Liberian Scholar Wins Second Book Award

Robtel Neajai Pailey

Dr. Robtel Neajai Pailey adds the 2023 Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award to her growing list of prizes.

Dr. Robtel Neajai Pailey, a Liberian scholar-activist, has won the 2023 Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award for Excellence in African Writing for her monograph Development, (Dual) Citizenship and Its Discontents in Africa: The Political Economy of Belonging to Liberia.

Currently an assistant professor in international social and public policy at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Dr. Pailey is no stranger to academic accolades. The Adesanmi prize is her second book award in two years. In 2022, she won the African Politics Conference Group (APCG) Best Book Award for Development, (Dual) Citizenship and Its Discontents in Africa.   

According to a statement by the African Studies Association of Africa (ASAA), which sponsors the Adesanmi Award, Pailey’s book stood out among 22 submissions, “demonstrating exceptional scholarship and contributing significantly to the field of African Studies.” 

Named in honor of the late Professor Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian-Canadian scholar, the Memorial Award recognizes an outstanding single-authored book that explores Africa and/or the global African world.  

According to the ASAA, the Award “not only celebrates individual achievement but also serves as a testament to the enduring legacy of Professor Pius Adesanmi and his profound impact on the field of African Studies.” The Association seeks to celebrate work, like Dr. Pailey’s, which pushes “the boundaries of theory, concept, and methodology, showcasing the richness and diversity of African scholarship.”

The ASAA extended heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Pailey for her “outstanding contributions to the advancement of African scholarship” in an official announcement on 28 October 2023 during the closing banquet of its biennial conference held in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Dr. Pailey’s award-winning book examines how historical and contemporary factors such as conflict, migration, globalization and post-war recovery influenced the introduction and postponement in passage of Liberia’s dual citizenship law. It is based on over 200 interviews conducted with Liberians residing in Monrovia, Freetown, Accra, London and Washington, DC. 

The book also demonstrates how historical policy changes on citizenship and contemporary public discourse on dual citizenship have affected development policy and practice in Liberia. 

Development, (Dual) Citizenship and Its Discontents in Africa
Development, (Dual) Citizenship and Its Discontents in Africa was published in January 2021 by Cambridge University Press.

Dr. Pailey’s monograph contributed significantly to discussions held by Liberia’s Legislature on the possibility of legislating dual citizenship. In December 2021, she was invited by the Senate to present the findings and policy recommendations of her book. During her oral presentation, which was live-streamed, Dr. Pailey advised the Senate to find a compromise between furthering Liberians’ aspirations abroad and addressing Liberians’ anxieties at home. 

She argued that minimizing socio-economic inequalities in Liberia would allay domestic citizens’ anxieties since many “see dual citizenship as a zero-sum game, infringing upon their already limited access to political, economic, and social rights." 

During the Senate briefing, Dr. Pailey disclosed that many Liberians living abroad wished to maintain their citizenship by birth and ancestry because they have contributed to the survival of the nation both in times of war and peace. 

“Liberian diasporas have been significant political, economic, and social actors—sending remittances, advocating for the end of armed conflict, investing in profitable industries like real estate and agriculture”, she said, admitting that Liberian diasporas, through their actions, have also elicited support and rejection of dual citizenship. 

Dr. Pailey’s oral presentation and two-page policy briefing were used by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2022 to revise the Senate’s version of a dual citizenship bill that had been forwarded by the House of Representatives for concurrence in November 2021. 

In July 2022, Liberia’s Legislature passed a dual citizenship law that coincided with the country’s 175th Independence Day celebrations.  

Visit for more information about Dr. Pailey’s policy, scholarly and creative work.