photo: Sean Roberts

Sean R. Roberts

Associate Professor of the Practice of International Affairs; Director, International Development Studies Program
Suite 501 G
Address: Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street, N.W.
Phone: 202-994-7739
Fax: 202-994-5477

Areas of Expertise

Development theory, democracy development, media and development, culture and politics, indigenous rights, Central Asia, former Soviet Union, and China


Joining the Elliott School in 2008 as the Director of the International Development Studies program, Sean Roberts is a cultural anthropologist with extensive applied experience in international development work.

Having conducted ethnographic fieldwork among the Uyghur people of Central Asia and China during the 1990s, he has published extensively on this community in scholarly journals and in collected volumes. In addition, he produced a documentary film on the community entitled Waiting for Uighurstan (1996).

In 1998-2000 and 2002-2006, he worked at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Central Asia on democracy programs, designing and managing projects in civil society development, political party assistance, community development, independent media strengthening, and elections assistance.

During the 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years, Dr. Roberts was a post-doctoral fellow in Central Asian Affairs at Georgetown University. At the same time, he continued to work on development projects for a variety of NGOs and served as a Senior Program Officer at the Center for Civil Society and Governance at the Academy for Educational Development where he managed a peace-building project in Darfur, Sudan and an anti-corruption project in Moldova.


Ph.D., University of Southern California


  • "Doing the Democracy Dance in Central Asia: Democracy Development as Cultural Encounter", P D F file iconSlavic Review 71, no. 2 (Summer 2012), 308–330.
  • "Daily Negotiations of Islam in Central Asia: Practicing Religion in the Uyghur Neighborhood of Zarya Vostoka in Almaty, Kazakhstan" in Everyday Life in Central Asia, Past and Present, University of Indiana Press, (2006);
  • "The Dawn of the East: A Uyghur Community Between Central Asia and China" in Situating the Uyghurs, Ashgate Publishers (2007).