SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr John R Campbell

BSc (Oregon); MA (New York); DPhil (Sussex)
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
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John Campbell
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Emeritus Reader

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies


Dr John R Campbell
Email address:
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings


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.

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


PhD Students supervised

Modules Taught

  • Anthropology of Law
  • Introduction to Legal Anthropology
  • Research Methods (for MPhil Students)
  • Ethnography of Eastern Africa (MA and BA level)
  • Anthropology of Development (MA)


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.


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Available for
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Press
  • Briefings
  • Short Term Consultancy
  • Long Term Consultancy
Regional Expertise
  • Africa
Country Expertise
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia


Authored Books

Campbell, John R (2020) Entanglements of Life with the Law : Precarity and Justice in London's Magistrates Courts. High Wycombe: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Campbell, John (2016) Bureaucracy, Law and Dystopia in the United Kingdom's Asylum System. Abingdon; New York: Routledge.

Campbell, John (2015) Nationalism, Law and Statelessness: Grand Illusions in the Horn of Africa. London; New York: Routledge.

Campbell, John (2013) Nationalism, Law and Statelessness: Grand Illusions in the Horn of Africa. Oxford: Routledge.


Campbell, John R (2022) 'The Judicial Assessment of Expert Evidence in the United Kingdom's Immigration and Asylum Chamber'. Laws, (11) 32, pp 1-16.

Campbell, John R (2022) 'Experts and the Judiciary: Reflections of an Anthropological Expert in the Field of Asylum and Migration Law'. NAVEIÑ REET: Nordic Journal of Law and Social Research, (11), pp 15-42.

Campbell, John R (2021) 'The limitations of international law at the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission and its implications for future conflict'. Journal of Eastern African Studies, (15) 4, pp 604-623.

Campbell, John (2020) 'Interrogating the Role and Value of Cultural Expertise in Law'. Laws, (9) 29, pp 1-23.

Campbell, John (2020) 'The quality of (in)justice in London's magistrates' courts'. Anthropology Today, (36) 5, pp 3-5.

Campbell, John R (2020) 'The Role of Lawyers, Judges and Country Experts in British Asylum and Immigration Law'. International Journal of Law in Context, (16) 1, pp 1-16.

Campbell, John (2020) 'Examining Procedural Unfairness and Credibility Findings in the UK Asylum System'. Refugee Survey Quarterly, (39) 1, pp 56-75.

Campbell, John (2018) 'Can Law Achieve Happiness? Critical Reflections on Criminal Justice'. Journal of Comparative Law, (13) 2, pp 21-32.

Campbell, John and Afework, Solomon (2015) 'Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants in Britain. Refugee Organising, Transnational Connections and Identity, 1950-2009'. African Diaspora, (8) 1, pp 98-119.

Campbell, John (2015) 'Asylum vs sovereignty in the 21st century: How nation-state's breach international law to block access to asylum.'. International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, (2) 1, pp 24-39.

Campbell, John (2013) 'Language analysis in the United Kingdom's refugee status determination system: seeing through policy claims about ‘expert knowledge’'. Ethnic and Racial Studies, (36) 4, pp 670-690.

Campbell, John and Yaron, Hadas and Hashimshony-Yaffe, Nurit (2013) '"Infiltrators" or refugees? An analysis of Israel's policy towards African asylum seekers'. International Migration, pp 1-13.

Campbell, John R (2011) 'The Enduring Nature of Stateless in The Horn of Africa: How Nation-States and Western Courts (re) define Nationality'. International Journal of Refugee Law, (23) 4, pp 656-679.

Campbell, John (2010) 'The 'problem' of ethics in contemporary anthropological research'. Anthropology Matters, (12) 1, pp 1-17.

Campbell, John (2009) 'Caught between the ideology and realities of development: Transiting from the Horn of Africa to Europe'. The LSE Migration Study Group Working Paper 2009/01 1, pp 1-29.

Campbell, John (2008) 'International Development and Bilateral Aid to Kenya in the 1990s'. Journal of Anthropological Research, (64) 2, pp 249-267.

Campbell, John (2006) 'Who are the Luo? Oral tradition and disciplinary practices in history and anthropology'. Journal of African Cultural Studies, (18) 1, pp 73-87.

Campbell, John (2005) 'Theory and Method in the Study of Poverty in East Africa'. Focaal, (45), pp 56-68.

Campbell, John and Holland, Jeremy (2005) 'Development Research: convergent or divergent understandings of poverty? An Introduction'. Focaal: European Journal of Social Anthropology, (45), pp 3-17.

Campbell, John (2005) 'Development research: convergent or divergent approaches and understandings of poverty? An introduction'. Focaal: European Journal of Social Anthropology, (45), pp 3-17.

Campbell, John (2004) 'Ethnic Minorities and Development: A Prospective Look at the Situation of African Pastoralists and Hunter-Gatherers'. Ethnicities, (4) 1, pp 5-26.

Campbell, John (2002) 'A Critical Appraisal of Participatory Methods in Development Research'. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, (5) 1, pp 19-29.

Campbell, John (2001) 'Participatory Rural Appraisal as Qualititative Research: Distinguishing Methodological Issues from Participatory Claims'. Human Organization, (Vol. 6), pp 380-89.

Campbell, John (1999) 'Nationalism, ethnicity and religion: Fundamental conflicts and the politics of identity in Tanzania'. Nations and Nationalism, (5) 1, pp 105-25.

Campbell, John (1994) 'Constraints on sustainable development in Ethiopia: Is there a future for improved wood-stoves?'. Public Administration and Development, (14) 1, pp 19-36.

Campbell, John (1994) 'Urbanisation, Culture and the politics of urban development in Ghana, 1875-1980'. Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, (23) 4, pp 409-450.

Campbell, John (1991) 'Land or Peasants? The Dilemma Confronting Ethiopian Resource Conservation'. African Affairs, (90) 358, pp 5-21.

Campbell, John (1988) 'Tanzania and the World Bank's Urban Shelter Project: Ideology and International Finance'. Review of African Political Economy, (15) 42, pp 5-18.

Campbell, John (1984) 'Class and State in the Political Economy of Ghana, 1957-1979'. Mawazo, (5) 4, pp 82-97.

Edited Books or Journals

Holland, Jeremy and Campbell, John, (eds.), (2005) Methods in Development Research: Combining quantitative and qualitative methods. Rugby: Practical Action Pub..

Campbell, John and Holland, Jeremy, (eds.), (2004) Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Development. London: Intermediate Technology Group.

Campbell, John and Rew, Alan, (eds.), (1999) Identity and Affect: Experiences of Identity in a Globalising World. London: Pluto Press.

Book Chapters

Campbell, John R (2020) 'Guilt by Association: Contrasting views on the fairness of ‘secret trials’ of ‘terrorists’'. In: Simeon, James, (ed.), Terrorism and Asylum. The Netherlands: Brill Njihoff, pp 92-122.

Campbell, John R (2019) 'Analysing public policy in the UK : Seeing through the secrecy, obfuscation and obstruction of the FOIA by the Home Office'. In: Walby, Kevin and Luscombe, Andrew, (eds.), Freedom of Information and Social Science Research Design. New York: Routledge, pp 173-190.

Campbell, John (2019) 'Conflicting Perspectives on the ‘Migrant Crisis’ in the Horn of Africa'. In: Menjivar, C and Ruis, M and Ness, Immanuel, (eds.), The Oxford handbook of migration crises. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Campbell, John (2019) 'The World of Home Office Presenting Officers'. In: Gill, Nick and Good, Anthony, (eds.), Asylum Determination in Europe: Ethnographic Perspectives. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 91-108.

Campbell, John (2015) 'Expert Evidence in British Asylum Courts: The Judicial Assessment of Evidence on Ethnic Discrimination and Statelessness in Ethiopia'. In: Berger, Iris and Redeker Hepner, Tricia and Lawrance, Benjamin N. and Tague, Joanna T. and Terretta, Meredith, (eds.), African Asylum at the Cross Roads. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, pp 102-120.

Campbell, John (2006) 'Corruption and the one-party state in Tanzania: A view from Dar es Salaam, 1964-2000'. In: West, Harry G. and Raman, Parvathi, (eds.), Enduring Socialism : Explorations of Revolution and Transformation, Restoration and Continuation. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.

Campbell, John (2003) 'Defining the Limits of a Discourse. 'Social Capital' in Africa'. In: Moseley, P. and Dowler, E., (eds.), Poverty and Exclusion in North and South. Essays on Social Policy and Global Poverty Reduction.. London: Routledge, pp 149-164.

Campbell, John (2002) 'Interdisciplinary research and GIS: Why local and indigenous knowledge are discounted'. In: Sillitoe, Paul and Bicker, Alan and Pottier, Johan, (eds.), Participating in Development: Approaches to Indigenous Knowledge. New York: Routledge, pp 189-205.

Campbell, John (2002) 'Dar es Salaam'. In: Ember, Melvin and Ember, Carol R, (eds.), Encyclopedia of Urban Cultures. Danbury, CT: Human Relations Area Files & Grollier Publishing Co, pp 115-121.

Campbell, John (2002) 'Interdisciplinary Research and GIS. Why Local and Indigenous Knowledge Are Discounted'. In: Sillitoe, Paul and Bicker, Alan and Pottier, Johan, (eds.), Participating in Development. Approaches to Indigenous Knowledge.. London: Routledge, pp 189-205.

Campbell, John (2001) 'Drawing a line between autonomy and Governance: The state, civil society and NGOs in Ethiopia'. In: Barrow, Ondine and Jennings, Michael, (eds.), The Charitable Impulse. NGOs and Development in East and North East Africa. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian, pp 149-66.


This list was last generated on Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 21:54 Europe/London.