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Faculty and Staff Profiles

Nicholas Rush Smith

Assistant Professor


Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership


Political Science


NAC 4/143B

p: 212-650-5238


  • Profile

    Professor Smith's main research interests are on the politics of crime, policing, and vigilantism in democratic states. He is currently working on a book project, tentatively titled Resisting Rights: Vigilantism and the Contradictions of Democratic State Formation in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Based on nearly 20 months of ethnographic and archival research, it asks why South Africa has experienced extraordinarily high rates of vigilantism despite a celebrated transition to democracy, a lauded constitution, and massive transformations of the state's legal apparatus following apartheid. In addition to this main project, Professor Smith is conducting research on postcolonial party durability, prison memoirs, and qualitative and ethnographic methods. His work has been published or is forthcoming in African Affairs and the American Journal of Sociology, among other outlets. He has received grant and fellowship support from, among other organizations, the Social Science Research Council and Fulbright-Hays. 
  • Education

    Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2013

  • Courses Taught

    PSC 31548 Senior Thesis
    PSC 31778 Politics of Africa
    IR B6917 Africa in World Affairs
    PSC 31113 Argument and Evidence in Political Science
    PSC 31807 The Politics of Crime and Punishment 
  • Publications


    Smith, Nicholas Rush. Resisting Rights: Vigilantism and the Contradictions of Democratic State Formation in Post-Apartheid South Africa. (Manuscript in Progress)


    Slater, Dan and Nicholas Rush Smith. Forthcoming. “The Power of Counterrevolution: Contentious Origins of Dominant Party Durability in Asia and Africa.” American Journal of Sociology.

    Smith, Nicholas Rush. Forthcoming. “New Times Demand Old Magic: Necklacing Past and Present.” In Global Lynching and Collective Violence: Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Michael Pfeifer, Ed. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press. 

    Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2015. “Rejecting Rights: Vigilantism and Violence in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” African Affairs 114(456): 341-360. 


    Smith, Nicholas Rush. “Beyond Pistorius: The Politics of South African Justice.” African Arguments. September 12, 2014.

    Smith, Nicholas Rush. “The Struggle Continues: Mandela and His Legacies.” Five Rupees. July 1, 2013. (Invited)

    Smith, Nicholas Rush. “The Wonga Coup: Transparency and Conspiracy in Equatorial Guinea.” CSIS Online Africa Policy Forum. January 23, 2008:

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