Political economy, social theory, critical human geography; Southern Africa, Southeast Asia
By appointment (arranged via email)
I began my academic career as an economist, but quickly came under the influence of anthropologists during 19 months of fieldwork in a Javanese village in 1975-6. These interdisciplinary tendencies intensified after I finished my PhD and turned to working on agrarian change in Bangladesh and Malaysia. In the 1980s I also became involved in a broader collaborative project on transformations of major rice growing regions across Southeast Asia in the face of rapid technological change. Focusing on questions of power, this body of work reflects my enduring interest in how in-depth ethnographic studies and what I’ve come to call relational comparisons can do critical work, both analytically and politically. It also entailed doing battle with economists on a variety of topics, including the interlocking of labor, land, and relations of indebtedness; and debates over gender and the household.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s I was transformed from an economist to a geographer, when graduate students in the Department of Urban Studies at MIT drew my attention to debates in critical human geography. Most immediately I was compelled by Doreen Massey’s feminist reformulation of space and place, and subsequently by the work of Henri Lefebvre, Allan Pred, and many others. I was also drawn to Stuart Hall’s work on articulations of race and class, which reignited an interest in Gramsci’s political economy and its contemporary salience.
These revelations came to me at a crucial moment: the end of the Cold War; the apartheid regime’s unbanning of the African National Congress and other political parties; and returning to my native South Africa in 1990 after an absence of nineteen years. During the 1980s I had led a dual existence, with a Southeast Asian academic side and a South African political side through engagement with the anti-apartheid movement in Boston. The theories I began to embrace in the late 1980s not only transformed my conception of the world; they also provided the compass that guided me as I plunged into trying to understand the forces unleashed by the formal ending of apartheid.
In the first round of research from 1994-2001, I traced sharply divergent post-apartheid dynamics in Ladysmith and Newcastle, two former white towns and adjacent black townships, and their connections with East Asia. My book Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2002) draws on this work to engage critically with discourses of “globalization,” and explore alternatives to neoliberalism. In retrospect I’ve come to see 2001/2 as a key turning point in post-apartheid South Africa. Focusing on local government as the key site of contradictions, Rethinking the South African Crisis: Nationalism, Populism, Hegemony (2013/4) draws on ongoing research in Ladysmith and Newcastle to develop a broader set of arguments about the processes that fed into the rise of Jacob Zuma, and the erosion of ANC hegemony. Currently I am working on a set of essays for a book on resurgent nationalisms and populist politics in South Africa, India, and the United States since the end of the Cold War.
At UC Berkeley I co-chaired the Development Studies undergraduate major with Professor Michael Watts from 1996-2016, and participated in its transformation to Global Studies. From 1998-2003 I chaired the Center for African Studies, establishing it as an Organized Research Unit and linking the Center to the Department of African American Studies. In South Africa I helped to establish one of the first coursework Masters programs in the early 1990s, and served as an Honorary Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal before being appointed as a Distinguished Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2016. In 2018 I was awarded the Vega Medal by the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography for contributions to human geography and in 2023 I received the Presidential Achievement Award from the American Association of Geographers.
1978, Ph.D., Cornell University
Rethinking the South African Crisis: Nationalism, Populism, Hegemony.Pietermaritzburg South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. 2013; reprinted by University of Georgia Press. 2014.
Gramsci: Space, Nature, Politics. (co-edited volume) Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell2013.
Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa.Berkeley CA: University of California Press, co-published with University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. 2002
Agrarian Transformations: Local Processes and the State in Southeast Asia. (co-edited volume) Berkeley CA: University of California Press. 1989.
Power, Labor, and Livelihood: Processes of Change in Rural Java. Berkeley CA: University of California Press. 1986.
SELECTED ARTICLES & BOOK CHAPTERS
Book Review Symposium on The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain by Brett Christophers. The AAG Review of Books. 2020.
Review of The Land Question in China by Shaohua Zhang. Journal of Peasant Studies. 2020.
Becoming a Geographer: Massey Moments in a Spatial Education. In Doreen Massey: Critical Dialogues. Edited by Jamie Peck, Marion Werner, Rebecca Lave & Brett Christophers. New York: Columbia University Press. 2018.
Forum on Power of Development: Classics in Human Geography Revisited. Progress in Human Geography. 2016 (early online publication).
Book Review Symposium on Territories of Poverty. Progress in Human Geography 2016.
“Exposing the Nation: Entanglements of Race, Sexuality, and Gender in Post-Apartheid Nationalisms.” In Heather Merrill and Lisa Hoffman (eds.) Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press: 2015.
“Translating Gramsci in the Current Conjuncture” (with Stefan Kipfer). In Gramsci: Space, Nature, Politics, edited by Michael Ekers, Gillian Hart, Stefan Kipfer & Alex Loftus. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 2013.
“The Contradictions of Local Government” South African Labour Bulletin August/September 2011.
“Redrawing the Map of the World? Reflections on the 2009 World Development Report” Economic Geography. vol. 86, no. 4, October 2010.
“Forging Connections: Giovanni Arrighi’s Conception of the World” 2009.
“Water is the Burning Issue: Fluid Politics and the Contradictions of Local Government” 2009.
“Grappling with Populism.” Amandla Issue # 4, October/November 2008.
Entries on Apartheid, Economic Integration, Ethnography, and Settler Societies. In D. Gregory et al. (eds) The Dictionary of Human Geography(5th Edition). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2008.
“The Provocations of Neo-liberalism: Contesting the Nation and Liberation after Apartheid.” Antipode vol. 40, no. 4, 2008. Reprinted in B. Maharaj, A. Desai, & P. Bond (eds) Zuma’s Own Goal: Losing South Africa’s ‘War on Poverty’. Trenton, New Jersy: Africa World Press, 2011.
“Pedagogy, Politics, and Playing with Fire.” Social & Cultural Geography vol. 9, no.2, 2008.
“Changing Concepts of Articulation: Political Stakes in South Africa Today.” Review of African Political Economy, no. 111, March 2007. Reprinted in P. Bond (ed.) Transcending Two Economies. Special issue of Africanus, January 2008.
The New Poor Laws and the Crisis of Local Government, Amandla vol 2, 2007.
“Post-Apartheid Developments in Comparative and Historical Perspective,” in V. Padayachee (ed) The First Decade of Development and Democracy in South Africa. Pretoria: HSRC Press, 2006.
“Revisiting Rural Java: Agrarian Research in the Wake of Reformasi,” Indonesia no. 80, 2005 (with Nancy Peluso).
“Redefining Agrarian Power: Resurgent Agrarian Movements in West Java, Indonesia,” University of California, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, September 2005 (with S. Afif, N. Fauzi, L. Ntsebeza, & N. Peluso). http://repositories.cdlib.org/cseas(link is external)
Power, Labor, and Livelihood: Notes and Reflections on a Village Revisited,” University of California International and Area Studies Global Field Notes, Paper no.2, December 2004. http://repositories.cdlib.org/ucias/gfn/2(link is external)
“Beyond the Urban-Rural Divide: Linking Land, Labour, and Livelihoods,” Transformation, vol 55. 2004 (with Ari Sitas).
“Reworking Apartheid Legacies: Export Production, Gender, and Social Wages in South Africa, 1980-2000,” in R. Pearson and S. Razavi (eds) Globalization, Export-Oriented Employment and Social Policy: Gendered Connections. Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
“Development and Geography: Critical Ethnography,” Progress in Human Geography, vol. 28, no. 1, 2004.
“Linking Land, Labour, and Livelihood Struggles,” South African Labour Bulletin, vol. 23, no. 6, 2002.
“Development/s after Neoliberalism: Culture, Power, Political Economy,” Progress in Human Geography vol. 26, no.6, 2002.
“Development Critiques in the 1990s: Culs de Sac and Promising Paths,” Progress in Human Geography vol. 25, no.4, 2001.
“Multiple Trajectories: A Critique of Industrial Restructuring and the New Institutionalism,” Antipode vol. 30, no. 4, October 1998.
“Regional Growth Linkages in the Era of Liberalization: A Critique of the New Agrarian Optimism,” Development and Change vol. 29, no. 1, January 1998.
“From Rotten Wives to Good Mothers: Household Models and the Limits of Economism,” Bulletin of the Institute of Development Studies. vol. 28, no.3, July 1997. Reprinted in N. Kabeer (ed.) Rethinking Gender and Poverty. London: Zed Press.
“Multiple Trajectories of Rural Industrialization,” in D. Goodman and M. Watts (eds) Agrarian Questions: The Cultural and Political Economy of the Agro-Food System in the Late Twentieth Century. New York: Routledge, 1997.
“Industrial Decentralisation Revisited,” (with Alison Todes). Transformation no. 32, July 1997.
“The Agrarian Question and Industrial Dispersal in South Africa: Agro-Industrial Linkages through Asian Lenses,” Journal of Peasant Studies vol. 23, No. 2-3, April 1996. Reprinted in H. Bernstein (ed.) The Agrarian Question in South Africa. London: Frank Cass, 1996.
“Clothes for Next to Nothing: Organised Labour, Global Competition, and the Land Question,” South African Labour Bulletin vol. 19, no.6, December 1995.
“Beyond the Rural-Urban Dichotomy: Rethinking Agrarian Reform in South Africa,” in Agrarian Questions: The Politics of Farming, anno 1995. Wageningen: Wageningen Agricultural University, 1995.
“Gender and Household Dynamics: Recent Theories and their Implications” in M. Quibria (ed.) Critical Issues in Asian Development: Theories and Policies. Oxford University Press, 1995.
“The Dynamics of Diversification in an Asian Rice Region,” in B. Koppel (ed.) The Transformation of Work in Rural Asia. Lynne Reiner, 1994.
“The New Economic Policy and Redistribution in Malaysia: A Model for Post-Apartheid South Africa?” Transformation 23, 1994.
“Winners and Losers in Economic Growth: Comment,” Proceedings of the 1993 Annual Conference on Development Economics. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1993.
“Imagined Unities: Constructions of the Household in Economic Theory,” in S. Ortiz (ed.) Understanding Economic Process. Lanham: University Press of America, 1992.
“Household Production Reconsidered: Gender, Labor Conflict, and Technological Change in Malaysia’s Muda Region,” World Developmentvol. 20, no.6, June 1992. Reprinted in Lourdes Beneria (editor) Gender and Development: Theoretical, Empirical, and Practical Approaches. London: Edward Elgar, 2000; and Jonathon Rigg (editor) Southeast Asian Development: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences. London & New York: Routledge, 2007.
“Engendering Everyday Resistance: Gender, Patronage, and Production Politics in Rural Malaysia,” Journal of Peasant Studies vol. 19, no.1, October 1991. Reprinted in Stuart Corbridge (editor) Development: Critical Essays in Human Geography. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2008.
“Changing Mechanisms of Persistence: Reconfiguration of Petty Production in a Malaysian Rice Region,” International Labour Review vol. 28, no.6. December 1989.
“Introduction” and “Agrarian Change in the Context of State Patronage,” in G. Hart et al. (eds), Agrarian Transformations: Local Processes and the State in Southeast Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
“The Growth Linkages Controversy: Some Lessons from the Muda Case,” Journal of Development Studies vol. 25, no.1, July 1989.
“Agrarian Structure and the State in Java and Bangladesh,” Journal of Asian Studies vol. 47, no. 4, May 1988. Reprinted in D. Ludden (ed.) Capitalism in Asia, published by the Association for Asian Studies, 2004.
“The Mechanization of Malaysian Rice Production: Will Petty Producers Survive? World Employment Research Papers no. 10-6/WP82, March 1987.
“Interlocking Transactions: Obstacles, Precursors or Instruments of Agrarian Capitalism?” Journal of Development Economics vol. 23, September 1986.
“Exclusionary Labour Arrangements: Interpreting Evidence on Employment Trends in Rural Java,” Journal of Development Studies vol. 22, no. 4, July 1986.
“Agrarian Labor Arrangements and Structural Change: Lessons from Java and Bangladesh,” World Employment Research Papers no. 10-6/WP65, November 1984.
“Productivity, Poverty and Population Pressure: Female Labor Deployment in Rice Production in Java and Bangladesh,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics vol. 65, no. 5, December 1983.
“Patterns of Household Labor Allocation in a Javanese Village,” in R. Evenson and H. Binswanger, (eds.) Household Studies in Asia, Agricultural Development Council and Singapore University Press, 1981.
“Peasant Decision-Making: The Limitations of Household Level Analysis,” in M. Seltzer (ed.) Agriculture and Home Economics in the Third World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980.
“Aspects of Rural Labor Market Operation: A Javanese Case Study,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics vol. 60, no. 5, December 1978.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS SINCE 2014:
Mail & Guardian:
Dismantling the Public University? Tertiary Education through Comparative Lenses. Global Labour Column Number 261, January 2017. http://column.global-labour-university.org/(link is external).
GEOG C112, Global Development: Theory, History, Geography