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Marjoke Oosterom

Research Fellow

Marjoke Oosterom is a research fellow in the Power and Popular research cluster at IDS. She holds a PhD from IDS and has a background in comparative politics and development studies. Her research concentrates on how experiences of violence and conflict affect forms of agency, citizenship, and everyday politics and governance. Her specific expertise is on youth politics and citizenship, and youth agency in response to insecurity and violence, including in non-violent ways. Apart from research she has been involved in consultancy work for policy makers and international NGOs that fund and implement governance as well as youth-focused interventions in conflict affected settings.

Marjoke’s research focuses on how past and current experiences of violence shape people’s agency to engage with the state and other political actors, and in forms of collective action. She has also looked at citizenship and agency among internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in conflict settings, and their interactions with humanitarian actors and forms of public authority in these settings. Violent settings are often unfavourable to citizen action, and the political space for civil society can be limited. This research helps understand what kind of institutions and forms of leadership are legitimate in the eyes of people, and how people negotiate multiple forms of authority. In 2018, Marjoke worked on the theme of civic space; how new forms of repression and constraints restrict civic action, and how new forms of action emerge.

Within the broader theme of conflict, violence, and agency, Marjoke has specific expertise on youth politics, youth agency, and the politics of youth employment. Several of Marjoke’s projects are undertaken within the Youth Employment and Politics theme at IDS. While popular assumptions hold that especially unemployed and ‘idle’ youth are at risk of participating in violence, the majority of young people develop non-violent strategies to cope with adversity and are active citizens in their own ways. Current research focuses on youth responses to violence in Zimbabwe (IDRC), and youth engagement with youth-focused state interventions in authoritarian regimes (NorGlobal), and livelihood opportunities for rural youth (IFAD).

Marjoke uses qualitative approaches and likes to use participatory, visual methods like Photo Voice. She has facilitated youth-led research, and in her research with young people she often uses creative methods such as storytelling, arts, and theatre. She mainly works in countries in East and Sub-Saharan Africa, especially Zimbabwe, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Many of her research projects are conducted in collaboration with civil society actors, designed to inform their programmes and strategies. For instance, a study for Plan International UK helped to inform advocacy regarding UNSCR 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. Project outputs often include multimedia outputs that enhance research uptake and impact. See for instance the documentary The Governance Gap on citizenship in post-conflict Acholi region, in northern Uganda.


With other colleagues she has been involved in various studies and trainings for donors and civil society organisations, such as workshops in power analysis, studies on civic space, and integrating gender and youth focus in programme design. In 2018 she facilitated a series of learning events on Youth Employment & Citizenship for DFID, Dutch Aid, Irish Aid, and Danida, with participation from USAID, IDRC, and the AfDB.


Marjoke is co-convenor of the MA in Power, Participation and Social Change, together with Jo Howard. This MA is developed for people who already have some experience in the development sector to help them understand and reflect on power dynamics in their work. The programme supports them to conduct an action research project, and equips them to better handle dynamics power and participation in their future career. In addition, Marjoke co-convenes the module Power & Social Perspectives on Development together with Mariz Tadros. She currently supervises two PhD candidates, Joon Lee and Aly Khalil.

For PhD applicants:

Marjoke welcomes PhD applications on the following topics:

  • Effects of violence and violent conflict on citizenship, agency, and governance, including in non-conventional conflict settings like informal urban settlements, contexts of forced displacement and humanitarian settings, as well as post-conflict settings.
  • Youth, peacebuilding, security, the role of young people in (post)conflict settings, youth in the informal economy, and youth agency in response to violence.
  • Forced displacement, the agency of refugees and IDPs, and camp governance.


Google Scholar



Action on Children’s Harmful Work in African Agriculture

Action on Children’s Harmful Work in African Agriculture (ACHA) is a seven-year, DFID-funded research programme that started in January 2020. The aim of the programme is to build evidence on: the forms, drivers, and experiences of children’s harmful work in African agriculture; ...


Learning on the Streets. Youth and vending in urban Zimbabwe

IDS Research fellow Marjoke Oosterom has won an ESRC New Investigators grant to do research on youth and political socialization in the informal economy. Research partners are Tinotenda Chishiri (RAU), Dr. Rekopantswe Mate (University of Zimbabwe) and Simbarashe Gukurume (Great Zimbabwe...



Working Paper

Commissions of Inquiry in Plateau State, Nigeria

IDS Working Paper;531

Nigeria’s Plateau State has been the scene of inter-community violence since the 1990s, involving several clashes in the city of Jos that took many lives within a matter of days. Between 1997 and 2014 different Commissions of Inquiry (COIs) were established to investigate specific episodes of...

1 August 2019

Marjoke Oosterom’s recent work