Dr. Jason Hickel received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2011. He specializes on democracy, violence, globalization, and ritual, and has been engaged in ethnographic and archival research in Southern Africa since 2004. His work has been funded by Fulbright-Hays, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation.
Jason's core research looks at how the moral values that underpin western liberalism get contested and resisted in postcolonial contexts. He explores this theme in his book manuscript, Democracy as Social Death: Liberalism and Vigilante Violence in South Africa, which focuses on the civil warfare that erupted when Zulu-speaking migrants sought to sabotage the democratic revolution that was being led by the African National Congress in the 1980s and 1990s. The book explains how "democracy" appears to threaten the moral values of hierarchy and difference that remain crucial to conceptions of collective well-being in rural Zululand.
Building on this work, Jason is engaged in new research that investigates the increasing incidence of vigilante violence against foreign immigrants in South Africa's informal settlements, specifically around Durban. His work explores the connections between xenophobia and the popular notions about witchcraft that inform South Africans’ anxieties about employment, marriage, and other tenets of social reproduction that have been undermined by neoliberalism. This project contributes to contemporary discussions about globalization and the rise of right-wing social movements.
Jason has just co-edited a new book titled Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, which is forthcoming with University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. The volume explores African homescapes as conflicted sites of both state control and popular resistance in the trajectory of South African history, using domestic transformation as a heuristic through which to evaluate broader continuities and changes in private lives and public culture in the region, from the advent of segregation in 1846 to the current Presidency of Jacob Zuma.
Jason has taught a number of courses on development, labour, globalization, and Africa, and received three teaching awards for his work in the classroom while at the University of Virginia. In addition to his academic research, Jason also contributes critical commentary and analysis to online magazines, including Al Jazeera, Le Monde Diplomatique, Monthly Review, and The Africa Report.
2013. Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal (co-edited with Meghan Healy), University of KwaZulu-Natal Press
Articles and chapters:
2013. “The ‘Real’ Experience Industry: Student Development Projects and the Depoliticization of Poverty,” Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 5(2)
2012. "Social Engineering and Revolutionary Consciousness: Domestic Transformations in Colonial South Africa," History and Anthropology 23(3)
2012. “Neoliberal Plague: The Political Economy of HIV Transmission in Swaziland,” Journal of Southern African Studies 38(3)
2012. "Subaltern Consciousness in South Africa's Labour Movement: 'Workerism' in the KwaZulu-Natal Sugar Industry," South African Historical Journal 64(3)
2012. "Liberalism and the Politics of Occupy Wall Street," Anthropology of This Century (4)
2012. "The Culture of Capitalism and the Crisis of Critique," with Arsalan Khan, Anthropological Quarterly 85(1)
2012. "Constituting the Commons: Oil and Development in Post-Independence South Sudan," In Exporting the Alaska Model: Adapting the Permanent Fund Dividend for Reform around the World, Karl Widerquist and Mike Howard, eds. Palgrave/Macmillan
2009. "Not So Sweet History of Sugar Unions in South Africa," South African Labour Bulletin 33(3)
2012. “Occupy!: Scenes from Occupied America,” by Astra Taylor and Keith Gessen, eds., LSE Review of Books
2012. “A New Look at African Diaspora Studies,” by Vanessa Valdes, ed., LSE Review of Books
Commentary and Analysis:
2013. “The Truth about Extreme Global Inequality,” Al Jazeera
2013. “The Harlem Shake and the Western Illusion of Freedom,” with Arsalan Khan, New Left Project
2012. “Neoliberal Plague: AIDS and Global Capitalism,” Al Jazeera
2012. “The World Bank and the ‘Development’ Delusion,” Al Jazeera
2012. “Postpartum Blues: Oil in Independent South Sudan,” The Africa Report
2012. "'The Advent of 'Democracy' in Egypt," Le Monde Diplomatique
2012. “Neoliberal Egypt: The Hijacked Revolution,” Al Jazeera
2012. “A Short History of Neoliberalism (And How We Can Fix It),” New Left Project
2011. “How to Occupy the World: A Call for True Internationalism,” Pulse / Common Dreams
2011. “Sweatshop Sugar: Labor Exploitation in South Africa’s Cane Fields,” The Africa Report
2011. “Rich, White, and Crazy: Reflections on Inequality in South Africa,” Thought Leader
2011. “Rethinking Sweatshop Economics,” Foreign Policy in Focus
2011. “Saving Uganda from its Oil,” Foreign Policy in Focus
2011. “The Fallacy of ‘Freedom’: USAID and Neoliberal Policy in Egypt,” The Africa Report
2011. “AGOA and US Economic Policy for Africa,” Foreign Policy in Focus
2010. “The US, the African Union, and the New Scramble for Africa,” Pambazuka
2010. “Prosperity or Plunder?: Nigeria Slipping at an Oily Crossroads,” Monthly Review
2010. “Rethinking Jeffrey Sachs and the ‘Big Five’: New Proposals for the End of Poverty,” Pambazuka
2010. “Africa, Nature, and the March of the Development Technocrats,” Monthly Review
2010. “From Rights to Commons: Dispatches from the South African Revolution,” Pambazuka
2010. “Invictus: Hollywood Pretends to Learn from Nelson Mandela,” Monthly Review