Professor Duncan McCargo

Professor Duncan McCargo


I’m now a Visiting Professor at Leeds, having been employed at the University from 1993 to 2020. During a very varied career at Leeds, I twice headed the School of Politics and International Studies, and co-supervised 30 PhD students to successful completion. Apart from Leeds, I have also held professorial appointments at the University of Copenhagen and Columbia University. I currently teach at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

I may be best known for my agenda-setting contributions to current debates on the politics of Thailand, but my work is centrally concerned with the nature of power. How do entrenched elites seek to retain power in the face of challenges from new political forces? How do challengers to state power try to undermine the legitimacy of existing regimes? These interests have led me to study questions relating to the uses of media, sub-national conflicts, and the politics of justice, among other issues.

Fascinated by Asia since my student days, I've spent several years in Thailand, and have also lived in Singapore, taught in Belfast, Cambodia and Japan, and published on Indonesia and Vietnam. As I hate repeating myself, I change research topics regularly. I am committed to doing serious fieldwork. Time magazine wrote of my work ‘No armchairs for this author… McCargo is the real McCoy.’

I was an undergraduate student of English, and in my spare time I make podcasts about poetry, novels and literature for the New Books Network. I’m currently working with the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library, to develop an online spotlight about their remarkable archival holdings concerning the writer Edmund Gosse (1849-1928). 

Research interests

From 2015-2020 I held a grant from the United States Institute of Peace to examine peace messaging in Thai elections. Information about the Thai elections project and my other Thailand-related research can be found at the website

In 2018 I secured a small grant from the University in collaboration with Leeds Museums and Galleries to work on the Leeds architect and photographer Charles B. Howdill. More information on that project is available here:

<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>


  • BA English (First) Royal Holloway, University of London
  • MA Area Studies (Southeast Asia), SOAS, University of London
  • PhD Politics, SOAS, University of London

Professional memberships

  • Political Studies Association
  • Association for Asian Studies
  • European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS)
  • Association of Southeast Asian Studies (UK)