Biography, thanks & acknowledgments


John Ryle is Legrand Ramsey Professor of Anthropology at Bard College, NY. He is cofounder of the Rift Valley Institute, a research and public information organisation that has worked in Eastern and Central Africa since 2001, and was Executive Director of the Institute until 2017.

John Ryle. Photograph by Trupti Shah, 2014.

He is coeditor of The Sudan Handbook (2011) and a contributor to periodicals including the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and Granta. He was formerly a columnist on the Guardian and an editor at the Times Literary Supplement. is a live repository of research, activism, journalism and critical writing from 1985 to date, with reportage from Africa, Asia and the Americas, and accounts of anthropological and human rights research in the Sudans and Brazil. The site includes information about books and video documentaries, translations of Brazilian poems and songs, a blog—Field Notes—and the archive of a newspaper column, City of Words.



Thanks to those who taught me to write and edit: Willie Jones, John Gross (1935-2011), Mary-Kay Wilmers, Claire Tomalin, Barbara Epstein (1928-2006) and Godfrey Lienhardt (1921-1993).

For assistance with the development of this site thanks to: Emily Walmsley, Mohamed Osman, Dan Large, Kit Kidner, Jawed Ludin, William Dewar, Jin-ho Chung and Maraka Ewoi. Thanks to Johnny Perkins for the design and build, to Kwame Akoto, of the Almighty God Art Works in Kumasi, Ghana, for the use of his painting, “A Wise Man’s Eye Is In His Head”, and to Islam Kamil, for the use of “Shalala”. Thanks to Caetano Veloso, Peter Fry, Fábio Araújo and Paulo Farias for advice and assistance with translations from Portuguese.

Thanks to the following for permission to republish work written by them or co-written with them: Georgette Gagnon, Neil Turner, Kwaja Yai Kuol, Fábio Araújo, Peter Fry, Ruben Obadia, Caetano Veloso, Kwame Anthony Appiah, D.A.N.Jones (1931-2003), Philip Winter, Jok Madut Jok, Mark Duffield, Helen Young, Fiona O’Reilly, David Keen, Alex de Waal, Mark Bradbury, Kwesi Sansculotte-Greenidge, Mike Croll, Peter Ash, Michael Medley, George Moose, Penn Kemble (1941-2005), Sarah Uppard, Leif Manger, Lars Kvalvaag, Giorgio Bosco, Christian Delmet, Justin Willis and Mesfin Yohannes. (See also separate acknowledgments for the Guardian column, City of Words.)


Thanks also to the newspaper and magazine editors, aid agency and foundation officials and the editors of books and learned journals who commissioned work included on this site. They are listed below alongside the organisations or publications they worked for at the time of original publication.

Salman Bal and Conradin Perner (“Kwajakworo”) at the Swiss Government’s Department of Foreign Relations; Ken Anderson at the Open Society Institute; Saša Vučinić and Harlan Mandel at the Media Development Loan Fund; Mark Bowden, Martin Griffiths, Andrew Timpson (1950-2015) and Philip Winter at Save The Children Fund (UK); Ben Parker at Unicef; Joanna Macrae at ODI (the Overseas Development Institute); Bernard Harborne at the World Bank and DFID (the UK Government Department for International Development); and David Evans at the British Council.

At The Times Literary Supplement, John Gross (1935-2011), Jeremy Treglown, Holly Eley (1940-2010), Will Eaves, Alan Jenkins, Anna Vaux, Maren Meinhardt, Ferdinand Mount and Peter Stothard; at the London Review of Books, Karl Miller (1931-2014), Mary-Kay Wilmers and Susannah Clapp; and at the New York Review of Books, Robert Silvers (1929-2017) and Barbara Epstein (1928-2006).

At the Independent on Sunday, Blake Morrison and Jan Dalley; at the New Yorker, Tina Brown, Julie Kavanagh, Matt Seaton and Henry Finder; at the Sunday Times, Claire Tomalin, Sean French, John Whitley, Julian Browne and David Jenkins; and at the Guardian, Liz Jobey, Giles Foden and Claire Armitstead (see also City of Words).

And last but not least: Nick Rankin at the BBC World Service; Lucretia Stewart at Departures; Sarah Miller and Sarah Spankie at Condé Nast Traveller; John Hatt at Harpers & Queen; Bill Buford, Liz Jobey and Ian Jack at Granta; Gwen Robinson at the Financial Times; David Sexton at the Evening Standard; Paul Barker at New Society; Julian Barnes at the New Statesman; Steve Wasserman at the Los Angeles Times; André Singer at Granada Television; Michael Church at the Times Educational Supplement; and Windsor Chorlton and Belinda Stewart-Cox at Time-Life Books. ★