Lahra smith

Director, African Studies Program
Associate Professor | Georgetown University

About Me

I am a political scientist studying citizenship, migration and political institutions in Africa, particularly in East Africa and the Horn of Africa.

I seek to better understand the dynamic relationships between states and the constellations of citizens, non-citizens and citizens-in-the-making. That takes me from classrooms to refugee camps to government offices throughout the region, and occasionally beyond.

I use ethnographic and qualitative methods because I want to understand politics as they are made and deployed by the people who are politicians and the people who use everyday politics to ‘act back.’ I have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays, and the US Fulbright Program.


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My Book

I study how citizens engage with states and help make the content of citizenship through the formation and contestation of citizenship. 

I call this ‘meaningful citizenship’ because it is not just the formality of having the documentation that the state provides or denies. Rather, it is the activities of being a citizen.

My book, Making Citizens in Africa: Ethnicity, Gender, and National Identity in Ethiopia, is now available on Amazon. 


"Interview with Ufahamu Africa on Refugees and Migrants in the Horn of Africa."

Ufahamu Africa, April 2017