Professor Emma-Louise Anderson

Professor Emma-Louise Anderson


I am an expert on the politics of the intersecting global challenges of health, development and gender inequalities - with a particular focus on power and agency. I have in-depth understandings of the cultural, historical, socio-economic, political and gender context of Malawi from 16 years of research (including with hard-to-reach populations in the Chichewa and Chitumbuka languages). I am Co-I on an RCUK GCRF Capacity-Building Grant [£7.9m] (2017-2022) creating evidence-based policy to develop sustainable and productive agricultural systems in Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa. My work has directly influenced the Malawi Government’s National Gender and HIV Implementation Plan (2015-2020).

I have been recognised by the University of Leeds ‘Roll of Honour’ for women of outstanding achievement and contribution to their field (2016); University of Leeds Research Culture Award runner-up (2022) and the Faculty of Social Sciences Partnership Award for Academic Mentor (2022).

I am Deputy Director of Research in the School of Politics and International Studies and Editor of the Political Studies Association’s British Journal of Politics and International Relations (BJPIR).

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.


  • Deputy Director of Research and Innovation (DDORI)
  • Editor of the British Journal of Politics and International Relations (BJPIR)

Research interests

I work on the politics of the intersecting global challenges of health, development and gender inequalities. International relations (IR) and global health typically are not empirically grounded in the voices of people in the global south and are western-centric in their assumptions. They notably obscure African spaces, actors and forms of power, agency and relations. My work takes an actor-oriented approach to interrogate how African policy makers, communities and individuals respond to their inequitable inclusion in global and local power structures. My work draws on long-term collaborations and in-depth understanding of the cultural, historical, socio-economic and gender context of Malawi from 16 years of longitudinal research (including with hard-to-reach populations in Chichewa and Chitumbuka languages). My work centres around 2 themes:

1.  African agency in health and development

My 2017 book ‘Dependent Agency in the Gloabl Health Regime’ (with Amy Patterson) examines local African responses to dependency on donor assistance and was awarded an International Studies Association (ISA) Book Prize (2018) for the ‘significant contribution to global health scholarship’ and novel conceptualisation of ‘dependent agency’. It ‘won on account of its originality and importance in critically understanding human agency in local African responses… irrevocably turns on its head the notion donor recipients are powerless victims… the key strength was the extensive fieldwork and conceptual material from within and outside global health that underpin “dependent agency”.’  My most recent work examines health diplomacy and the neglected relationship between power and trust, developing novel conceptualisations of ‘trust as belonging’ and the ‘power-trust cycle’.  

2. Gender and structural inequalities in health

My work examines the everyday politics of health and re-orientates IR and global health to the micro level where health is experienced and power is contested. I reveal how the gendered nature of poverty is produced, experienced and responded to - fundamental to which are historically entrenched inequalities in land distribution, agricultural practices and food insecurity. This research was co-developed with Malawi’s Ministry of Gender (2011) to fill key gaps in understanding about the gendered nature of HIV risk. Drawing on my findings, I worked on drafting the Government of Malawi’s National Gender and HIV Implementation Plan (RIB1). My 2015 book ‘Gender, HIV and Risk’ was awarded runner-up for an ISA Book Prize (2016) - receiving a ‘special commendation’. 

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

Professional memberships

  • International Studies Association (ISA)
  • European International Studies Association (EISA)
  • British International Studies Association (BISA)
  • Political Studies Association (PSA)

Student education

I have developed and managed 2 highly research-led modules:

  • MA Level - The Global Politics of Health 

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 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: ‘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="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>