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portrait of Dr Christopher McDowell

Dr Christopher McDowell

Assistant Vice President (International)

School of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of International Politics

Contact Information


Visit Christopher McDowell

D328, Rhind Building

Postal Address

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom



Dr Christopher McDowell, Assistant Vice President (International)

Christopher is a political anthropologist and Associate Dean at City, University of London with 25 years’ experience of research and advisory work on forced migration, resettlement, livelihoods and humanitarian responses.

He hasrecently completed for UNHCR and IOM an evaluation of the UK Government’s Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme (Towards Integration: Evaluation of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) Programme, UNHCR, Geneva, November 2017). In his capacity as an International Expert on Resettlement, he has completed consultancies for The World Bank’s Inspection Panel on the resettlement process, livelihood reconstruction, gender based violence, and related impoverishment in Nepal, Ghana, and most recently, in western Uganda and the DRC; and for the Asian Development Bank in China, India and Cambodia. Previous humanitarian response advisory roles have included AusAID and UNOCHA on displacement aspects of the UN response East Timor.

Dr McDowell’s research focuses on Africa and South Asia, including extended fieldwork in Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. Christopher’s scholarly publications in leading refugee journals address aspects of global refugee protection, resettlement policy and outcomes, climate change and displacement, and the ethics of refugee research. Published books include: Displacement: The Human Cost of Development and Resettlement (2012), Non-Conflict Displacement (2010), Risks and Reconstruction (2000), Understanding Impoverishment (1996), and A Tamil Asylum Diaspora (1996).

Advisory Roles

Academic Advisory Committee (AAC) of National Research Center for Resettlement (NRCR) at Hohai University, China

Member, Counter Terrorism Advisory Group (CTAG), UK Government, Metropolitan Police, Counter Terrorism HQ – advising Metropolitan Police, Home Office and HM security services on extremism and counter terrorism in the context of migration and diaspora poliotics.

Member, Home Office Qualitative Evaluation Steering (QES) Group, HO Analysis and Insight – advising the Home Office on qualitative methods in evaluation of impact of policies.


  1. PhD, Ethnologisches Seminar der Universitat Zurich, Switzerland, Jan 1996
  2. MPhil, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town, South Africa, Jan 1991


  1. Head of Department of International Politics, City, University of London, Mar 2013 – Jun 2015
  2. Visiting Professor, American University of Central Asia, Jan – Dec 2012
  3. Head of Department of International Politics, City, University of London, Aug 2010 – Jul 2011
  4. Visiting Fellow, Centre for Asia Pacific Transformation Studies, University of Wollongong, Aug 2008 – Jun 2001
  5. Associate Dean, School of Social Science, City, University of London, Jan 2008 – Jan 2009
  6. Director of Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees, City, University of London, Nov 2005 – Sep 2007
  7. Senior Lecturer, and Director of the Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees, King's College London, Aug 2004 – Nov 2005
  8. Senior Lecturer and Director Master of Applied Anthropology Programme, Macquarie University, Jun 2001 – Aug 2004
  9. Senior Research Officer, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Jun 1997 – Jan 2000
  10. Research Officer, Refugee Studies Programme, University of Oxford, Aug 1995 – Jun 1997


Dr McDowell's most recent research, conducted in Kyrgyzstan, has examined Soviet collectivisation as a form of forced migration and involuntary resettlement to accelerate the socialisation of Kyrgyzstan's population, and the incorporation of the territory into the Soviet Union.

Dr McDowell's past research has focused on involuntary resettlement and its socio-cultural and political outcomes, and the governance of resettlement. He regularly advises UN agencies, development banks and governments on socio-political aspects of displacement. Dr McDowell specialises in South Asia and East Africa and has undertaken extended research in southern Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, India and China. Dr McDowell has been a member of the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI), located in the Office of the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, since 2008.

Past publications include Understanding Impoverishment (1996), A Tamil Asylum Diaspora (1996), Risks and Responsibilities (2000), Catching Fire (2006), and Non-Conflict Displacement: Challenges for the 21st Century (2010).

The volume, Displaced: The Human Cost of Development, authored with Olivia Bennett, was published by Palgrave in 2012. It has just been awarded the Edgar Graham Book Prize 2013 by the Department of Development Studies at SOAS.

Doctoral supervision

Dr McDowell welcomes enquiries from students interested in doctoral research on issues related to asylum and refugees, involuntary resettlement, forced relocations, and political anthropology in general.


Books (7)

  1. Bennett, O. and McDowell, C. (2012). Displaced: The Human Cost of Development and Resettlement. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-11786-0.
  2. McDowell, C. and Morrell, G. (2010). Displacement Beyond Conflict: Challenges for the 21st Century. Oxford: Berghahn. ISBN 978-1-84545-772-3.
  3. McDowell, C.A. and Van Hear, N. (Eds.), (2006). Catching Fire: Containing Complex Displacement in a Volatile World. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington. ISBN 0-7391-0923-5.
  4. McDowell, C.A. and Cernea, M.M. (Eds.), (2000). Risks and Reconstruction: Experiences of Refugees and Resettlers. Washington D.C.: World Bank Publications.
  5. McDowell, C. (1996). A Tamil Asylum Diaspora: Sri Lankan Migration, Politics and Change in Switzerland. Oxford: Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-57181-917-8.
  6. (1996). Understanding Impoverishment: The Consequences of Development-Induced Displacement. Oxford: Berghahn. ISBN 978-1-57181-927-7.
  7. McDowell, C.A. and Ramphela, M. (Eds.), (1991). Restoring the Land: Environment and Change in Post-Apartheid South Africa. London: Panos.

Chapters (9)

  1. McDowell, C. (2020). Forced Migration, Diaspora Politics and Extremism: Conceptual, Policy and Operational Implications with a Focus on the United Kingdom. In Simeon, J. (Ed.), Terrorism and Asylum Springer.
  2. McDowell, C.A. (2014). Development Created Displacement. The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, OUP.
  3. McDowell, C.A. (2013). Researching Displacements. Researching Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Ethical Considerations Melbourne: Australian Academic Press.
  4. McDowell, C.A. (2013). Sri Lankan Tamil Settlement and Politics in Switzerland. Encyclopaedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora Didier Editions.
  5. McDowell, C.A. (2006). Displacement, Return and Justice in the Creation of Timor Leste. In Hear, N.V. and McDowell, C. (Eds.), Catching fire Lanham, Maryland: Lexington. ISBN 978-0-7391-1244-1.
  6. McDowell, C.A. (2006). Palestinian refugee repatriation. In Dumper, M. (Ed.), Palestinian refugee repatriation Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-38497-1.
  7. McDowell, C.A. (2005). An Asylum Diaspora: Tamils in Switzerland. In Ember, C.R., Ember, M. and Skoggard, I. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Diasporas Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World Yale: Kluwer.
  8. McDowell, C.A. (2003). Privatising Infrastructure Development: ‘Development Refugees’ and the Resettlement Challenge’. Human Rights and Business: Dilemmas and Solutions, London: Greenleaf.
  9. McDowell, C.A. (1996). Understanding impoverishment. In McDowell, C. (Ed.), Understanding impoverishment Oxford University/Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-57181-927-7.

Journal articles (12)

  1. Blumell, L.E., Bunce, M., Cooper, G. and McDowell, C. (2020). Refugee and Asylum News Coverage in UK Print and Online Media. Journalism Studies, 21(2), pp. 162–179. doi:10.1080/1461670X.2019.1633243.
  2. McDowell, C.A. (2018). Displacement and Transition Risks. (None, N., Trans.) CREST Security Review, August 2017, pp. 10–12.
  3. McDowell, C. (2015). Rethinking displacement: Asia Pacific perspectives, edited by Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase and Kuntala Lahiri Dutt. Anthropological Forum, 25(2), pp. 204–205. doi:10.1080/00664677.2014.943144.
  4. McDowell, C. (2013). Climate-Change Adaptation and Mitigation: Implications for Land Acquisition and Population Relocation. Development Policy Review, 31(6), pp. 677–695. doi:10.1111/dpr.12030.
  5. McDowell, C.A. (2012). Death to Sarts: A Complex Central Asian Insult. Anthropology Today, 28(6).
  6. McDowell, C.A. (2011). Tamils in Switzerland: An Emerging Post-Asylum Community? Revue Hommes et Migrations, 1292.
  7. McDowell, C. (2007). Ethnic origins: The adaptation of Cambodian and Hmong refugees in four American cities. ETHNIC AND RACIAL STUDIES, 30(5), pp. 938–939.
  8. McDowell, C.A. (2007). Development and Displacement: Institutionalising Responsibility. Development, 50(3).
  9. McDowell, C.A. (2007). Beyond “Do No Harm”: The Challenge of Constructing Ethical Relationships in Refugee Research. Journal of Refugee Studies.
  10. McDowell, C.A. (2006). Mediterranean Solution? Chances of Success. International Journal of Refugee Law, 18(3).
  11. McDowell, C.A. (2002). Involuntary Resettlement, Impoverishment Risks and Sustainable Livelihoods. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies, 2.
  12. McDowell, C.A. (2002). Transitions, State-Building and the “Residual” Refugee Problem: The East Timor and Cambodian Repatriation Experience. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 8(1).

Reports (10)

  1. McDowell, C.A., Aronica, V., Collantes Celador, G. and De Silva, N. (2018). Thematic Report One - Understanding Transnational Diaspora Politics: A Conceptual Discussion. University of Lancaster: CREST.
  2. McDowell, C.A., Aronica, V., Collantes Celador, G. and De Silva, N. (2018). Thematic Report Two - The Engagement of Refugees in Transnational Politics: Lessons from the Migration, Diaspora and Refugee Studies Literature. Lancaster University: CREST.
  3. McDowell, C.A., Aronica, V. and Collantes Celador, G. (2018). Thematic Report Three - Asylum, Security and Extremism. University of Lancaster: CREST.
  4. McDowell, C.A. (2017). Towards Integration - The Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme in the UK. Geneva: UNHCR, Geneva.
  5. McDowell, C. (2017). Towards Integration - Evaluation of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) Programme UNHCR, IOM and City, University of London. Geneva: UNHCR.
  6. McDowell, C.A. (2011). Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation: Implications for land acquisition and population relocation. London: BIS Government Office for Science.
  7. McDowell, C.A. (2007). Non-Conflict Displacement: A Thematic Literature and Organisational Review. Geneva: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
  8. McDowell, C.A. (2006). Reflecting Asylum in London’s Communities – Monitoring London’s Press Coverage of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. ICAR and GLA.
  9. McDowell, C.A. Towards Integration - The UK Government's Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme..
  10. McDowell, C.A. Reporting Asylum: Results of a media monitoring study, analysing the portrayal of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK national, regional and faith/minority press, during January – March 2005. Information centre about Asylu.

Other Activities

Media appearances (8)

  1. LTTE and Tamils in Europe. Radio Netherlands Worldwide
  2. Refugee Resettlement. Europe Today, BBC World Service
  3. ‘Opinion: Compex jigsaw of asylum’. BBC UK News On-Line
  4. Europe Raise Barriers to Asylum. Pacific News Service, US
  5. Global Displacement: The State and the Refugee. openDemocracy (
  6. Election Unspun – Panel of Experts. ITN 10.30 News
  7. Asylum in Transition. BBC Radio Eye on Wales
  8. Asylum City Dispersals Suspended’. BBC News On-Line

Radio programme

  1. The World Today. ABC Radio Iraq, Development and Criminality