Photo credit: Tai Power Seeff

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and currently a Social Science Matrix Dissertation Fellow at Berkeley, the Herbert Blumer Fellow for Teaching Excellence in the Department of Sociology, and a writing fellow at the Slow Science Institute. My research and teaching interests include urban sociology, development, social theory, political sociology, ethnography, and the political economy of decolonization. While I currently work on South Africa, I am interested more broadly in the sociology of postcolonial democratization, with a special focus on questions of urbanization.

My dissertation, The Post-Apartheid State: The Politics of Housing in South Africa, interrogates the paradoxical failure of the largest formal housing delivery experiment ever to occur in a democratic state: post-apartheid South Africa. If colonial regimes resolve urban questions through the spatial manipulation of populations, my research explores how a postcolonial regime grapples with a similar problem while simultaneously having to reproduce its own democratic legitimacy. As previously marginalized populations converged on cities around the country after the relaxation of mobility controls, the post-apartheid state faced a crisis of the sudden urbanization of unemployed populations and the proliferation of urban informal settlements. Yet it could no longer simply forcibly relocate populations at will. In this context, I carried out an ethnography of three mass land occupations in Cape Town over a period of three years. This work investigates the process of informal settlement formation, how residents engage the municipal state to obtain formal recognition, and above all, how states manage populations they deem superfluous to the urban economy.

Articles from this research have been published in International Sociology, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, Contextsand an edited volume in Routledge's series in partnership with the journal Mobilization, among other placesAdditional work is forthcoming in Catalyst and the British Journal of Sociology.