Elizabeth Cooper


Elizabeth Cooper
Assistant Professor
Harbour Centre 7170


D.Phil. University of Oxford, Social Anthropology (2011)
M.Phil. University of Oxford, Social Anthropology (2007)

M.A. University of British Columbia, Planning (International Development) (2004)
B.A. University of British Columbia, International Relations (1998)

Areas of Interest

Africa • Anthropology • International Development • Poverty • Humanitarianism • HIV/AIDS • Children and Young People • Political Economy • Social Change


Elizabeth Cooper is a social anthropologist whose work addresses experiences of poverty, international development, HIV/AIDS, forced migration, and violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. She received her doctorate in social anthropology from the University of Oxford in 2011 with a dissertation entitled ‘Who Cares about Orphans? Challenges to Morality and Kinship in a Luo Village in Western Kenya’. That study entailed 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork with children and their families in an agricultural village near the Kenyan city of Kisumu. It analyses how ideas and practices of care, kinship, childhood, and community have been affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and chronic experiences of impoverishment in that region.

Elizabeth’s current research, funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation, investigates how major demographic changes in Sub-Saharan Africa, including the so-called ‘youth bulge’ and ‘orphan crisis’, have affected the reproduction and change of social values and practices. There is a persistent argument in media, policy, and research that African societies are unable to meet the socialisation needs of their large populations of youth and orphans, and that this results in anti-social behaviour and societal disorder. Cooper’s research will answer whether the claim of a socialisation crisis is valid in the case of western Kenya where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 24 and one of every five people between the ages of 20 and 30 were orphaned before the age of 15. To do this, the research focuses on how young women and men of a generational cohort that experienced wide-scale orphaning during their childhoods in western Kenya now perceive and practice their roles as adults and parents.

Elizabeth has also conducted research concerning the lives of children and young people in refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and CARE International, as well as research about women’s poverty and inheritance rights in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya for the Overseas Development Institute.

Elizabeth previously worked as a political assistant to Canada’s Minister of the Environment and as the public affairs officer for the Canadian Embassy and Canadian International Development Agency in Hanoi, Vietnam.


Cooper, E. 2012. ‘Sitting and standing: How families are fixing trust in uncertain times’, Africa, 82 (3): 437-456.

Cooper, E. 2012. ‘Following the law, but losing the spirit of child protection in Kenya’, Development in Practice, 22 (4): 486-497.

Cooper, E. and K. Bird. 2012. ‘Introduction. Inheritance: A gendered and intergenerational dimension of poverty’, Development Policy Review, 30 (5): 527-541.

Cooper, E. 2012. ‘Women and inheritance in sub-Saharan Africa: What can change?’, Development Policy Review, 30 (5): 641-657.

Cooper, E. 2008. ‘Children’s Homes to Children’s Villages: the increasing separation of children from local society in Nyanza Province, Kenya’, Anthropology News, 49 (3): 26-7.

Boyden, J. and E. Cooper. 2008. ‘Questioning the power of resilience: Are children up to the task of disrupting the transmission of poverty?’ Chapter in: Addison, T., D. Hulme and R. Kanbur. (Eds). Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 289-308.

Cooper, E. 2008. ‘Learning from the research questions of out-of-school refugee youths’, Chapter in: Leach, F. and M. Dunne (Eds). Education, Conflict and Reconciliation: International Perspectives. Oxford: Peter Lang Publishing Group: 333-348.

Cooper, E. 2007. ‘Praxis in a refugee camp? A case study of Participatory Action Research with refugee youths’, Children, Youth & Environments, 17 (3): 104-121.

Cooper, E. 2005. ‘What do we know about out-of-school youths? How Participatory Action Research can work for young refugees in camps’, Compare: A Journal of Comparative Education, 35 (4): 463-477.


  • IS 220 Wealth and Poverty of Nations
  • IS 427 Globalization, Poverty and Inequality
  • IS 429 Lived Realities of Global Political Economy
  • IS 450W Global Problems in Interdisciplinary Perspective
  • IS 451 Seminar in Core Texts in International Studies

Curriculum Vitae