Faculty & Staff
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Office: Graham 327
I study the political struggles of populations who are marginalized, racialized, un(der)employed, or in a word, surplus to capitalist societies in the global South. My recently published book, Delivery and Dispossession (Oxford UP, 2022), examines this question in relation to struggles for land and housing in post-apartheid South African cities. It challenges the way we think about displacement and dispossession in urban sociology, thinking about how the self-organization of squatters impacts urban policy outcomes. I am currently working on a second book manuscript with the sociologist Marcel Paret on the origins of the concept of “racial capitalism” in 1970s South Africa. While typically attributed to Cedric Robinson, we explore the term’s longer history in settler colonial contexts, tracing its journey from South Africa upward across the African continent to the US and UK, taking inspiration from Caribbean debates along the way. Closely connected to this project is a special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies we are co-editing that develops the thought of South African theorists of racial capitalism, moving them from the status of the concept’s “pre-history” to living theorists who can help us understand the relationship between race and class in our current moment.
When I teach, I refuse to separate social theory from more empirically grounded material. Certainly, my contemporary theory courses involve an overwhelming emphasis on theory. And conversely, my political, urban, and global sociology classes focus on subject matter relevant to those titles. But I am intransigent about one point: theory is that which allows us to ask questions about the social world. This means that I always have students think theory in relation to that social world – their social world. In theory courses, this entails moving from high levels of abstraction to the level of our actual experience and back again. In my other classes, this means using theory to ask critical questions about existing bodies of literature. And of course, I always emphasize the critical. In my classes, we leave our assumptions at the door, and through sustained discussions, exchanges, and dialogue, we work together to build common understandings that build upon, yet transcend, what we thought we already knew.
Zachary Levenson. 2022. Delivery as Dispossession: Land Occupation and Eviction in the Postapartheid City. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zachary Levenson and Sneha Annavarapu (eds.). 2021. “Social Life of the State.” Qualitative Sociology 44(3).
Zachary Levenson and Marcel Paret (eds.). In process. “The South African Tradition of Racial Capitalism: From Margin to Center.” Ethnic and Racial Studies.
Most Recent Publications:
Zachary Levenson. 2023 (forthcoming). “Is There a Du Boisian Sociology?” Contemporary Sociology.
Zachary Levenson and Marcel Paret. 2022 (conditionally accepted). “The Three Dialectics of Racial Capitalism: From South Africa to the United States and Back Again.” Du Bois Review.
Zachary Levenson. 2022 (forthcoming). “Make ‘Articulation’ Gramscian Again.” Pp. 187-215 in Ethnographies of Power: Working Radical Concepts with Gillian Hart, edited by Sharad Chari, Mark Hunter, and Melanie Samson. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
Zachary Levenson. 2021. “South African Evictions Today.” Contexts 20(1):26-31. Special issue: “New Ethnographies of the Global South,” edited by Marco Garrido and Victoria Reyes.
Zachary Levenson. 2021. “Becoming a Population: Seeing the State, Being Seen by the State, and the Politics of Eviction in Cape Town.” Qualitative Sociology 44(3):367–84.
Sneha Annavarapu and Zachary Levenson. 2021. “The Social Life of the State: Relational Ethnography and Political Sociology.” Qualitative Sociology 44(3):337–48.
Zachary Levenson. 2021. “Pandemic as Campaign Stage: On Trump’s Handling of Covid-19 in the United States.” Covid-19, States, and Societies, Paper 13. Johannesburg: Public Affairs Research Institute.
Zachary Levenson. 2021. “Post-Apartheid Housing Delivery as a (Failed) Project of Remediation.” Pp. 189–206 in Land Issues for Urban Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa, edited by Robert Home. New York: Springer.
Zachary Levenson. 2019. “‘Such Elements Do Not Belong in an Ordered Society’: Managing Rural-Urban Resettlement in Democratic South Africa.” Journal of Agrarian Change 19(3):427-46.
Visit Dr. Levenson’s personal website.