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portrait of Dr Christopher McDowell

Dr Christopher McDowell

Associate Dean for Global Engagement

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, Associate Dean for Global Engagement, School of Arts and Social Sciences

Dr Christopher McDowell has been at City University London since 2006 and is currently Associate Dean for Global Engagement. He has previously held positions at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, King’s College London, and Macquarie University in Sydney. Christopher was visiting Professor at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 2012. He is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Christopher conducts research, engages in advisory work and teaches on the politics of forced migration, development-created involuntary resettlement security, and international politics. He has conducted extended periods of research in East and Southern Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia with a long term interest in Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.

Dr McDowell’s publications can be viewed on Google Scholar. The impact of some of his research was included in City University London’s 2014 REF submission.

Christopher has undertaken consultancy and advisory roles for the Inspection Panel of The World Bank (involuntary resettlement in Uganda, Ghana and Nepal), Government of Norway and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva (global non-conflict displacement), World Health Organisation, Asian Development Bank (involuntary resettlement in China, India, Cambodia), the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor (environmental migration), AusAID/UNOCHA (humanitarian response to the East Timor crisis).

Consultancy and advisory roles

In his capacity as an international resettlement and social development specialist, Dr McDowell has advised the World Bank's Inspection Panel (Ghana, 2008-2009), the Asian Development Bank (India, China and Cambodia, 2005-2006) and the the UN (humanitarian evaluation of the East Timor intervention, 2000). He has also advised the Government of the Netherlands on refugee return to Ethiopia (1998) and the World Health Organizationon the ethics of research on gender-based violence in emergencies (2006). In 2007 Dr McDowell (with Gareth Morrell) undertook a major study for the Norwegian Refugee Council on non-conflict displacement.


  1. PhD, Ethnologisches Seminar der Universitat Zurich, Switzerland, 1996
  2. MPhil, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 1991
  3. BA (Hons) Anthropology and Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom, 1988


  1. Head of Department of International Politics, City, University of London, Mar 2013 – present
  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. Head, UK Aid Office (DFID), British Embassy, Jan – Jul 2000
  10. Senior Research Officer, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Jun 1997 – Jan 2000
  11. Research Officer, Refugee Studies Programme, University of Oxford, Aug 1995 – Jun 1997
  12. HM Diplomatic Service Officer, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Jan 1981 – Sep 1985


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 (8)

  1. McDowell, C.A. (2014). Development Created Displacement. The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, OUP.
  2. McDowell, C.A. (2013). Researching Displacements. Researching Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Ethical Considerations Melbourne: Australian Academic Press.
  3. McDowell, C.A. (2013). Sri Lankan Tamil Settlement and Politics in Switzerland. Encyclopaedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora Didier Editions.
  4. 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.
  5. McDowell, C.A. (2006). Palestinian refugee repatriation. In Dumper, M. (Ed.), Palestinian refugee repatriation Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-38497-1.
  6. 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.
  7. McDowell, C.A. (2003). Privatising Infrastructure Development: ‘Development Refugees’ and the Resettlement Challenge’. Human Rights and Business: Dilemmas and Solutions, London: Greenleaf.
  8. McDowell, C.A. (1996). Understanding impoverishment. In McDowell, C. (Ed.), Understanding impoverishment Oxford University/Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-57181-927-7.

Journal articles (11)

  1. McDowell, C.A. (2018). Displacement and Transition Risks. (None, N., Trans.) CREST Security Review, August 2017, pp. 10–12.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. McDowell, C.A. (2012). Death to Sarts: A Complex Central Asian Insult. Anthropology Today, 28(6).
  5. McDowell, C.A. (2011). Tamils in Switzerland: An Emerging Post-Asylum Community? Revue Hommes et Migrations, 1292.
  6. 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.
  7. McDowell, C.A. (2007). Development and Displacement: Institutionalising Responsibility. Development, 50(3).
  8. McDowell, C.A. (2007). Beyond “Do No Harm”: The Challenge of Constructing Ethical Relationships in Refugee Research. Journal of Refugee Studies.
  9. McDowell, C.A. (2006). Mediterranean Solution? Chances of Success. International Journal of Refugee Law, 18(3).
  10. McDowell, C.A. (2002). Involuntary Resettlement, Impoverishment Risks and Sustainable Livelihoods. Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies, 2.
  11. 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