David Pratten's Publications


The Man-Leopard Murders Book CoverDavid Pratten The Man-Leopard Murders: History and Society in Colonial Nigeria, Edinburgh University Press for the International African Institute, 2007.

This book is an account of murder and politics in Africa, and an historical ethnography of southern Annang communities during the colonial period. Its narrative leads to events between 1945 and 1948 when the imperial gaze of police, press and politicians was focused on a series of mysterious deaths in south-eastern Nigeria attributed to the ‘man-leopard society’. These murder mysteries, reported as the ‘biggest, strangest murder hunt in the world’, were not just forensic but also historical. The murders were related to the broad impact of commercial, Christian and colonial relations on Annang society, and debate and conflict over the moral order of Annang society.

Winner of the 2007 Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology awarded by the Royal Anthropological Institute.


‘This is historical anthropology in full splendour. Pratten takes a series of enigmatic ‘man-leopard’ murders as a seminal starting point for sketching a surprisingly full picture of the explicit tensions in colonial Nigeria. The man-leopard murders prove to be about a breakdown of trust, particularly in the intimate sphere, but this interpretation leads in all sorts of directions. A true masterpiece!’ Peter Geschiere, University of Amsterdam

‘Pratten’s book is a triumphant achievement. Taking its cue from the sensationally reported leopard killings of 1945–7, it opens out into a rich meditation on the nature of Nigerian society in the twilight years of colonialism. Wide-ranging and subtle, this is a major contribution to African studies and a wonderfully well realised conversation between the concerns of the anthropologist and the historian.’ T.C. McCaskie, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Global Vigilantes Book CoverDavid Pratten and A. Sen (eds) Global Vigilantes: Perspectives on Justice and Violence, London and New York: Hurst and Columbia University Press, (2007).

Vigilantes and organised vigilantism are a growing phenomenon, as this book amply demonstrates. From Northern Ireland to West Africa, from Bombay or Moscow, vigilante movements and ideologies have widespread appeal. Whether as localised 'self-policing' of crime and other forms of social behaviour, or as surveillance of drug trafficking or terrorism, vigilantes patrol the frontiers that emerge as transnational global flows meet real or imagined political borders. "Global Vigilantes" is the first book to offer a comprehensive overview of contemporary vigilantism in its relation to different members of society and to state authorities. It explores how vigilantes produce and reproduce themselves within shifting climates of hate and fear; it addresses their historical antecedents; explores the cults and cultures of conflict associated with vigilantism, and analyses the modes, meanings and methods of vigilante violence.


‘This is a rich and fascinating book, which has been edited into an impressively coherent whole. Global Vigilantes comprises a vivid and original collection of chapters on the phenomenon of vigilantism and popular justice. The chapters are clearly and crisply written and address a strong core of central theoretical issues which raise deeply troubling questions about justice and morality in a globalizing world. The editors are to be congratulated on the appearance of this brilliantly provocative collection.’ Jonathan Spencer, Professor of the Anthropology of South Asia, University of Edinburgh

Journal Articles

'Masking Youth: Transformation and Transgression in Annang Performance' African Arts 41 (4): 44-60.

'Introduction - the Politics of Protection: perspectives on Vigilantism in Nigeria' Special issue of Africa, 78(1), 2008. (edited special issue), pp.1-15.

'The thief eats his shame: practice and power in Nigerian vigilantism’ Africa  78(1) 2008, pp.64-83.

‘Michel de Certeau: Ethnography and the challenge of plurality’ Social Anthropology 15(1), 2007, pp.1-12 (edited special issue with Valentina Napolitano).

'Mystics and Missionaries: Narratives of the Spirit Movement in Eastern Nigeria', Social Anthropology 15(1), 2007, pp.47-70.

‘The Politics of Vigilance in south-eastern Nigeria’, Development and Change 37(1), 2006, pp. 707–734.

‘The Politics of Plunder: The Rhetorics of Order and Disorder in Southern Nigeria’ (with Charles Gore) African Affairs 102 (407), 2003, pp. 211-240.

‘Local Institutional Development and Relief in Ethiopia: A Kire-based Seed Distribution Programme in North Wollo’, Disasters, 21 (2), pp.138-154, 1997.

‘Reconstructing Community: The Intermediary Role of Sahelian Associations in Processes of Migration and Rural Development’ African Rural and Urban Notes, 3 (1), pp. 49-77, 1996.

Book Chapters

‘The Precariousness of Prebendalism’ in W. Adebanwi and E. Obadare (eds) Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria: Critical Reinterpretations, 243-60. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

'Retroversion, introversion, extraversion: three aspects of African anthropology', in Fardon, R., J. Gledhill, O. Harris, T. Marchand, M. Nuttall, C. Shore, V. Strang & R. Wilson (eds.) Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology. 308-323. Sage, London (Published with the Association of Social Anthropologists of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth), 2012.

‘Agaba and the ‘rugged life’: youth and violence in southern Nigeria’ in Ruth Ginio', Louise Bethlehem & Pal Ahluwalia (eds). Violence & Non-violence in Africa, London & New York, Routledge (2007), pp.84-104.

‘The District Clerk and the ‘Man-Leopard Murders’: mediating law and authority in colonial Nigeria', Richard Roberts, B.N. Lawrance and E.L. Osborn (edited) Intermediaries, Interpreters and Clerks: African Employees and the Making of Colonial Africa, University of Wisconsin Press (2006), pp. 220-247.

‘Conversion, Conquest and the Qua Iboe Mission’, in Falola, T. (ed) Christianity and Social Change in Africa: Essays in Honor of J.D.Y. Peel, pp. 413-40. Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press, 2005.

‘Biafra and Biafran War’, in Poddar, P. & D. Johnson (eds.) A historical companion to postcolonial thought in English, pp. 64-66. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2005.

‘Return to the Roots’: Processes of Legitimacy in Sudanese Migrant Associations’, (with Suliman Ali Baldo) in Michael Edwards and David Hulme (eds.), Non-Governmental Organisations - Performance and Accountability: Beyond the Magic Bullet, London, Earthscan, (1995) pp.119-129.


‘Return to the Roots? Urban Networks, Rural Development and Power in Sudan’ CAS Occasional Paper No. 82, University of Edinburgh, 2000.

‘Bamako Bound: The Social Organization of Migration in Mali’, SOS Sahel International UK, London, 1996.