I am an Associate 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 utilizes qualitative methods to examine how democratic states use violence to produce order and why citizens sometimes use violence to challenge that order.
Based on approximately twenty months of ethnographic and archival research, my first book, Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa (Oxford University Press, 2019), explored these themes through the lens of crime, policing, and vigilantism in South Africa. The book won the Distinguished Book Award from the Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association, was co-winner of the Best Book Award from the African Politics Group of the American Political Science Association, and was named an Honorable Mention for the Charles Taylor Book Award of the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Related Group of the American Political Science Association. With Erica S. Simmons, I have also written about the intersection of comparative and ethnographic methods, co-editing Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Inquiry (Cambridge University Press, 2021), among other publications. My work has also been published in African Affairs, American Journal of Sociology, Comparative Politics, Perspectives on Politics, Polity, PS: Political Science and Politics, and Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, among other outlets. I have won fellowship or grant support from Fulbright Hays, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council, among other organizations, and was the first recipient of CCNY’s Colin Powell School Faculty Teaching Award.
Currently, I am working on three book projects related to these themes. The first examines the politics of police violence in democratic states, focusing on South Africa. The second explores the practice of “shadow work,” like ethnography and espionage, through a family history. The final project, with Erica S. Simmons, reconsiders the goal of generalization in political research.