Dr Julia Gallagher

Educational background

BSc Manchester University

MSc School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

PhD School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Personal profile

My academic work builds on a long-standing interest and engagement in international politics and Africa. After finishing a BSc in Physics, I taught for two years in Zimbabwe before returning to the UK to pursue a career as a political journalist and then a media consultant for the Foreign Office and a number of international development agencies. In 2005 I returned to academic life to write a PhD exploring British policy in Africa during the Blair era.  From 2009 I taught African Politics at SOAS, before joining the department at Royal Holloway in September 2010.

In 2016 I launched AAME, the Centre for Politics in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, which fosters research and teaching among scholars of the AAME regions.

Research interests

My research explores the role of ideas – and more particularly idealisations – in the international and domestic politics of Africa. I am particularly interested in the meanings attached to the state, and how these are constructed in relation to the wider world.

My most recent work focuses on Zimbabwe and has resulted in two books published in 2017. Zimbabwe's International Relations: fantasy, reality and the making of the state (Cambridge University Press) examines the ways in which African citizens conceive the state through their imagination of their past colonial and current international relationships. This work was partly funded by the British Academy, and is based on extensive fieldwork in Zimbabwe. 

Why Mugabe Won: the 2013 Zimbabwean elections and their aftermath, co-authored with Stephen Chan,  explores elite and grassroot activists’ views on the nature of the election and the long-term outcomes for politics in Zimbabwe. It is published by Cambridge University Press.

I have published two other books. Britain and Africa under Blair: in pursuit of the good state, (Manchester University Press, 2011) looked at British attempts to 'do good' in Africa. It was based on interviews with politicians, government officials and civil society activists from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the UK.

And an edited book, Images of Africa: creation, negotiation and subversion (MUP, 2015), draws together work from different disciplines and countries to explore ideas and images of Africa.


I am currently working on a new project – Understanding Statehood through Architecture: a comparative study of Africa’s state buildings – which looks at how buildings embody statehood across Africa. It has recently been awarded a European Research Council consolidator grant.



  • PR1520: Classic and Contemporary Readings in Politics and IR (course co-leader)
  • PR3760: The Politics of Africa (course leader)
  • PR5995: Fieldwork Methods (course leader)

PhD Supervision

  • Lyn Johnstone - graduated 2017
  • Langton Miriyoga - completed 2018
  • Simran Singh - completed 2018
  • Michael Murphy
  • Mary Scoltock
  • Kuziwa Zigomo
  • Moudwe Daga
  • Emmanuel Siaw
  • Edmilson Angelo

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