- Additional Positions at AU
- Faculty Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Center
- Faculty Project Collaborator, Accountability Research Center
- Faculty Affiliate, Center for Latin American and Latino Studies
- PhD, Development Studies; MSc, Development Management (Dist.), London School of Economics and Political Science
- Languages Spoken
- Spanish, German, and some very rusty French
- Favorite Spot on Campus
- Woods-Brown Amphitheater
- Favorite Place in Washington DC
- Rock Creek Park
Professor Esser's current research investigates social foundations of political legitimacy in non-democratic settings, with a geographic focus on urban areas in the global South. This new line of inquiry builds on earlier work on urban governance and development effectiveness amid armed conflict. Prof. Esser has conducted field research in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Mexico and has traveled widely in Asia and in Latin America. He has published in leading peer-reviewed journals such as World Development, Urban Studies, the Journal of Modern African Studies, the Journal of Social Policy, Environment and Urbanization, Global Public Health, Third World Quarterly, Ethics & International Affairs, Communication Theory, and the Journal of Business Ethics, as well as in several edited books. A member of American University's Honors Faculty, he co-leads the first-year Honors core course. He also serves as SIS Thematic Area Coordinator for Global Inequality and Development and teaches a doctoral seminar on the politics of policy analysis.
The 2015 SIS Scholar-Teacher of the Year, Professor Esser has been a non-resident Fellow at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in 2017-18; 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 worked as an International Civil Servant with UNESCAP (Bangkok) and UNDP (New York). 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). 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, most recently on subnational governance in Afghanistan and on the impact of external actors in Pakistan.
Honors, Awards, and Fellowships
- Copenhagen Business School, Governing Responsible Business (GRB) Fellow (2017-18)
- SIS Scholar-Teacher of the Year (2015)
- Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Academic Resident (2013)
- SSRC Program on Drugs, Security and Development (DSD), Research Fellow (2012-13)
- MIT Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS), Research Fellow (2003-2004)
- LSE Development Studies Institute, Best Performance Prize (2003)
- LSE Graduate School, Graduate Merit Award (2002)
- Carlo Schmid Program (Robert Bosch Foundation, DAAD, German National Academic Foundation), Research Fellow in the International Labour Office's Job Creation and Enterprise Development Department (2001-02)
- Conditions for International Legitimacy in Indigenous Policy Processes: Comparing Afghanistan’s Provincial Budgeting Policy and Sub-National Governance Policy, presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Development Studies Association, Oxford, 10–12 Sept. 2016.
- Wrestling with Weber in Kabul: Legitimacy and Violence in Contemporary Afghanistan, presentation at the Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung’s conference on “Violent Conflictitions”, Bielefeld, 2–4 June 2016.
- Ending Area Studies’ Eternal Crisis? Existential Phenomenology, Pragmatism and Inductive Theory Development, presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, San Francisco, CA, 29 March–2 April 2016.
- A Scalar Critique of Resilience: Global Discourse, National Policies, Local Practices, presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Chicago, IL, 21–25 April 2015.
- Containing Violence in Karachi and Kabul, invited lecture at the International Expert Forum on Peacebuilding, Cape Town, 17 April 2015.
- Strengthening Accountabilities in the Sustainable Development Goals: Shifting the Focus to Donors (with Y. Ha), presentation at the 3rd Annual International and Interdisciplinary Conference at Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, 12–14 March 2015.
- TED Talks on International Development: Science Communication, ‘Digital Solutionism’ and the Technopolitics of Popular Mobilization (with T. Denskus), presentation at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, 28–31 August 2014.
- Urban Violence and Armed Conflicts: Cities as Hubs, Symbols, Stages and Prey, invited lecture and workshop at the United States Chief of Staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group (CSA SSG), Arlington, VA, 27 August 2014.
- Poverty, Faith and Victimization: Catalysts of Collective Action Amid Violence in Ciudad Juárez, 2008-2012, presentation at the Annual Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Chicago, IL, 21–24 May 2014.
- "Governance in Sierra Leone," (with D. Keen) pre-visit briefing of the UK House of Commons’ International Development Committee, London, 2 February 2006.
- "Transdisciplinarity" (with J. Mittelman), School of International Service Research Paper No. 2017-3, Washington, DC: American University, 2017.
- "Interventionism and the Fear of Urban Agency in Afghanistan and Iraq," in: M. Kamrava (ed.), Fragile Politics: Weak States in the Greater Middle East, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 81-97, 2016.
- "Violence and Community Capabilities: Insights for Building Safe and Inclusive Cities in Central America" (with L. Brioso, R. Calderón Umaña, E. Hershberg, M. Montoya, J. P. Pérez Sáinz, K. Salazar and M. Zetino), CLALS Working Paper 8, Washington, DC: Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, 2015.
- "Countering the Risks of Vocationalisation in Master’s Programmes in International Development" (with T. Denskus), Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 8(2), pp. 72-85, 2015.
- "TED Talks on International Development: Trans-Hegemonic Promise and Ritualistic Constraints" (with T. Denskus), Communication Theory 25(2), pp. 166-187, 2015.
- "Security Scales: Spectacular and Endemic Violence in Post-Invasion Kabul, Afghanistan," Environment & Urbanization 26(2), pp. 373-388, 2014.
- "Elusive Accountabilities in the HIV Scale-up: ‘Ownership’ as a Functional Tautology," Global Public Health 9(1-2), pp. 43-56, 2014.
- "Tracing Poverty and Inequality in International Development Discourses: An Algorithmic and Visual Analysis of Agencies’ Annual Reports and Occasional White Papers, 1978-2010" (with B. J. Williams), Journal of Social Policy 43(1), pp. 173-200, 2014.
- "The Political Economy of Post-Invasion Kabul, Afghanistan: Urban Restructuring Beyond the North-South Divide," Urban Studies 50(15), pp. 3084-3098, 2013.
- "Comparable and Yet Context-Sensitive? Improving Evaluation in Violently Divided Societies Through Methodology" (with E. E. VanderKamp), Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 8(2), pp. 42-56, 2013.
- "Ageing as a Global Public Health Challenge: From Complexity Reduction to Aid Effectiveness" (with P. Ward), Global Public Health 8(7), pp. 745-768, 2013.
- "Social Media and Global Development Rituals: A Content Analysis of Blogs and Tweets on the 2010 MDG Summit" (with T. Denskus), Third World Quarterly 34(3), pp. 409-424, 2013.
- "‘When We Launched the Government’s Agenda…’: Aid Agencies and Local Politics in Urban Africa," The Journal of Modern African Studies 50(3), pp. 397-420, 2012.
- "Does Global Health Funding Respond to Recipients' Needs? Comparing Public and Private Donors' Allocations in 2005-2007" (with K. Keating Bench), World Development 39(8), pp. 1271-1280, 2011.
- "Postwar Political Restructuring in Freetown and Kabul: Theoretical Limits and the Test Case for Multiscalar Governance," Critical Planning 16, pp. 80-97, 2009.
- "More Money, Less Cure: Why Global Health Assistance Needs Restructuring," Ethics & International Affairs 23(2), pp. 225-234, 2009.
Grants and Sponsored Research
- AU School of International Service, Conference Travel Award (2013)
- Social Science Research Council, DSD Fellowship (2012-2013)
- AU School of International Service, Conference Travel Award (2012)
- AU International Travel Award for Faculty (2012)
- AU School of International Service, Dean's Summer Research Award (2012)
- AU School of International Service, Summer Research Grant (2011)
- AU School of International Service, Summer Research Grant (2010)
- German National Academic Foundation, Doctoral Grant for top 1% of German doctoral students (2004-2006)
- Mellon-MIT Program on NGOs and Forced Migration, Research Grant (2004)
- Economic and Social Research Council, +3 Award for Doctoral Studies (2003-2007)
- German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Doctoral Stipend for the UK (2003-04)
- European Recovery Program, Pre-doctoral Grant (2003-04)
- Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust, Grant for research students (2003; declined)
- German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Grant for UK graduate school fees (2002-03)
- Certificate: Mediation and Participatory Processes (Program on Negotiation), Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA (May 2004)
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
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:  local (in particular urban) governance in the context of armed conflict,  global health agenda-setting and resource allocation, and  discourses as frames for global development policies. http://danielesser.org