive and legislative members of government, including the four sponsors of the proposed dual citizenship bill—showing that their conceptualisations of 'Liberian citizenship' differ according to their lived experiences and social locations, and ultimately influence participation, or lack thereof, in post-war recovery.

Given the dynamic trends in citizenship configuration across the globe and particularly in Africa, my findings fill gaps in the growing body of literature on citizenship and participation in emigrant-sending countries. The thesis further contributes to debates about how to rebuild states whose wars were fuelled by the politicisation of identity.

*If enacted, the bill would enable Liberian citizen women to pass on citizenship to their children as well as grant dual citizenship to Liberians by birth who naturalised elsewhere (or have aspirations to naturalise), and those born outside of Liberia to Liberian citizen parents, respectively.

PhD Publications

Horst, Cindy, Lubkemann, Stephen, and Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2015) (co-authored forthcoming
book chapter). “Diaspora Humanitarianism: The Invisibility of a Third Humanitarian Domain” in Zeynep Sezgin and Dennis Dijkzeul (eds.) The New Humanitarians: Principles and Practice. New York, New York: Routledge.

Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2014) (forthcoming book chapter). “Patriarchy, Power Distance, and
Female Presidency in Liberia” in Baba G. Jallow (ed.) Leadership in Post-Colonial Africa. London, England: Palgrave MacMillan: 175-196.

Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2014). “SDI’s 10-year Positive Peace Crusade.” Monrovia, Liberia: Sustainable Development Institute.

Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2013). “Why Liberia’s Proposed Dual Citizenship Legislation Should Be Based on Evidence, and Not Sentiments.” African Arguments, 18 July: http://africanarguments.org/2013/07/18/why-liberia%E2%80%99s-proposed-dual-citizenship-legislation-should-be-based-on-evidence-not-sentiments-by-robtel-neajai-pailey  

Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2012). "Going Home the Same Way They Came: Buduburam on My Mind as D-Day Nears." Frontpage Africa Newspaper, 14 June: http://www.frontpageafricaonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3389:going-home-the-same-way-they-came-buduburam-on-my-mind-as-d-day-approaches-liberian-refugees&catid=46:feature-article&Itemid=120

Pailey, Robtel Neajai (2011). “Evaluating the Dual Citizenship/State-building/Nation-building Nexus in Liberia.” Liberian Studies Journal (36) 1: 1-24. (Republished on Pambazuka News: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/87998)

PhD Conferences

November 2013: Africa-UK Seminar on Effective Collaboration between the UK Academic Community and African Diasporas (in London, England). Presentation: “Diasporas and Development: Opportunities and Challenges”

May 2013: Mo Ibrahim Foundation Residential School on Governance (in Accra, Ghana). Presentation I: “Liberia’s Diasporas as Governance and Development Actors”. Presentation II: “Evaluating the Nexus between Transnational Citizenship and Governance”

May 2012: 42nd St. Gallen Symposium (in St. Gallen, Switzerland). Presentation: “The African Uprising between Social Risks and Economic Opportunities”

March 2012: 44th Annual Liberian Studies Association (LSA) Conference (in Ithaca, New York). Paper Presentation: “Evaluating the Dual Citizenship/State-building/Nation-building Nexus in Liberia”


Mo Ibrahim Foundation: http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/

Liberian Studies Association: http://www.onliberia.org/lsa_index.htm


My thesis scrutinises the markers of citizenship, narrowly defined in Liberia’s current Aliens and Nationality Law, how citizenship is currently conceived of and practiced domestically and transnationally, and the symbiotic relationship between (dual) citizenship and post-war recovery.