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Sara de Simone holds a Ph.D in African Studies from the University of Naples L'Orientale, in a joint programme with the Doctoral School of Political Sciences of the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her thesis, on the intersections between state-building and state formation in post-conflict South Sudan, was published as a monography in 2022 by Brill. Between 2020 and 2023 she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the School of International Studies of the University of Trento, in the framework of the National Research Project (PRIN) "Inventing the Global Environment. Science, Politics, Advocacy and the Environment-Development Nexus in the Cold War and Beyond", funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Research. Her research focused on dam-bulding in Ethiopia between the 1960s and the 2000s, and on the interactions between international scientists and experts and Ethiopian governments around the environment-development nexus. In 2017 she obtained a a research scholarship from the Gerda Henkel Foundation for the project "Human security among South Sudanese self-settled refugees in Uganda: strategies of access to basic services", and between 2017 and 2019 she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Trento. She was a visiting scholar at the College of Social Sciences of the University of Juba, at the Makerere Institute for Social Research (MISR) and at the Institute of Peace and Security Studies of the Addis Ababa University. She holds a Master Degree in Development Studies and also worked as a consultant for several NGOs and development agencies.


Sara's research interests revolve around the interaction between African and international actors at multiple scales, with a major focus on East Africa and on recent history. Her research interests include extraversion dynamics of African political actors; ordinary people's interactions with resource-providers; local governance, with particular regard to the management of natural resources. She has a well established experience of researching volatile and complex contexts, and employes a qualtitative, interdisciplinary approach relying of a variety of methods and sources issued from historiographical research, ethnography and the social sciences more broadly.


  • Monography: State-building South Sudan. International intervention and the formation of a fragmented state. Leiden: Brill, 2022, ISBN: 9789004511897.
  • “’Land grabs’ and the ‘local community’: the search for human security between participation and patronage”, chapter in Environmental Security in Africa: Conflicts, Politics and Development, edited by Elisha J. Dung, Leonard S. Bombom and Augustine Avwunudiogba, Lexington Books, 2024.
  • “A foot in two camps? South Sudan’s relations with China in a historical perspective”, Nuovi Autoritarismi e Democrazie (NAD), Vol. 5 (1), 2023, open access.
  • “Refugee and centralized state-building in Uganda”. Africa, rivista semestrale di studi e ricerche, 2, 2022 (Fascia A ANVUR)
  • “The end of the security-development nexus? Reflections from counterinsurgency in north-eastern Nigeria” (co-authored with Alessio Iocchi). Third World Quarterly, 43(12), 2022, 2757-2774. DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2022.2104705
  • “Refugee Welfare Councils as Spaces of Local Citizenship Production: The Case of Adjumani District, Uganda”, Diaspora 22(1), 2022.
  • “Becoming More Ugandan”: Social Navigation Strategies among Self-Settled Refugees in Adjumani Town”, capitolo in A. Pezzano, D. Pioppi, P.P. Frassinelli e V. Sathiyah, The question of Agency in African Studies. Napoli: il Porto delle Idee, 2021, pp. 23-40 (open access).
  • Editor of the special issue “Refugees in Uganda between politics and everyday practices”. Afriche e Orienti, XXII(1), 2020
  • “Sud Sudan: investimenti stranieri e ingiustizia ambientale”, Chapter in Valerio Bini (ed.) Africa: la natura contesa. Ecologia politica a Sud del Sahara, Edizioni Ambiente, 2020, pp. 123-137 (open access).
  • “Individual and collective agency and identity construction among South Sudanese refugees in Adjumani District, Uganda”, Afriche e Orienti, XXII (1), 2020, pp. 85-101, open access.
  • “Beyond normativity and benchmarking: applying a human security approach to refugee-hosting areas in Africa”, Third World Quarterly, 41(1), 2020, 168-183.
  • “Playing the 'fragile state' card: the SPLM and state extraversion in South Sudan”. Journal of Modern African Studies 56(3), 2018, pp. 395-420
  • "Human Development, Education and Mobility", Chapter in Giovanni Carbone (ed.) A vision of Africa's Future. Mapping Change, Transformations and Trajectories towards 2030, ISPI, 2018, pp. 173-194 (open access).
  • “Governance della terra e diritti locali in Sud Sudan”, Chapter in Sara de Simone and M. Cristina Ercolessi (eds.) Le autorità locali in Africa: governance e pratiche di accesso alle risorse. Napoli: Il Porto delle Idee, 2017, 49-77 (open access).
  • “Conclusioni” Chapter in Sara de Simone and M. Cristina Ercolessi (eds.) Le autorità locali in Africa: governance e pratiche di accesso alle risorse. Napoli: Il Porto delle Idee, 2017, 203-210 (open access)
  • “L’utilizzo dello Stato: discorsi e pratiche sull’erogazione di servizi in Sud Sudan”, Afriche e Orienti, special issue 2/3, 2016, pp.39-55
  • “Building a Fragmented State: Land governance and conflict in South Sudan”. Journal of Peacebuilding and Development, 10(3), 2015, 60-73.
  • “Post-Conflict Decentralization: Dynamics of Land and Power in Unity State, South Sudan”. UNISCI Discussion Papers, 33, 2013, p. 35-55
  • Co-editor of the book Le autorità locali in Africa: governance e pratiche di accesso alle risorse (with M.C. Ercolessi). Napoli: Il Porto delle Idee, 2017 (open access).