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Professor Ambreena Manji

Professor Ambreena Manji

Professor of Law

Available for postgraduate supervision


I have been Professor of Land Law and Development at Cardiff since 2014. Before that, I was seconded to Nairobi as the Director of the British Academy's British Institute in Eastern Africa 2010-2014. In 2023, I was appointed Cardiff University's Dean of International for Africa.

My research is in African Law and Society. It is strongly interdisciplinary and includes work on law in African literature, African history, legal education, and women and the law.

I have a strong research and professional interest in land law and development. This is evidenced by my track record of publication. My most recent book is The Struggle for Land and Justice in Kenya (James Currey/Boydell & Brewer 2020). It appeared in Eastern and Southern African paperback published by Vita Books in 2021. Prof Makau Mutua (SUNY Buffalo School of Law) said of the book: ‘Not since Public Law and Political Change in Kenya by Ghai and McAuslan, the 1970 classic, has such an important and intellectually transformative work on land in Kenya been written.’ The book is a finalist for the US African Studies Association Best Book prize 2021: the reviewers said of the book that it 'is innovative and pathbreaking both in its multi-disciplinary examination of Kenya's land issue and its ultimate, experimental conclusions.'

My external roles include: President, African Studies Association UK 2018-2020; Editor, African Affairs 2019-; Member, Governing Council of the AHRC 2020-2023; Editorial Board, Social and Legal Studies 1999-; Member, British Academy International Engagement Committee 2020- and British Academy Higher Education Policy Development Group 2022-; British Academy Member, UK Academies Human Rights Committee (2023-2027); Member, Area Studies sub-panel, REF 2021; Member, Council of the Learned Society of Wales 2021-; Visiting Professor, UCD Sutherland School of Law 2021-2026; External Examiner, International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague 2019-2022; Member, Council and Research Committee of the British Institute in Eastern Africa 2019-; Member, International Scientific Advisory Board, Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory 2022-2027.

At Cardiff, I co-founded the Law and Global Justice Centre. With funding from the British Academy, the Centre launched its Socio-Legal Journals Global South Initiative in 2018, with writing workshops for early-career legal scholars hosted by our partner Law Schools in Recife, Bangalore, Accra and Nairobi attended by editors from five of the UK’s leading law journals (read about our aims here).

The Centre for Law and Global Justice 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 fully funded law placements with litigators and the judiciary in Nairobi and Delhi (watch a short film about our work here). The Centre also hosts the African Feminist Judgments project which I lead with Sibongile Ndashe (ISLA, Johannesburg) and Sharifah Sekalala (Warwick Law School).

In 2019-2020, I was invited to teach doctoral and post-doctoral classes in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Dakar, Addis Ababa, and Bogotá.


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.

My research is focused on Law and Society in Africa. It is strongly interdisciplinary and collaborative. I have published on the history of African legal education, on law in African literature and on women and the law. I have co-published with colleagues in history, political science, and development studies. I have written widely on land law reform. My most recent book is The Struggle for Land and Justice in Modern Kenya (James Currey/Boydell 2020).

I served as President of the African Studies Association UK 2018-2020. I was a member of the ASAUK Fage & Oliver Book Prize panel in 2016 and in 2018 I chaired the judging panel for the Audrey Richards Prize. I have represented the ASAUK in the Arts and Humanities Alliance. I am a member of the Council of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and of its Research Committee.

I am a co-editor of African Affairs, the top-ranked journal in African Studies. I have been a member of the Editorial Board of Social and Legal Studies for two decades. I sit on the International Advisory Boards of the Nordic Journal of Human Rights and Feminist Legal Studies. I was a member of the working group on Climate Sustainable Academia of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA).

I sit on the Council of the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) and on the British Academy's International Engagement Committee and its Higher Education Policy Development Group. In REF 2021 I was a member of the Area Studies sub-panel. I was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales in 2020. I am a Visiting Professor at the Sutherland School of Law, Unversity College Dublin 2021-2026. I am a member of the International Scientific Advisory Board of the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory 2022-2027.

I co-founded Cardiff 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 fully funded law placements in Nairobi and Delhi.

I have advised a number of international organisations on land issues, including the FAO, UNDP, DfID, the Rift Valley Institute, and the Centre for African 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.

Between 2010 and 2014, I was seconded to Nairobi as the director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, a British Academy research institute. 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 have been part of the following collaborative projects:

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

- With Sibongile Ndashe (Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa) and Sharifah Sekalala (Warwick Law School) I launched the African Feminist Judgments project. This project received support from Cardiff's Centre of Law and Society.

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

Honours and awards

Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales (2020-)

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

Speaking engagements

Date Title Event
May 2022 'On the Possibilities of Land Restitution' Meet the Author webinar on 'The Struggle for Land and Justice in Kenya' organised by Kabarak Law School, Nairobi Law School Mombasa, and Moi University Law School (watch the recording here)
May 2022 'Searching for Care Labour in African Social History' The Director's Seminar Series, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (watch the recording here)
March 2022 'Understanding Historical Land Injustice' Afronomicslaw Academic Forum Guest Lecture
February 2022 'Which Subject will you Warwickise?' Keynote Lecture, The Changing Face of Law in Context, Postgraduate Research Conference, Warwick Law School
October 2021 'Land and the Human'' Thinking the Human through Africa: Epistemological Debates, Workshop organised by the Institute for Humanities in Africa, University of Cape Town and the African Studies Association of Africa
October 2021 'Land Justice and the Arts' Conference on Land and the Arts, Economic Commision for Africa, Kigali, Rwanda
October 2021 'Dispossession in Nine Tenths of the Law' Annual Lecture of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, British Academy (watch the lecture here)
June 2021 Law Publishing in the UK Max Planck Law Forward Roundtable on Publishing in Law
June 2021 Travel, Academia, and Accessibility Invited Impulse Talk, Workshop on A Sustainable Future in the Field of High-Energy Physics (HEP), organised by CERN (with Alice Gathoni)
June 2021 'The BBI Judgment: A Law and Society Perspective' Workshop on the BBI Judgment of the High Court of Kenya, Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law, Edinburgh Law School (watch the talk here)
February 2021 The African Feminist Judgments Project Feminist Judgments Projects, Panel organised by Centre for Feminist Legal Studies, University of British Columbia
February 2021 'Arts, Humanities, and Future Generations'

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in Wales, Seminar organised by the British Academy and the Learned Society of Wales

November 2020 'Decolonising Area Studies'

Keynote Lecture, Global Language-Based Area Studies Webinar Series, School of Modern Languages, Cardiff University (watch the lecture here)

October 2020 Remarks on The Struggle for Land and Justice in Kenya

Book launch of The Struggle for Land and Justice in Kenya, with CJ Emeritus Dr Willy Mutunga, Prof Issa Shivji, Prof Jill Ghai and Dr Francis Kariuki (watch the event here).

October 2020 'Rereading Texts'

Keynote Lecture, Empirical Legal Research Network Annual Conference, Edinburgh Law School.

September 2020 'How Not to Skip Home'

The 2020 Ben Beinart Memorial Lecture, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town via videolink (watch the lecture here).

September 2020 Land Law Reform and Women's Property Rights: The Context

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights General Comment on Article 7(d) Maputo Protocol on Women’s Property Rights on Dissolution of Marriage, Webinar organised by the Institute for Strategic Litigation in Africa, Johannesburg.

September 2020 'Searching for Care Labour in African Social History'

Conversations on Social Reproduction, Webinar organised by The Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London.

August 2020 'Land and the Constitution of Kenya 2010: An Assessment'

Land and Environment under the Constitution, Webinar organised by the International Commission of Jurists and Strathmore Law School to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Inauguration of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

June 2020 Knowledge Production and Legal Academia

Decolonisating Access to Knowledge: Digitising African Law and Legal Scholarship, Webinar organised by Centre for African Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (watch the event here).

June 2020 Transnational Law and Legal Education (cancelled)

Keynote Lecture, King's College London Transnational Law Summer Institute, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.

April 2020 Land and the Environmental Crisis (cancelled)

Workshop, Capitalism and the climate emergency in Africa: alternative development policy and strategy, Review of African Political Economy & Labour Resource and Research Institute, Windhoek, Namibia

April 2020 Land Reform in Urban Africa (cancelled)

Class delivered at SOAS Annual Residential, Governance for Development in Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

March 2020 Searching for Social Reproduction in African History Approaches to Law and Legal Method Seminar Series, Kent Law School.
November 2019 Reproductive Labour, Law and Property Accumulation: Rereading East African Social History Staff seminar, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford.
June 2019 Gender, Land Tenure and Financialisation. Class delivered as Visiting Faculty, 2019 Gender Institute, Council for the Development of Social Science in Africa (CODESRIA), Dakar.
June 2019 African Studies Associations in Europe: Aims and Future Challenges Roundtable, European Conference on African Studies, Edinburgh Centre of African Studies.
June 2019 'I Built this House on my Back': Historical Perspectives on Care Labour and Urban Property in East Africa Keynote Lecture, 2019 Cadbury Workshop 'Law, Custom, and Urban Land and Property in Africa' Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham.
March 2019 Land, Language, Law and Literature Class delivered at Law and Society in Africa Intensive, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town.
December 2018 Land Reform in Kenya: The History of an Idea The 6th CB Madan Memorial Lecture, Strathmore Law School, Nairobi.
November 2018 The Legal Framework for UK Aid After Brexit Invited Lecture, Current Legal Problems Series, University College London.
October 2018 Land Reform and Land Governance in Kenya Invited paper, Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, The Graduate Institute, Geneva.
July 2018 The African Feminist Judgments Project ISLA Public Talks Series: In Conversation with Sibongile Ndashe, Director, Institute for Stategic Litigation in Africa, Johannesburg. 
July 2018 Co-habitation and the Protection of Property Rights Class delivered as Visiting Faculty, 2018 Litigation Workshop, organised by the Institute for Strategic Litigation in Africa, Johannesburg.
July 2018 'The Mourning After': Legal Education at the End of Empire Paper at After the Prelude: Decolonisation, Revolution and Evolution, Workshop at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study.

March 2018

Transnational Legal Education and the Role of the Law Clinic Invited Plenary paper, Socio-Legal Studies at a Watershed, Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference, Bristol Law School.
March 2018 Nairobi, Road Building and the Right to the City Paper at Right to the City Workshop, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo.
March 2018 Return to the Hill: The Dar es Salaam Debates, Anti-Colonial Legal Education and the Politics of Knowledge Production. Invited paper in the Rethinking African Studies: Histories and Futures of Knowledge Production on Africa seminar series, Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge.
September 2017 Legal Education and the End of Empire: Renewing Cosmopolitan Kinship Keynote Lecture, Diverse Unities of the Common Law, Society of Legal Scholars Annual Conference 2017, University College Dublin Sutherland School of Law (see the presentation here).
June 2017 Land and the August 2017 Kenya Elections Interview, BBC World Service Kenya Election Watch (listen to the podcast here).
June 2017 Land and the August 2017 Kenya Elections The State of Kenya Panel Discussion, Africa Research Institute, London (listen to the podcast here).
June 2017 Aid and Academia Workshop on 'Global Challenges and the Challenge of Development: What Future for the Development Project?' Global Insecurities Centre, University of Bristol.
June 2017 Caring in International Development Research Revaluing Care Book Launch, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.
June 2017 Origins and Impact of Aid Funded Research New Frontiers in International Development Assistance, European Workshops in International Studies, Cardiff University.
May 2017 Images of Aid Funded Research Images and Narratives of Development Workshop, Liverpool Law School.
April 2017 Statehood Keynote Paper, Law and Social Order Conference, Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh.
March 2017 Africa in a Time of Aid Funded Research Invited paper to Politics of Transnational Law Workshop, Transnational Law Institute, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London.
November 2016 Safeguarding Public Land in Kenya: The Role of Land Governance Keynote Lecture to Public Land in Kenya Conference, All Africa Conference of Churches, Nairobi.
September 2016 Pericles and the Professors: Legal Education and Cold War Politics in Ghana c. 1957-1965 (with John Harrington, Cardiff Law) African Studies Association UK Conference, Cambridge.
June 2016 Constitutional Change and Land Justice in Kenya Transitional Justice as Legal Field, Site and Imagination: Transnational Law Summer Institute, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London.
June 2016 The Supreme Court Advisory Opinion No 2 of 2014: Land Management, the National Land Commission and Public Land LSE/BIEA Workshop, Decentralised, Democratic Land Management in Kenya: Implications for Land Management, Land Inequality and Land Markets, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi.
June 2016 Lawyers and Land Grabbing in Eastern Africa ‘Africa’ as a New Frontier? Lawyers, Extractive Economies and Global Reconfigurations of Political Authority, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt.
June 2016 Discussant 'The Judiciary, Constitutionalism and the Modern Politics of Land in Kenya: A Response to Chris Thornhill' Workshop on Transnational Constitutional Law and New Patterns of Democracy: Perspectives from the Global South. Centre for Law and Society and African Post-Colonial Studies Research Group, Cardiff School of Law and Politics.
June 2016 Discussant, Yash Ghai and Jill Cottrell on Kenya's Constitution Modern Law Review Seminar, Dominion Status at the Twilight of the British Empire - Examining National Liberation Movements and Dominion Constitutionalism, City Law School.
May 2016 Recent Developments in Claiming Women's Land Rights in East Africa Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa.
April 2016 The Dar-Warwick Connection: Writing the History of Legal Education in East Africa and the UK (with John Harrington, Cardiff Law) Beyond Development? New Imaginaries in Law and Social Justice, 40th Anniversary Conference, Warwick Law School.
April 2016 Coloniality, Prostitution and Gender Justice: Revisiting Colonial Approaches to Prostitution in East Africa (with Ann Stewart, Warwick Law) International Symposium: Beyond Development? New Imaginaries of Social Justice, Warwick Law School.
April 2016 Directors' Roundtable: African Studies in Europe Decolonizing the Academy, University of Edinburgh Centre of African Studies.
January 2016 Review of Draft UN Habitat Urban Legal Guide Expert Reference Group Meeting, Centre for African Cities, University of Cape Town.
December 2015 Mobility and Modernity: Biographical Studies in African and British Legal Education History of African Legal Education Exploratory Seminar, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London
October 2015 The Failure of Land Law Reform in Kenya Public Lecture with Prof Yash Pal Ghai CBE FBA, Chair of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, Africa Research Institute, London (watch the lecture here).
March 2015 Constitutional Change and the Struggle for Karura Forest, Nairobi Staff Seminar, Bristol Law School.
February 2015 Reflections on Devolution in Kenya Invited presentation at an LSE-Oxford University workshop on Devolution in Kenya, St Antony's College, Oxford.
February 2015 Historical Perspectives on Care Labour in East Africa Invited presentation in the Lent Seminar Series Gender in Africa, Centre for African Studies, University of Cambridge.

Committees and reviewing

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-)
















I teach Global Problems and Legal Theory; Discrimination and the Law; and Law and Literature.

I currently have two strands to my research:

Land Law Reform

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.

My most recent book, The Struggle for Land and Justice in Kenya (James Currey/Boydell & Brewer 2020), explores why new land laws introduced in 2012 have not addressed long-standing grievances about grossly unequal land distribution. It suggests that agitation for constitutional reform and calls for changes in land relations went hand in hand. Civil society and human rights groups presented injustices connected with land as questions of human rights, equity and justice. Yet land law reform efforts have been more concerned with the redistribution of bureaucratic power than land corruption. I argue that land law reform has failed to confront the material consequences of unequal access to land.

The Political Economy of Reproductive Labour

My current project is a study of the political economy of care. I am writing a book which seeks to reread key texts in African social history for care. I study a range of key texts and show how they can be read as ‘supportive texts’ (Marks 2000: 106) for studying the history of reproductive labour. Works of African social history have often recorded the provision of reproductive labour and the experiences of women when this form of labour comes under strain. My objective is to show that although in the first instance authors of these texts have not explicitly labelled reproductive labour as such, they have provided us with rich accounts of this work. I suggest that these accounts provide us with an opportunity for rereading. My method in this book can be summed up as going back to texts to look for care. What forms of care have been provided by women and recorded by social historians? Often these accounts of reproductive labour are incidental to the main text – a text concerned with women’s work will contain rich accounts of care work but will not have this as its central concern. Or an account of women’s relationships with each other can be reread as an account of social reproduction being negotiated, redefined or contested. My method in the book is founded on Shula Marks' (2000) observation that ‘as new questions break the surface’ it might be possible to ‘suggest new ways of hearing and seeing old stories.’


I am currently jointly supervising the following doctoral researchers:

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 in Kenya

Smith Ouma - Urban Planning and Health in Kenya

Felicity Kayumba Kalunga - Administrative Law and Human Rights in Africa

My doctoral students have been funded by Commonwealth Scholarships, Vice-Chancellors' International Doctoral Studentships and Law School Studentships. I welcome inquiries supported by full proposals from prospective PhD candidates in any area of my expertise.

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

Past projects