Nisrin Elamin

Assistant Professor



African Studies

Areas of Interest

  • Land rights
  • Property, Dispossession
  • Gulf Arab Capital Accumulation
  • Large-scale Land Investments
  • Racial Capitalism beyond the Atlantic World
  • Externalization of Border Regimes
  • Toxicity
  • Climate Justice
  • Black Radical Thought
  • Community and Labor Organizing. 


My work investigates the connections between land, race, belonging and empire-making in Sudan and the broader Sahel region. I use land and struggles over land as a lens through which to examine state surveillance of Sahelian migration as well as Gulf Arab corporate investments and political interventions in Sudan and neighboring countries. I am currently working on a book project based on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in central Sudan, where I conducted research in local courts, farming communities, investor conferences, agribusiness farms, government ministries, and in the zawiyas of Sufi religious leaders mediating land disputes in the aftermath of large-scale land enclosures. The book examines the ways landless and landholding communities are negotiating and contesting changes in land ownership prompted by a recent wave of domestic and Gulf Arab corporate investments in Sudanese land. It situates contemporary, state-driven ‘land grabs’ in the agricultural Gezira region of central Sudan, within a layered history of enclosures and unequal landed relations shaped by legacies of enslavement and colonial rule. Methodologically, it combines a multi-sited ethnographic study of gendered and racialized forms of land dispossession with a historical analysis of ways the Gezira has been imagined as the answer to various colonial and post-colonial development visions and empire-making projects. Before pursuing a PhD, I spent over a decade working as an educator, researcher and organizer in the US and taught for several years in Tanzania. Prior to joining the University of Toronto, I taught at Bryn Mawr College and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Columbia University in the United States.


Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence (DARE) Fellowship, Stanford University 2017-19.

Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) 2015 (awarded 2016 following sanctions regulations)

National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDRIG) 2015 (awarded 2016)

Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant 2015 (awarded 2016).

Social Science Research Council Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (DPDF) 2014.


Scholarly Publications:

2020. "‘Beyond regime change’: Reflections on Sudan’s ongoing revolution." POMEPS: Africa and the Middle East: Beyond the Divides, 19.

2018.“‘The Miskeet Tree doesn’t belong here’: Shifting land values and the politics of belonging in Um Doum, central Sudan.” In Critical African Studies 10(1): 67-88.


Other Publications:

2021. “Towards a More Historicized Understanding of the Transnational Land Rush in Africa.” Book Review Symposia. AfronomicsLaw

2021. “What Lies in the Rubble of the Muslim Ban after its repeal.” Cultural Anthropology Hot Spot Series

2019. Elamin, N. and Ismail, T. “The Many Mothers of Sudan’s Revolution.” Al Jazeera Opinion

2018. Elamin, N. and Mampilly, Z. “Recent protests in Sudan are much more than bread riots.” The Monkey Cage Blog of The Washington Post.

2017. “The Dangers of Exceptionalism.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review web series entitled Speaking Justice to Power: APLA / PoLAR Respond to the Trump Executive Order on Immigration.


PhD, Stanford University