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Daniel Esser Associate Professor School of International Service

Send email to Daniel Esser
SIS - School of International Service
SIS - 221
Additional Positions at AU
Director, Olson Scholars Program
Faculty Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Center
Faculty Affiliate, Center for Latin American and Latino Studies
PhD, Development Studies; MSc, Development Management (Distinction), London School of Economics and Political Science


Professor Esser currently serves as Chair of the American Association of Geographers' Development Geographies Specialty Group. The 2019 Distinguished Service Awardee of the AAG's Asian Geography Specialty Group and 2015 SIS Scholar-Teacher of the Year, he also directs the SIS Olson Scholars program and is a member of American University's Honors Faculty. His scholarship has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals such as World Development, Urban Studies, the Journal of Modern African Studies, the Journal of Social Policy, The Professional Geographer, Environment and Urbanization, Global Public Health, Third World Quarterly, Ethics & International Affairs, Communication Theory, and the Journal of Business Ethics, as well as in two Oxford Handbooks and other edited volumes. His current research explores the sociology of legitimacy across political scales in non-democratic settings. Previous fieldwork in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Mexico directly informs this line of inquiry.

Professor Esser has been a non-resident Fellow at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in 2017-18; Academic Resident at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in 2013; Drugs, Security and Democracy (DSD) Postdoctoral Fellow of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in 2012-13; SPURS Research Fellow at MIT in 2003-04; and Carlo Schmid Fellow at the International Labour Office in 2001-02. He has received additional research support 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 (Studienstiftung), and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). As a consultant, he has advised the World Bank, the OECD, USAID, the Federal Government of Germany, FLACSO, and CARE International on program planning and has led evaluations of multi-million donor portfolios. In 2006-08, he worked full-time as an International Civil Servant with UNESCAP in Bangkok and UNDP in New York.

For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


Spring 2021

  • HNRS-151 AU Honors Research Experience: Political Economies of Conflt

  • SISU-306 Adv Int'l Studies Research: Olson Scholars Seminar

Fall 2021

  • SISU-340 Topics in Global Inequalty/Dev: Religion, Security & Devel

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Mexico, global health, local governance, complex emergencies, post-conflict reconstruction, aid effectiveness, program evaluation, United Nations, development effectiveness, NGOs

Additional Information

Daniel Esser's research has been published in leading academic journals, including World Development, Ethics and International Affairs, Environment and Urbanization, Critical Planning, and the Journal of Business Ethics, among others. Esser investigates development effectiveness in the context of local, national and global policies and programs. He focuses on three research areas: [1] local (in particular urban) governance in the context of armed conflict, [2] global health agenda-setting and resource allocation, and [3] discourses as frames for global development policies.

For the Media

To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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