Professor Esser's current research investigates the social foundations of political legitimacy in non-democratic settings. This new line of inquiry builds on his widely cited work on urban governance, development effectiveness amid armed conflict, and global health politics. Prof. Esser has conducted field research in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Mexico and has published in World Development, Third World Quarterly, the Journal of Modern African Studies, Environment and Urbanization, the Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, Global Public Health, the Journal of Social Policy, Urban Studies, Ethics & International Affairs, Communication Theory, Critical Planning, the Journal of Business Ethics, Learning and Teaching and Encyclopaedia Iranica, as well as in several edited books. A member of American University's Honors Faculty, he also serves as SIS Thematic Area Coordinator for Global Inequality and Development and teaches a doctoral seminar on policy analysis.
Prof. Esser has received research grants from Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the British Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Mellon-MIT Program on NGOs and Forced Migration, the German National Academic Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The 2015 SIS Scholar-Teacher of the Year, he has also been an Academic Resident at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in 2013, a Drugs, Security and Democracy (DSD) Postdoctoral Fellow of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in 2012-13, a SPURS Research Fellow at MIT in 2003-04, and a Carlo Schmid Fellow at the International Labour Office in 2001-02. In 2006-08, Prof. Esser was an International Civil Servant with UNESCAP (Bangkok) and UNDP (New York). As a consultant, he has advised the World Bank, the OECD, USAID, the German Government, FLACSO, and CARE International on program planning and has led evaluations of multi-million donor programs, most recently on subnational governance in Afghanistan.