My research investigates aid effectiveness in the context of local, national and global development policies and programs. I explore why certain development policies and programs emerge, why they are implemented in certain ways and not others, and how the measurement of their effectiveness is operationalized and leveraged politically. I focus on three interrelated fields: (1) local―in particular urban―governance amid armed conflict, (2) global health agenda-setting and resource allocation, and (3) discourses as frames for global development policies. I have conducted field research in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Mexico.


Peer-reviewed journal articles

Countering the Risks of Vocationalisation in Master’s Programmes in International Development (with T. Denskus), Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 8(2), pp. 72–85 (2015).

TED Talks on International Development: Trans-Hegemonic Promise and Ritualistic Constraints (with T. Denskus), Communication Theory 25(2), pp. 166–187 (2015).

Security Scales: Spectacular and Endemic Violence in Post-Invasion Kabul, Afghanistan, Environment & Urbanization 26(2), pp. 373–388 (2014).

Elusive Accountabilities in the HIV Scale-up: ‘Ownership’ as a Functional Tautology, Global Public Health 9(1-2), pp. 43–56 (2014).

Tracing Poverty and Inequality in International Development Discourses: An Algorithmic and Visual Analysis of Agencies’ Annual Reports and Occasional White Papers, 1978-2010 (with B. J. Williams; Esser is lead author), Journal of Social Policy 43(1), pp. 173–200 (2014).

The Political Economy of Post-Invasion Kabul, Afghanistan: Urban Restructuring Beyond the North-South Divide, Urban Studies 50(15), pp. 3084–3098 (2013).

Comparable and Yet Context-Sensitive? Improving Evaluation in Violently Divided Societies Through Methodology (with E. VanderKamp; both contributed equally), Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 8(2), pp. 42–56 (2013).

Ageing as a Global Public Health Challenge: From Complexity Reduction to Aid Effectiveness (with P. Ward; both contributed equally), Global Public Health 8(7), pp. 745–768 (2013).

Social Media and Global Development Rituals: A Content Analysis of Blogs and Tweets on the 2010 MDG Summit (with T. Denskus; both contributed equally), Third World Quarterly 34(3), pp. 409–424 (2013).

‘When We Launched the Government’s Agenda…’: Aid Agencies and Local Politics in Urban Africa, The Journal of Modern African Studies 50(3), pp. 397–420 (2012).

Does Global Health Funding Respond to Recipients’ Needs? Comparing Public and Private Donors’ Allocations in 2005-2007 (with K. Keating Bench; both contributed equally), World Development 39(8), pp. 1271-1280 (2011).

More Money, Less Cure: Why Global Health Assistance Needs RestructuringEthics & International Affairs 23(2), pp. 225–234 (2009).

Postwar Political Restructuring in Freetown and Kabul: Theoretical Limits and the Test Case for Multiscalar GovernanceCritical Planning 16, Summer, pp. 80–97 (2009).

From Stakeholder Management to Stakeholder Accountability: Applying Habermasian Discourse Ethics to Accountability Research (with A. Rasche; both contributed equally), Journal of Business Ethics 65(3), pp. 251–267 (2006).

The City as Arena, Hub and Prey: Patterns of Violence in Kabul and KarachiEnvironment & Urbanization 16(2), pp. 31–38 (2004).

Plurality as Challenge and Opportunity: Suggestions for an Effective Process of Scientific Elite Formation (in German; with C. E. Rieck and M. Tegethoff; all authors contributed equally), Gesellschaft Wirtschaft Politik 53(3), pp. 11–17 (2004).


Book chapters

Interventionism and the Fear of Urban Agency in Afghanistan and Iraq, in: M. Kamrava (ed), Fragile Politics: Weak States in the Greater Middle East, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 81–97 (2016).

Blogs + Twitter = Change? Discursive Reproduction of Global Governance and the Limits of Social Media (with T. Denskus; modified version of 2013 TWQ article), in: D. Lewis, D. W. Rodgers and M. Woolcock (eds), Popular Representations of Development: Insights from Novels, Films, Television and Social Media, London: Routledge, pp. 195–212 (2013).

Kabul: Urban Politics Since Zaher Shah, Encyclopædia Iranica XV, Fasc. 3 (September), New York, NY: Columbia University, pp. 306–310 (2009).

From Stakeholder Management to Stakeholder Accountability: Applying Habermasian Discourse Ethics to Accountability Research (with A. Rasche), in: S. Carter, S. Clegg, M. Kornberger, S. Laske and M. Messner (eds.), Business Ethics As Practice: Representation, Reflexivity and Performance, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 107–127 (2007).


Selected research reports and policy papers

Do No Harm: International Support for Statebuilding (with J. Putzel and L. Moens), Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2010).

Who governs Kabul? Explaining urban politics in a post-war capital city, Cities and Fragile States Analytical Paper 43 (series 2), London: LSE Crisis States Research Programme (2009).

Target Kabul: human insecurity in the Afghan capital, in: (eds.), Human Security for an Urban Century: Local Challenges, Global PerspectivesOttawa: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, pp. 14–15 (2007).

Restructuring for Corporate Success: A Socially Sensitive Approach (with A. Broughton, T. Marpe, P. Ozoux and N. Rogovsky; eds.), Geneva: International Labour Office, 142 pages (2006).

Determinants of IDP Voice: Four Cases from Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, Rosemarie Rogers Working Paper 31, Cambridge, MA: Center for International Studies (2005).

Shaping Urban Futures: Challenges to Governing and Managing Afghan Cities (with J. Beall), AREU Issues Paper, Kabul: Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (2005).


I regularly present my research at international conferences, workshops, and invited lectures. Below are some recent examples:

  • A Scalar Critique of Resilience: Global Discourse, National Policies, Local Practices, presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Chicago, IL, 21–25 April 2015.
  • Containing Violence in Karachi and Kabul, invited lecture at the International Expert Forum on Peacebuilding, Cape Town, 17 April 2015.
  • Strengthening Accountabilities in the Sustainable Development Goals: Shifting the Focus to Donors (with Yoonbin Ha), presentation at the 3rd Annual International and Interdisciplinary Conference at Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, 12–14 March 2015.
  • TED Talks on International Development: Science Communication, ‘Digital Solutionism’ and the Technopolitics of Popular Mobilization (with Tobias Denskus), presentation at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, 28–31 August 2014.
  • Urban Violence and Armed Conflicts: Cities as Hubs, Symbols, Stages and Prey, invited lecture and workshop at the United States Chief of Staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group (CSA SSG), Arlington, VA, 27 August 2014.
  • Poverty, Faith and Victimization: Catalysts of Collective Action Amid Violence in Ciudad Juárez, 2008-2012, presentation at the Annual Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Chicago, IL, 21–24 May 2014.