I am a political scientist examining violence and civil war, gender relations, and post-conflict development, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. My research is problem-focused and relies on mixed methods fieldwork in conflict affected settings, where I seek to develop strong collaborative relationships with local partners and participants.

My big questions revolve around understanding how social processes and organizational dynamics give rise to inequality and violence from an intersectional perspective. My doctoral research examined the internal dynamics of rebellion in Sierra Leone, focusing on change over time in the relationship between material and organizational capacity. More recently, this has led me to explore how wartime experiences shape post-conflict trajectories at the individual and community level. This work examines the connections between people’s social and economic power and wellbeing. I am also working on a project with the International Criminal Court, exploring the victim-centered promise, and political and practical reality of conflict-related reparations.

I am based at the University of Edinburgh, where I am Director of the Global Development Academy and Director of the MSc in African Studies, and previously was a Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Women and Public Policy Program. I received a DPhil in Politics and MSc in African Studies from the University of Oxford, and a BA in Government and African American Studies from Georgetown University, with additional credits from the University of Cape Town. Beyond academia, I have worked in Ethiopia, France, Sierra Leone, South Africa, UK, and USA for organizations including the UN, international and local NGOs, and select consultancy firms. I also serve as a country of information expert for asylum claims (for more information, please visit Refugee Legal Aid).

I am currently working on projects in DRC, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. My work has an ethnographic and inductive ethos, but from a rigorously question-driven, theoretically informed perspective. I try to search out the unknown ‘unknowns’ before theory testing, and am interested in the potential of hybrid epistemologies to push the boundaries of what is measurable, systematically analyzed, and rigorously defined. I founded an Ethical Research Partnerships Initiative to examine the ethical questions raised by research practice in an unequal global research economy. I have also championed several efforts toward decolonizing and promoting equality in academe; for more information, please visit our ‘Decolonizing the Academy’ conference website and Game Change writing workshop website.

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Contact me via: zoe.marks(at)ed.ac.uk