Dr Alexander Beresford

Dr Alexander Beresford


I am Associate Professor in African Politics and Director of Research and Innovation for POLIS.

I joined Leeds in 2011 after completing my doctorate at the Centre of African Studies in Edinburgh.

I’m also a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Social Change at the University of Johannesburg.

I’m a member of the Leeds University Business School’s Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change (CERIC) and currently collaborating on projects relating to just transition and climate change in South Africa.


  • Director of Research and Innovation
  • Associate Editor: BJPIR
  • Editorial Board: JSAS, ROAPE, CrAS and African Affairs

Research interests

My work provides a multi-layered insight into how global normative order is mediated and contested within and between two interwoven spaces: 1) political struggles over inequality, power and corruption from everyday sites of politics through to the highest tables of power in South Africa; 2) the global diplomatic contestation of vaccine access, conflict resolution and climate change led by South Africa as an emerging power.

I am currently involved in a major international project exploring Just Transition funded by the Hans Böckler Foundation (€666,000) drawing together academics and impact partners to deliver 12 country case studies. Working as part of the interdisciplinary Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change and the Priestley International Centre for Climate, the project explores the political, social, legal and economic challenges of ‘just transition’ from carbon-emitting to net-zero industries. In particular, we illuminate the range of local and international social interventions, labour policies, and institutions of governance needed to secure workers' rights and livelihoods when economies are shifting to sustainable production.

My work also examines South Africa’s vaccine diplomacy and, in particular, how it has challenged international property norms as part of efforts to bolster African access to COVID19 vaccines.

My article with Daniel Wand draws together disparate interdisciplinary literature on “bricolage” and develops this concept for the first time for our study of normative contestation in international relations. This helps us to contribute to understandings of African agency in the creation, mediation and contestation of the global normative order: agency which often ignored, maligned or invisibilised.

A recurrent theme in my research has been concerned with how struggles over positions of power and influence in South Africa impact upon corruption and the ruling party’s capacity to govern.  My work develops a conceptualisation of the power relations of corruption – gatekeeper politics – to understand these dynamics.

I’ve blogged on the African Arguments website and The Conversation and can be followed on Twitter: @A_Beresford

I’m on the editorial boards of the Journal of Southern African Studies, the Review of African Political Economy, Critical African Studies and African Affairs. I’m also an Associate Editor for the British Journal of Politics and International Relations.

I was an editor of the Review of African Political Economy from 2014 to 2018, during which time I produced editorials on the "Africa Rising" debates and a special issue on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.

I was also a founding editor of Critical African Studies and remained editor until 2017, during which time I edited issues on the politics of patronage in Africa and the global politics of labour in Africa.

<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>


  • PhD African Studies (Edinburgh)
  • MSc African Studies (Edinburgh)
  • BA Politics with International Studies (Lancaster)

Professional memberships

  • Royal African Society
  • BISA
  • ISA

Student education

I’m passionate about teaching and in 2015 and 2017 I won the POLIS Award for Inspirational Teaching. I also made the final shortlist for the University of Leeds Partnership Award for Inspirational Teaching in 2013 and have been nominated for one of these awards in 5 out of the 10 years I’ve been in Leeds.

I lead the level two module ‘State and Politics in Africa’ and the level three module ‘Violence and Reconciliation in Africa’.

I’m was previously the Faculty Digital Education Academic Lead and was responsible for promoting digital learning across the Faculty, such as a video about the ‘dangers of plagiarism’ for students. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Global Development
  • Centre for African 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>