Professor Esser's current research project investigates social determinants of political legitimacy in non-Western settings. This new line of inquiry expands on his earlier work on urban governance, global health policy, and development effectiveness amid armed conflict. 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.
The 2015 SIS Scholar-Teacher of the Year, Prof. Esser 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, he spent two years working full-time for UNESCAP in Bangkok and UNDP in New York. He 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). Prof. Esser has served as an adviser on program planning and evaluation to the World Bank, the OECD, USAID, the German Government, FLACSO, and CARE International.
Professor Esser is a member of American University's Honors Faculty and serves as SIS Thematic Area Coordinator for Global Inequality and Development.