Nicholas R. Smith
Nicholas Rush Smith is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York – City College and a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg.
His research interests fall along two main lines. Using the politics of crime, policing, and vigilantism in South Africa as a lens, the first line examines the ways in which democratic states use violence to produce order and why citizens sometimes use violence to resist that order. His first book in this area, Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019 in the Oxford Studies in Culture and Politics series. Based on approximately 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. The book received the 2020 Distinguished Book Award from the Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association and an Honorable Mention for the 2020 Charles Taylor Book Award from the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Related Group of the American Political Science Association.
His second line of research is on comparative and ethnographic methods. The work in this vein develops innovations in qualitative research to expand the repertoire of methods available for the study of politics. To this end, Smith and Erica S. Simmons (University of Wisconsin – Madison) will publish a forthcoming volume, entitled Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Research, with Cambridge University Press. Based on a conference they jointly organized at the City College of New York, the collected chapters lay out logics for conducting comparative research that go beyond the controlled comparisons that usually form the basis for graduate methods training in the social sciences.
Professor Smith is currently working on two additional book projects. The first, provisionally entitled The Tradition of All Dead Generations: Crisis and Reproduction after Democratic State Violence, explores the ways in which democracy is reproduced in the wake of state violence, focusing particularly on the 2012 Marikana Massacre in South Africa. The second, provisionally entitled Method of the Damned: Ethnography and Its Contradictions, considers contradictory demands ethnographers face, suggests ways to navigate them, and argues that ethnography’s challenges are emblematic of challenges facing all social science methods.
In addition to these book projects, Smith has published articles on counterrevolution, rights amidst democratic transition, and comparative and ethnographic methods. His work has been published or is forthcoming in leading journals like the American Journal of Sociology, Comparative Politics, Perspectives on Politics, African Affairs, PS: Political Science and Politics, and Qualitative and Multi-Method Research. He has also written for the Boston Review, African Arguments, and Democracy in Africa.
He is currently on the editorial committee of Comparative Politics, was a finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program, has won multiple awards for his scholarship from the American Political Science Association, and has received grant and fellowship support from, among other organizations, the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and Fulbright-Hays. He also won an inaugural Colin Powell School Faculty Teaching Award from the City University of New York – City College. Smith holds a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago.
PhD, University of Chicago, 2013
MA, University of Chicago, 2004
MA, The George Washington University, 2003
BA, The College of William and Mary, 2001
Simmons, Erica S. and Nicholas Rush Smith (eds.). Forthcoming. Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Research. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2019. Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa. New York: Oxford University Press. (Oxford Studies in Culture and Politics series)
JOURNAL ARTICLES AND BOOK CHAPTERS
Simmons, Erica S. and Nicholas Rush Smith. Forthcoming. "Comparisons with an Ethnographic Sensibility: Studies of Protest and Vigilantism." In Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Research. Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith (eds.). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Simmons, Erica S. and Nicholas Rush Smith with Lisa Wedeen. Forthcoming. "Theory and Imagination in Comparative Politics: An Interview with Lisa Wedeen." In Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Research. Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith (eds.). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Alan M. Jacobs and Tim Büthe with 48 others. Forthcoming. “Transparency in Qualitative Research: An Overview of Key Findings and Recommendations.” Perspectives on Politics.
Schwedler, Jillian, Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith. Forthcoming. “Ethnography and Participant Observation: Summary of the Final Report of QTD Working Group III.3.” Perspectives on Politics.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2020. “Member Checking: Lessons from the Dead.” Qualitative and Multi-Method Research 17-18 (1): 60-65.
Simmons, Erica S. and Nicholas Rush Smith. 2019. “The Case for Comparative Ethnography.” Comparative Politics 51 (3): 341-359.
Simmons, Erica S., Nicholas Rush Smith, and Rachel Schwartz. 2018. "Rethinking Comparison in the Social Sciences." Qualitative and Multi-Method Research 16 (1): 1-7. (Co-organizer of symposium on "Rethinking Comparison in the Social Sciences.")
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2017. “The Rule of Rights: Comparative Lessons from Twenty Years of South African Democracy.” Comparative Politics 50 (1): 123-141.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2017. “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.
Simmons, Erica and Nicholas Rush Smith. 2017. “Comparison with an Ethnographic Sensibility.” PS: Political Science and Politics 50 (1): 126-130.
Slater, Dan and Nicholas Rush Smith. 2016. “The Power of Counterrevolution: Elitist Origins of Political Order in Postcolonial Asia and Africa.” American Journal of Sociology. 121 (5): 1472-1516.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2015. “Rejecting Rights: Vigilantism and Violence in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” African Affairs 114(456): 341-360.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2020. “'Township Violence and the End of Apartheid: War on the Reef' by Gary Kynoch.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 52 (3): 485-486.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2018. “’Bodies of Truth: Law, Memory, and Emancipation in Post-Apartheid South Africa' by Rita Kesselring.” Anthropological Quarterly 91 (2): 841-845.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2017. “’Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa' by Stephanie M. Burchard and 'The Limits of Democratic Governance in South Africa' by Louis A. Picard and Thomas Mogale." Perspectives on Politics 15 (1): 261-262.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2020. "What Thirty Percent Unemployment Looks Like." Boston Review. 14 May. http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality-global-justice/nicholas-rush-what-30-percent-unemployment-looks.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2019. “Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Democracy in Africa. 20 May. http://democracyinafrica.org/contradictions-democracy-vigilantism-rights-post-apartheid-south-africa/. (Invited)
Schwedler, Jillian M., Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith. 2019. "Ethnography and Participant Observation." American Political Science Association Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, Qualitative Transparency Deliberations, Working Group Final Reports, Report III.3 (August 2018). https://ssrn.com/abstract=3333465
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2018. “Apartheid.” In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy. Bruce Arrigo, Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. 2018. “South Africa.” In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Surveillance, Security, and Privacy. Bruce Arrigo, Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Simmons, Erica and Nicholas Rush Smith. 2015. “The Case for Comparative Ethnography.” Qualitative and Multi-Method Research: Newsletter of the American Political Science Association Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research 13 (2): 13-18.
Smith, Nicholas Rush. “Beyond Pistorius: The Politics of South African Justice.” African Arguments. September 12, 2014. http://africanarguments.org/2014/09/12/beyond-pistorius-the-politics-of-south-african-justice-by-nicholas-rush-smith/
Smith, Nicholas Rush. “The Struggle Continues: Mandela and His Legacies.” Five Rupees. July 1, 2013. http://fiverupees.com/2013/07/01/guest-post-the-struggle-continues-mandela-and-his-legacies/ (Invited)
Smith, Nicholas Rush. “The Wonga Coup: Transparency and Conspiracy in Equatorial Guinea.” CSIS Online Africa Policy Forum. January 23, 2008: http://forums.csis.org/africa.
IR B6800 Research Methods
IR B6917 Africa in World Affairs
PSC 10400 Introduction to World Politics
PSC 23800 Political Systems of Africa
PSC 31113 Argument and Evidence in Political Science
PSC 31548 Senior Thesis
PSC 33300 The Politics of Crime and Punishment