Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Postdoc Scholar, and Soros Justice Fellow, Child Advocacy Law Clinic, Afro-American Studies, University of Michigan / Law School

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Columbia University
Property & Politics in Transition: Land in the South African Political Imagination

My dissertation is equally concerned with the history of land politics in South Africa and with land as a vehicle for understanding the transition from apartheid to the current order. After over a decade of market-based redistribution, land reform has reached an impasse. In order to understand this impasse, I examine an accompanying, but largely unacknowledged, problem: the fact that the post-apartheid political horizon, as it now stands, may be structurally incapable of accommodating persistent demands for a democracy based upon the equitable distribution of land. Drawing on theories and methods from history and anthropology, my dissertation will examine how the post-apartheid political horizon has been created and how it is being contested. My dissertation will address the following questions: (1) What political and economic narratives have been constructed in order to de-legitimate government-led expropriation and redistribution processes? (2) More specifically, how have the ideologies of nonracialism, liberalism, and neoliberalism combined to de-legitimate demands for redistribution? (3) What does the persistence of land demands, despite official attempts to curtail them, reveal about popular notions of the relationship between citizenship, property relations, and racialized inequality? My research takes seriously the demands of social movements, such as South Africa's Landless People's Movement, that have come to question the legitimacy of South Africa's democratic transition, and will examine what such demands reveal about notions of citizenship and democracy.