Nicholas Rush Smith
I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York – City College. My main research interests are the politics of crime, policing, and vigilantism in democratic states, with a particular focus on South Africa. My first book, entitled Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa, is published by Oxford University Press (2019) in the Oxford Studies in Culture and Politics series. Based on approximately 20 months of ethnographic and archival research, it asks why South Africa has experienced extraordinarily high rates of vigilantism despite a celebrated transition to democracy, a lauded constitution, and massive transformations of the state’s legal apparatus following apartheid.
I am currently working on two additional book projects. The first, provisionally entitled The Politics of Death: Death and South African State Formation from Apartheid to Democracy, explores the relationship between apartheid suppression, revolutionary mobilization, and long-run processes of state formation. The second, an edited volume in development with Erica S. Simmons (University of Wisconsin – Madison), is provisionally entitled Rethinking Comparison. Based on a conference we jointly organized at the City College of New York, the collected papers will lay out logics for conducting comparative research that go beyond the controlled comparisons that usually form the basis for graduate methods training in the social sciences.
In addition to these main projects, I have published research on counterrevolution, rights amidst democratic transition, and comparative and ethnographic methods. My work has been published in leading journals like the American Journal of Sociology, Comparative Politics, African Affairs, and PS: Political Science and Politics. I was a finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program, have won multiple awards for my writing from the American Political Science Association, and have received grant and fellowship support from, among other organizations, the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and Fulbright-Hays. I hold a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago.