I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York – City College and a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg.
My research interests fall along two main lines. Using the politics of crime, policing, and vigilantism in South Africa as a lens, the first line examines the ways in which democratic states use violence to produce order and why citizens sometimes use violence to resist that order. My first book in this area, Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa, was published by Oxford University Press in 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. The book received the 2020 Distinguished Book Award from the Sociology of Law section of the American Sociological Association and an Honorable Mention for the 2020 Charles Taylor Book Award from the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Related Group of the American Political Science Association.
My second line of research is on comparative and ethnographic methods. The work in this vein develops innovations in qualitative research to expand the repertoire of methods available for the study of politics. To this end, Erica S. Simmons (University of Wisconsin – Madison) and I will publish a forthcoming volume, entitled Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Research, with Cambridge University Press. Based on a conference we jointly organized at the City College of New York, the collected chapters 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.
I am currently working on two additional book projects. The first, provisionally entitled The Tradition of All Dead Generations: Crisis and Reproduction after Democratic State Violence, explores the ways in which democracy is reproduced in the wake of state violence, focusing particularly on the 2012 Marikana Massacre in South Africa. The second, provisionally entitled Method of the Damned: Ethnography and Its Contradictions, considers contradictory demands ethnographers face, suggests ways to navigate them, and argues that ethnography’s challenges are emblematic of challenges facing all social science methods.
In addition to these book projects, I have published articles on counterrevolution, rights amidst democratic transition, and comparative and ethnographic methods. My work has been published or is forthcoming in leading journals like the American Journal of Sociology, Comparative Politics, Perspectives on Politics, African Affairs, PS: Political Science and Politics, and Qualitative and Multi-Method Research. I have also written for the Boston Review, African Arguments, and Democracy in Africa.
I am currently on the editorial committee of Comparative Politics, was a finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program, have won multiple awards for my scholarship 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 won an inaugural Colin Powell School Faculty Teaching Award from the City University of New York – City College. I hold a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago.