Dr Emma-Louise Anderson

Dr Emma-Louise Anderson


I am interested in international development, global health, gender, and African agency. I am an expert on Malawi based on an in-depth understanding of the cultural, historical, socio-economic, political and gender context from 10 years of research. My research included consultations, observations, key-informant interviews and focus group discussions. I have developed a network of research partners (including in Government, donors and NGOs) and experience working with hard-to reach populations in the Chichewa and Chitumbuka languages. I was included on the University of Leeds 2016 ‘Roll of Honour’ for women of outstanding achievement and contribution to their field.

Before joining Leeds in 2012, I taught International Relations, Politics and Global Health at the Universities of Keele, Southampton and Winchester.  I was educated at the University of Southampton, where I obtained my PhD in 2009. 


  • MA Program Director for International Development

Research interests

My monograph ‘Gender, HIV and Risk’ (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015) was runner-up for the International Studies Association (ISA) Global Health Section Book Prize (2016).  It examines the gender context of risk and critiques policy responses, contributing to the feminist task of de-invisibilising gender as structural violence. Looking at how these gendered structures are responded to at the local level in Malawi, it contributes to the Global Health scholarship, which typically obscures the micro level where health is experienced. Policy makers have long identified the gender dynamics of HIV, but still need to engage with them effectively. The challenge for the post-2015 development agenda is to augment gender social justice and ensure freedom from structural violence. Addressing structural violence is the harder task, but a fundamental one if the effectiveness of the response is not to be undermined by unequal gender relations. This work builds upon my previous article in IFJP that examines how the gendered construction of women’s bodies heightens their HIV risk.

The findings in my monograph were disseminated to key stakeholders in Malawi and I contributed to developing the Government of Malawi National Gender and HIV Implementation Plan (2015-2020) through participating in the National Symposium and drafting the final policy.

My latest research focuses on African agency and the ways individuals and communities respond to Africa’s high dependency on donor funds. My co-authored book ‘Dependent Agency in the Global Health Regime’ (with Amy Patterson) was winner of the International Studies Association (ISA) Global Health Section Book Prize (2016). It examines how grassroots communities and individuals in Malawi and Zambia exert agency within the larger structures of global health dependency. It conceptualizes ‘dependent agency’ (the condition in which local actors can simultaneously act and be dependent) and investigates conditions under which it occurs and the forms it takes., investigates the conditions in which it occurs and identifies the forms it takes. My International Affairs article (2017) advances debates on North-South relations by arguing how the malleability of ‘empowerment’ has strategic advantages for people living with HIV. My International Relations article (2018) develops the concept of ‘shadow diplomacy’ as the informal networks and channels of influence that run parallel to, but are not recognised as part of, formal health diplomacy. My Third World Quarterly article (2016) criticises the focus on building resilient health systems in the Ebola response, highlighting the need for political solutions.

I am currently a CO-I on a RCUK Global Challenges Research Fund Capacity-Building Grant (2017-2022) ‘GCRF-AFRICAP - Agricultural and Food-system Resilience: Increasing Capacity and Advising Policy’. This work focuses on creating evidence-based policy to develop sustainable, productive, agricultural systems in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa. Our research aims to support smallholding farmers in Africa, to meet food security and economic development needs. I am contributing in terms of interrogating the role of power and agency in the policy process, the perceptions and responses of national actors and smallholder farmers and the impacts on the agricultural practices, local environment, economic development, livelihood strategies, social structures and food security of local communities.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • International Studies Association

Student education

I have developed and managed 3 highly research-led modules that have been commended by colleagues and received excellent feedback from students:

  • MA Level - The Global Politics of Health: Power and Inequity

Student feedback: ‘This module is exceptionally well designed. Emma is a great tutor and the workshops struck a good balance between group discussion and her lecturing. She was always helpful in her office hour and the material in the course is highly stimulating. This is the best module I have studied here at Leeds.’

‘This module gives me the opportunity to think critically and analyse critically. The lecturer is very enthusiastic about the topic and she always inspires me!’

  • Level 1 - Global Development Challenges

Student feedback: ‘I must confess that it is my favourite module! The way it is structured, the assessment mode and the wide range of contemporary subjects that we engage in are the perfect combination.’

  • Level 2 - Approaches to Analysis

Student feedback: 'it was interesting to see lecturers’ different areas of research and how they used the research methods'. 

Moderator feedback: ‘The reformulated PIED2721 is really great preparation for the final year dissertation’.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for African Studies
  • Centre for Global Development
  • Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>