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Professor Ambreena Manji

Professor Ambreena Manji

Professor of Law

School of Law and Politics

+44(0)29 2087 5473
2.20, Law Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
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).

I have a strong research and professional interest in land law and development. This is evidenced by my track record of publication and advisory work.

With John Harrington (Cardiff Law School), I set up 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 (Brazil), Bangalore (India), Accra (Ghana) and Nairobi (Kenya) attended by editors from five of the UK’s leading law journals (Social and Legal Studies; the Journal of Law and Society; the Modern Law Review; the International Journal of Law in Context; and Feminist Legal Studies) (read about our aims here).

The Centre also hosts the African Feminist Judgments project which I lead with Sibongile Ndashe (ISLA, Johannesburg) and Sharifah Sekalala (Warwick Law School).

Law and Global Justice founded 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).

In 2018-2019, I taught doctoral and post-doctoral classes in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Dakar.

I am President of the African Studies Association UK 2018-2020

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.

I sit on the Council of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) and am currently its President. I am a member of the Council of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and serve on its Research Committee. In REF 2021 I will be a member of the Area Studies sub-panel.

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 represent the ASAUK in the Arts and Humanities Alliance.

From April 2020, I will be 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.

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 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 am currently engaged in 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 Sibongile Ndashe (Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa) and Sharifah Sekalala (Warwick Law School) I have launched the African Feminist Judgments project. This project has 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 am studying Decentralized Land Management in Kenya. This project has been supported by a grant from the LSE Inequalities Institute.

Speaking engagements

Date Title Event
April 2020 Socio-Legal Research Beyond the Academy (forthcoming) Empirical Legal Research Network Annual Lecture, Edinburgh Law School.
March 2020 Searching for Social Reproduction in African History (forthcoming) Staff Seminar, 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 as part of a 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-)

Editorial Board, Feminist Legal Studies (2014-2018)

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











I am currently teaching Discrimination and the Law; and Law and Literature.

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).

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.