I have a long-standing research interest in understanding the reconfigurations of public life. This includes work on:
- Geographies of Public Life and Spaces of Democracy: including theories of the public sphere, geographies of representation, urban and transnational democracy, emergent forms of public action.
- Social Theory: including Critical Theory, democratic theory, ethics, media theory, normative political philosophy, postcolonalism, poststructuralism, pragmatism theories of action.
- Changing Cities: including urban politics and transnational mobilization, the urbanization of responsibility, alternative urbanisms, and the geographies of contentious public action.
- Learning from South Africa: including popular culture, media and cultural policy, environmental and urban politics, and southern urbanism.
Long ago, my doctoral thesis, Impure and Worldly Geography, explored understandings of the politics of representation in postcolonial theory and poststructuralism, and looked at nineteenth-century public discourses about African geography as an example of ‘white writing‘.
Since then, my research has included further work on the textual-institutional geographies of colonial and postcolonial public spheres, including research on the construction of transnational literary publics around the Heinemann African Writers Series; research examining relationships between social movements, media and democratization in South Africa since the end of apartheid; and critical engagements with the conceptualization of ‘neoliberalism’ and other key concepts in and around human geography.
Much of my research has focussed on exploring the geographies of public life, including conceptualising the challenges of developing critical perspectives on new practices, sites and norms of public action (see the edited collection Rethinking the Public). My research on public formation is part of a long standing interest in understanding the spaces of democratic politics (including the books Culture and Democracy and Spaces of Democracy). This includes work that theorises the relations between urbanization and democratic mobilization, which focusses on re-conceptualizing the geographical aspects of the democratic principle of ‘all affected interests’. It has also informed the development of the argument presented in my latest book, The Priority of Injustice: Locating Democracy in Critical Theory. My work on these issues draws on empirical projects, including research on new spaces of democracy in post-apartheid Durban, research on transnational HIV and AIDS advocacy networks, and research on ethical consumption which explored the place-based problematization of everyday consumption practices as a strategy for mobilizing local networks of global solidarity (see the book Globalizing Responsibility), which overlapped with an interest in the development of social theoretical perspectives on ordinary practices of virtue, such as care, generosity, hospitality, justice, and responsibility (see the edited collection Extending Hospitality).
My current research focuses on developing themes that arise from various projects:
– further work on the geographies of public life, focussing on understanding popular responses to discourses of risk and responsibility during the Covid-19 pandemic, supported by a British Academy research award.
– further work on ‘logical geographies of action’ arising from The Priority of Injustice: Locating Democracy in Critical Theory.
– work on the geographies of urban social science, including work supported by a British Academy/Newton project on South African urban thought since the 1970s.
– further work on the theme of ‘the urbanization of responsibility’, seeking to make sense of why and how everyone loves cities these days.