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Ambreena Manji

Professor Ambreena Manji

Professor of Law

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I have been Professor of Land Law and Development at Cardiff School of Law and Politics since 2014. Before that, I was seconded to Nairobi as the Director of the British Academy's British Institute in Eastern Africa (2010-2014). I have a strong research and professional interest in law and development. This is evidenced by my track record of publication. In addition, I have advised and lectured on a range of development issues, particularly land law reform. With John Harrington, I set up Cardiff's path-breaking Law and Global Justice Pro Bono programme, working on legal cases in East Africa.
















Book sections






Law, Politics, and Land Reform in East Africa

I have published widely on the politics of land law reform in East Africa. Topics have included the notable absence of gender as a consideration in Tanzanian land law debates, the subsequent attempt to secure women's land rights through schemes for statutory spousal co-ownership in Tanzania and Uganda, the global promotion of individual titling and registration of previously customary land by the World Bank, and the failure of land law reform in Kenya.


Manji, A 2017 Safe and secure: property, conservation and enclosure in Karura Forest, Nairobi. African Affairs 116 (463)

Manji, A. 2017 (forthcoming). ‘Land rights and the rule of law’. In: Cheeseman, N., Kanyinga, K. and Lynch, G. eds. Oxford Handbook of Kenyan Politics.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

Manji, A. and Harrington, J. 2017 (forthcoming). ‘Law and the postcolonial state’ Social and Legal Studies 50th anniversary special issue.

Manji, A. 2016. ‘Illegal and Irregular Allocations of Public Land in Kenya: A Reconsideration of Patrick McAuslan's Bringing the Law Back In’. In: Zartaloudis, T. ed. Property, Development and Planning: Essays in Honour of Professor Patrick McAuslan.  Routledge/Birkbeck Law Press.

Manji, A. 2015. ‘Patrick McAuslan: An Appreciation’. Social and Legal Studies 24(3), 331-337.

Manji, A. 2015. ‘Whose Land is it Anyway? The Failure of Land Law Reform in Kenya’. Africa Research Institute Counterpoint, pp. 1-13.

Harrington, J. and A. Manji 2015. ‘Restoring Leviathan? The Kenyan Supreme Court, Constitutional Transformation, and the Presidential Election of 2013’. Journal of Eastern African Studies 9(2), pp. 175-192.

Manji, A. 2015. ‘Bulldozers, Homes and Highways: Nairobi and the Right to the City’. Review of African Political Economy 42(1), pp. 1-19.

Manji, A. 2014. ‘The Politics of Land Reform in Kenya 2012’. African Studies Review 55(1), pp. 467-492.

Harrington, J. and A. Manji 2013. Satire and the politics of corruption in Kenya. Social and Legal Studies 22(1), pp. 3-23.

Lawyers, Politics and Public Land in Kenya. (2012) 53 Journal of Modern African Studies, 467-492.

Eliminating Poverty? Financial Inclusion, Access to Land, and Gender Equality in International Development. (2010) 73 Modern Law Review, 985-1025.

The Politics of Land Reform in Africa: From Communal Tenure to Free Markets (London: Zed Books, 2006).


International Law: Modern Feminist Perspectives edited with Doris Buss, with a foreword by Mary Robinson (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2005).


Cause and Consequence in Law and Development. Review Article of Patrick McAuslan ‘Bringing the Law Back In: Essays in Land, Law and Development' (2005) 43 Journal of Modern African Studies 119-138.

Commodifying Land, Fetishising Law: Women's Struggles to Claim Land Rights in Uganda (2003) 19 Australian Feminist Law Journal 81-92.

Remortgaging Women's Lives: The World Bank's Land Agenda in Africa (2003) 11 Feminist Legal Studies 139-162.

Capital, Labour and Women's Land Rights in Africa: A Gender Analysis of the World Bank's ‘Policy Research Report on Land Institutions and Land Policy' (2003) 24 Third World Quarterly 97-111.

Land Reform in the Shadow of the State: Implementing New Land Laws in Sub-Saharan Africa (2001) 22 Third World Quarterly 327-342.

‘Her Name is Kamundage': Understanding the Impact of AIDS on Women's Relations to Land Amongst the Haya of Tanzania (2000) 70 Africa 262-295.

Imagining Women's ‘Legal World': Towards a Feminist Theory of Legal Pluralism in Africa (1999) 8 Social and Legal Studies 435-455.

Gender and the Politics of the Land Reform Process in Tanzania (1998) 36 Journal of Modern African Studies 645-668.

African Legal Education and Decolonization

Currently, the main focus of my research is on the history of legal education in Africa, with particular reference to the period of decolonization in the 1950s and 60s, a project which has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation and which is being conducted jointly with John Harrington (Cardiff Law School). Our aim is to document the different proposals for the development of law schools in specific African territories in this period. In particular we seek to interpret the conflicts which emerged over different models of legal education against the background of nationalist struggles for independence and the tensions of the Cold War period. Conflicts over curricula and staffing, for example, were influenced by different conceptions of the purpose of legal education and of lawyering more generally. We have already documented Lord Denning's active promotion of a traditionally English model of the gentleman practitioner in his extensive work in and on Africa at this time. This contrasted with the more instrumental model, promoted by leading American law schools and the Ford Foundation, which stressed the contribution to development made by lawyer-technicians. As we have argued, this tension was also a feature of the early years of the Law Department at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, the first in Britain to establish a dedicated lectureship in African Law.


'Pericles and the Professors: The Cold War and Legal Education in Ghana 1956-1966' (work in progress, with J Harrington)

'Mind with Mind, Spirit with Spirit': Lord Denning and African Legal Education (2003) 30 Journal of Law and Society 376-399 (with J Harrington).

The Emergence of African Law as an Academic Discipline (2003) 102 African Affairs 109-134 (with J Harrington).


Professor Manji welcomes proposals from prospective PhD candidates in any area of her expertise. She is currently supervising the following doctoral researchers:

Ruth Akinwale - Legal Democracy in West Africa

Barbara Hughes-Moore - Law and Literature and Criminal Law

Lizzie Willmington - Property, Borders and Immigration


I have held academic posts at the Universities of Warwick and Keele. I have been a visiting fellow at the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town; and at Dar es Salaam Law School; a Global Teaching Fellow at Melbourne Law School; and Dame Lillian Penson Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.

Between 2010 and 2014, I was seconded to Nairobi as the director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, a British Academy research institute governed by the Academy’s BASIS committee. In that capacity, I was responsible for the strategic development of the BIEA. Under my leadership, the Institute became known as a centre of excellence for work on legal and constitutional change in Eastern Africa. As the first lawyer to direct the Institute I was responsible for an important broadening of its subject reach beyond its traditional associations with archaeology and history. This achievement was recognised  in a quinquennial evaluation carried out by the British Academy in 2012 which noted the transformative interdisciplinary and collaborative relationships that I had fostered with colleagues across Eastern Africa. These included strategic links with key non-academic stakeholders including  with law reform bodies and with the judiciary across the region. During my tenure, I inaugurated and secured funding for the Institute’s first East African fellowship to support early career scholars from the region. I created new opportunities for the Institute to collaborate with leading constitutional lawyers, including the Kenyan Chief Justice and members of the high court; the Chairs of Constitutional  Review Commissions in Kenya and Tanzania; and judicial training institutes across the region. This ensured that research carried out at the BIEA had an impact beyond the academy and that the Institute played a key role in important political and constitutional debates in the region.

I am currently engaged on the following collaborative projects:

- With John Harrington (Cardiff Law School), I am researching the history of African Legal Education. This project has received support from the Nuffield Foundation and from the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

- With Catherine Boone (LSE Government and International Development), Jacqueline Klopp (Columbia Earth Institute) and Karuti Kanyinga (University of Nairobi Institute of Development Studies) I am studying Decentralized Land Management in Kenya. This project has been supported by a grant from the LSE Inequalities Institute.

- With Sibongile Ndashe (Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa) and Sharifah Sekalala (Warwick Law School) I have launched a project on African Women's Legal Landmarks. This project has received support from the Centre of Law and Society.

With John Harrington (Cardiff Law School), I set up the Law School’s path-breaking Global Justice Pro Bono programme in 2015, working on legal cases in Tanzania and Kenya and providing our students with the opportunity of law placements in Nairobi. This is the first programme of its kind in the UK.

I have advised a number of international organisations, including the FAO, UNDP, DfID, the Rift Valley Institute, and the Centre for Afrcan Cities. In 2016, I was nominated by the Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development to act as expert adviser to the Habitat III conference being held in Quito, Ecuador.

I sit on the Council of the African Studies Association of the UK and am currently its Vice-President 2016-2018. I was a member its Fage & Oliver Book Prize panel in 2016 and represent the ASAUK on the Arts and Humanities Alliance. I serve on the Research Committee of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and on the Advisory Board of the Africa Research Institute.

I am a member of the Editorial Boards of Social and Legal Studies, Feminist Legal Studies and Law and Humanities.

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Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales (2020-)

Visiting Professor, UCD Sutherland School of Law (2021-2026)

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President, African Studies Association UK (2018-2020)

Editor, African Affairs: Journal of the Royal African Society (2020-)

Member, Area Studies Panel, REF 2021

Trustee, British Institute in Eastern Africa (2019-)

Member, Council of the Royal African Society (2018-)

Member, Judging Panel, Fage & Oliver Book Prize in African Studies (2016)

Member, Research Committee, British Institute in Eastern Africa (2014-)

Member, Working Group on Climate Sustainable Academia, European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA)

Editorial Board, Feminist Legal Studies (2014-2018)

Editorial Board, Social and Legal Studies: An International Journal (2001-)

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I am currently jointly supervising the following doctoral researchers:

Ruth Akinwale - Legal Democracy in West Africa

Barbara Hughes-Moore - Law, Literature and Criminal Law

Lizzie Willmington - Property, Borders and Immigration

Mulugeta Getu Sisay - Roads and Environment in Ethiopia

Layla Latif - Islamic Finance and Healthcare

I welcome proposals from prospective PhD candidates in any area of my expertise.

I have examined PhDs at the Universities of Sussex, Birmngham, Kent, Bristol and Warwick (including on the Ethiopia Project at the University of Mekelle), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, University of Melbourne and Australian National University.