Sean R. Roberts

Sean Roberts

Sean R. Roberts

Professor of the Practice of International Affairs; Director, M.A. International Development Studies Program

Full-time Faculty

Department: Faculty, MA International Development Studies


Office Phone: 202-994-7739
Fax: 202-994-5477
1957 E St. NW, Office #501G Washington, D.C. 20052

Sean R. Roberts is an Associate Professor in the Practice of International Affairs and Director of the International Development Studies (IDS) MA program at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He received his MA in Visual Anthropology (2001) and his PhD in Cultural Anthropology (2003) from the University of Southern California. Both during the completion of his PhD and following graduation, he worked for a total of 7 years for the United States Agency for International Development in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, managing democracy, governance, and human rights programs in the five Central Asian Republics. He also taught for two years as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Europe, Eurasian, and Russian Studies before coming to the Elliott School in 2008. Academically, he has written extensively on the Uyghur people of China and Central Asia about whom he wrote his dissertation, and his 2020 book The War on the Uyghurs (Princeton University Press) was recognized by the journal Foreign Affairs as one of their “best of books” for 2021. He also continues to do analytical work for development organizations, having conducted high-level assessments that informed future USAID programming on local governance decentralization (2014) and changing corrupt behaviors (2015) in Ukraine as well as on opportunities for reform in Uzbekistan (2017) and on people-centered justice in Kyrgyzstan (2022). He is frequently consulted by development organizations on issues related to governance, democratization, human rights, and the rights of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, and he comments on current events in the media related both to the situation of the Uyghur people in China and to political developments in Central Asia. Dr. Roberts teaches core classes in the IDS program as well as two seminars open to all students: “Indigenous Peoples, Ethnic Minorities, and Development” and “The Belt and Road Initiative: China’s Approach to International Development.”

Democratization, Governance, Civil Society, Human Rights, Indigenous and Minority Rights, China, Central Asia, former Soviet Union

Ph.D., University of Southern California