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 main research interests are the political dynamics of democratic states, with a particular focus on the politics of crime, policing, vigilantism, and state violence in South Africa. My first book, entitled Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa, was 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 several 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. The third, entitled Rethinking Comparison, is a volume I co-edited with Erica S. Simmons (University of Wisconsin – Madison), currently under review at Cambridge University Press. 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 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 am currently on the editorial committee of Comparative Politics, 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.