[skip to content]

Department of Politics and International Studies

Ms Margarita Dimova

BA (American University in Bulgaria), MA (Utrecht)


Margarita Dimova
Department of Politics and International Studies

Tutor - Government and Politics in Africa (PG)

Ms Margarita Dimova
Email address:
Thesis title:
Dealing with the State: The Heroin Trade in Kenya
Year of Study:
Passed doctoral viva in February 2015.
Internal Supervisors


Born and raised in Bulgaria, Margarita has lived on a few continents, deepening the topography of her knowledge. She combines her PhD work with teaching, consulting and aerial arts among other things.

PhD Research

Over the past two decades, Africa’s ‘drug problem’ has become a central trope on the global insecurity-development nexus. East Africa entered the spotlight of the global War on Drugs as a new locus of opiates trafficking and distribution.

Analyses of these recent developments, however, remain informed by haphazard statistics from national and international law enforcement agencies and confined to transnational security deliberations. The particular structures of collaboration and governance on which African drug merchants, citizens and law enforcers rely are given little consideration.

Margarita conducted immersive fieldwork in Nairobi and Mombasa, documenting and understanding the complex networks of interdependence between street-level heroin dealers, anti-narcotics officers and community policing members. Using an ethnographer’s toolkit, she examined the ways in which the social organisation of drug-distribution networks moulds new interfaces of interaction between transboundary illicit economies, local entrepreneurship, and state-mandated institutions of policing and control. Her goal is to update the debate on the relationship between state and society in Africa, considering the particular blend of informal and informal repertoires that different actors use.

Broadly speaking, this PhD research occupies the cross-disciplinary space of studies on order and disorder, control and policing, crime and authority in postcolonial Africa. Its contribution to this interdisciplinary debate will be to elaborate a dynamic, positive-space conception of the African state, in contrast to the predominant scholarly work that defines it by the qualities it does not have. The departure point for such an analytical framework is a more anomic theory of centralised authority that challenges conventional conceptions of corruption and state fragility, as well as the legal-illegal binary.

PhD Publications

'A New Agenda for Policing: Understanding the Heroin Trade in Eastern Africa', ECPR Proceedings, Glasgow, September 2014

PhD Conferences

  • 'Re-evaluating the War on Drugs in East Africa', East Africa Network Conference, London, 6 March 2015
  • ‘Flexible Methodologies: Accessing the Heroin Trade in Nairobi and Mombasa’, Researching Africa Day Workshop, Oxford, 12 March 2014
  • ‘Made in the Shade: Policing the Heroin Trade in Kenya’, Fifth European Conference on African Studies, Lisbon, 26-28 June 2013
  • ‘Pushing Forward: Navigation Strategies of Street-Level Heroin Dealers in Nairobi’, Annual Conference for the Consortium of African and Asian Studies, Singapore, 28-30 January 2013
  • ‘On the Limits of Control: Crime Containment Mechanisms in the Slums of Nairobi’, ASAUK Biennial Conference, Leeds, 6-8 September 2012
  • ‘Access to the Marginal Terrain of Criminal Occupations’, Anthropology in London Day, London, 17 June 2013
  • ‘Underground as Overground: The Drug Economy in Urban Kenya‘, SOAS: Pondering the Political, London, 13 June 2012


  • Royal African Society
  • Centre of African Studies
  • BISA Africa and International Studies Working Group
  • British Institute in Eastern Africa


Margarita is the course convenor for Development and Conflict, and also teaches on the following: 

  • Government and politics in Africa
  • Political economy of violence, conflict and development (PG Tutor)
  • States, people, and power of Asia and Africa


Margarita’s research interests include urban crime, disorder, authority and policing in postcolonial Africa. She recently returned from fieldwork in Kenya, where she researched the sprawling heroin market. In her work, she examines the ways in which the social organisation of transnational criminal networks remoulds interactions between illicit economies, local entrepreneurship, and state-mandated institutions of control. Margarita’s research is geared towards a more anomic conceptualisation of centralised authority and challenges binary juxtapositions of the legal-illegal and formal-informal.