Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr John R Campbell

Key information

Department of Anthropology and Sociology Emeritus Reader Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Member
BSc (Oregon); MA (New York); DPhil (Sussex)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address


I joined the Department in September 2001 as a Senior Lecturer and retired in October 2018 as a Reader in the Anthropology of Law and Africa. During this period, and in addition to my teaching, I was the Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (2002-2005), Head of Department (2010-2012), and Chair of the Department Research Committee and Member the SOAS Research Excellence Framework 2021 Coordination Committee (2017-2018).

During this period I was a member of: (i) the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council Peer Review College (2005-2018); (ii) the Governing Board, Human Rights Concern-Eritrea. London (2011-present); (iii) the Advisory Board of the Platform on Disaster Displacement Advisory Committee, Geneva. (2015-2018); and (iv) the `Directory of Experts on Conditions of Origin and Transit’. I have written over five hundred ‘Expert Reports’ for Ethiopian and Eritrean asylum seekers and I have been invited to participate in: (a) ‘Asylum adjudication and Country Guidance: Function, Operation and Future’. The Nuffield Foundation & International. Association of Refugee Judges Seminar. London. May 2009 and (b) ‘Country of Origin Information and Due Process: Roundtable’, May 2012. UNHCR, The International Association of Refugee Law Judges and the Refugee law Initiative. London.

In addition, I have: (i) been a participant in a one-day colloquium on ‘Constitutional Design Solutions for Eritrea.’ University of Ottawa. Canada. October 2014; (ii) submitted evidence to All Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea. Invitation to submit evidence on the on-going exodus of Eritreans. Portcullis House, London (2016); (iii) submitted evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees. Invitation to submit evidence on Home Office Policy on Eritrea. House of Commons, London. (2016); (iv) helped review Foreign & Commonwealth Office Policy Engagement with Eritrea (2017)’ (v) provided an ‘overview of the Horn of Africa & Eastern Africa’ to UK Ministry of Defense Sub-Saharan Africa Training Program (2017-2018); finally (vi) asked to attend Her Majesties Courts Service-ESRC Workshop on Vulnerable Court Users. London (2018).

I am member of the Association of Social Anthropologists (UK) and of the African Studies Association (UK), and a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London.

On retirement I became an Academic Visitor at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford attached to the European Research Council’s funded project ‘Cultural Expertise in Europe: What is it useful for? (EURO-EXPERT)’. In 2018 I was made a Fellow of McLaughlin College, York University. Toronto.

In 2020 I accepted the post of Editor-in-Chief of the recently launched, open access journal Open Anthropological Research by de Gruyter Publishing.

Loading the player...

Dr John R Campbell - Refugees and the Law: An ethnography of the British Asylum System

Research interests

Research for my doctorate was conducted in the town of Koforidua, Ghana in the mid-1970’s on aspects of the political economy of urban development. Immediately following the defence of my thesis I went to the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I taught in the sociology department for four years (1981-1984) where I became involved in archival and policy-based research on the city of Dar es Salaam. After leaving Tanzania I was a Research Associate at the University of Sussex (1985-1986) following which I worked for Oxfam-UK in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1987-88) where I was responsible for setting up a five-year slum-upgrading project to address issues of inadequate shelter, water, employment and the absence of primary health care. I also assisted Oxfam’s rural development projects. In 1990 I re-entered academic life in the Department of Anthropology at The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow where I began to write up material on Ethiopian development.

In 1991 I joined the University of Wales, Swansea as a lecturer in social anthropology where I taught and became increasingly engaged in international development as a social development adviser at the Centre of Development Studies. Some of the projects I was involved with included: the World Bank Poverty Mission to Kenya (1994); a study of the NGO sector in Ethiopia (1996); evaluation and co-management of UK-DfID funded project Botswana Range Improvement Project based in the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaborone, Botswana (1996-98); a review for UK DfID of Kenyan Civil Society (1998); an evaluation of the Kwale Rural Support Program funded by The Aga Khan Foundation and the Department for International Development (UK), Nairobi (Kenya, 1999); and a review of UK DfID’s Kenya Direct Funding Initiative (1999).

I joined SOAS in 2001 and my interests focused increasingly on development and refugees. Between January 2007 and January 2009, I undertook fieldwork funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (Grant RES-062-23-0296) entitled "Refugees and the Law: An ethnography of the British Asylum System". This research sought to follow refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia who were seeking asylum in the UK. Following that period of fieldwork, I have published two books and numerous papers on the British Asylum System and refugees. In 2016-17 I undertook fieldwork in Magistrate’s Courts across London to understand the quality of (in)justice in these courts.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Mrs Laurie Lijnders Motherhood Across Borders (working title)


Contact John