Dr Jason Hickel

Dr Jason Hickel

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Department of Anthropology

+44 (0)20 7955 6933
Room No
POR 4.01

About me

Dr. Jason Hickel received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2011. He specializes on globalization, finance, democracy, violence, 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. He presently holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship.

Jason's first major project explored how the moral values that underpin western liberalism are contested and resisted in South Africa. His book, Democracy as Death: The Moral Order of Anti-Liberal Politics in South Africa (University of California Press, 2015), looks at why many migrant workers from rural Zululand regard certain liberal elements of "democracy" as morally repulsive and socially destructive. It explains that this longstanding trend can only be understood with reference to the popular conceptions of collective well-being that hinge on the hierarchical order of domestic space in rural areas.

Building on this work, Jason recently completed a volume titled Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2014), which he co-edited with Meghan Healy-Clancy. 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's present research focuses on finance in South Africa, looking at how the central bank manages market expectations and economic behavior in the post-crisis context through technologies of public communication.  This tactic of market intervention is dressed, paradoxically, in the discourse of non-intervention; in this sense the new era of monetary policy troubles conventional academic understandings of neoliberalism.  The research also explores growing political debates between the ANC government and an emergent left movement over interest rates and foreign capital flows - a debate that hinges on conflicting conceptions of democracy and sovereignty.  

Jason has taught a number of courses on development, labour, globalization, economics, and Africa. He received three teaching awards for his work in the classroom while at the University of Virginia, and in 2013 won the ASA/HEA National Award for Excellence in Teaching Anthropology. In addition to his academic research, Jason also writes regularly for The Guardian and Al Jazeera, and contributes to a number of other online outlets.

Expertise Details

South African democracy; development; political conflict; vigilante violence; xenophobia; labor and migrancy; ritual and witchcraft

Selected publications


2017. The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions. Penguin Random House

2015. Democracy as Death: The Moral Order of Anti-Liberal Politics in South Africa. Berkley: University of California Press

Edited volumes

2016. Hierarchy, Value, and the Value of Hierarchy (co-edited with Naomi Haynes), Social Analysis 60(4)

2014. Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal (co-edited with Meghan Healy), University of KwaZulu-Natal Press

Articles and chapters

2017.  "Is Global Inequality Getting Better or Worse? A Critique of the World Bank's Convergence Narrative," Third World Quarterly 

2016. “The True Extent of Global Poverty and Hunger: Questioning the Good-News Narrative of the Millennium Development Goals,” Third World Quarterly 37(5)

2016. "Hierarchy, Value, and the Value of Hierarchy," with Naomi Haynes, Social Analysis 60(4)

2016. "Neoliberalism and the End of Democracy," in The Handbook of Neoliberalism, Simon Springer et al, eds., Routledge

2015. "The Age of Inequality: Causes, Discontents, and a Radical Way Forward," with Alnoor Ladha, in Inequality, Chris Oestereich, ed.

2015. "Beyond Aid," in Political Manifesto Poverty Audit: The Flourishing Life Narrative. Academics Stand Against Poverty.

2014. “The ‘Girl Effect’: Liberalism, Empowerment, and the Incoherence of Development,” Third World Quarterly 35(8)

2014. “’Xenophobia’ in South Africa: Order, Chaos, and the Moral Economy of Witchcraft,” Cultural Anthropology 29(1)

2014. "Aid in Reverse: How Poor Countries Develop Rich Countries," in The Donors' Dilemma: Emergence, Convergence, and the Future of Aid, Andrew Sumner, ed. Global Policy

2014. “On the Politics of Home,” with Meghan Healy, in Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal. University of KwaZulu-Natal Press

2014. “Engineering the Township Home: Domestic Transformations and Urban Revolutionary Consciousness,” in Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal.University of KwaZulu-Natal Press

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)

Book Reviews

2016.  “Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution,” by James Ferguson, Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology 26(2)

2016.  “The Crises of Microcredit,” by Isabelle Guerin, Marc Labie, and Jean-Michel Servet, eds., LSE Review of Books

2016.  “Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals: A Critical Look Forward,” by Alberto Cimadamore, Gabriele Koehler, and Thomas Pogge, eds., LSE Review of Books

2014. “Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust: Africa in Comparison,” by Peter Geschiere, Journal of Modern African Studies 52(3)

2014. “Capital in the 21st Century,” by Thomas Piketty, Global Policy Journal

2014. “The New Extractivism: A Post-Neoliberal Development Model or Imperialism of the Twenty-First Century?” by Henry Veltmeyer and James Petras, eds., LSE Review of Books

2014. “The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics,” by Clifton Crais and Thomas V. McClendon, eds., LSE Review of Books

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

Public engagement articles

2017. “Basic income isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a birthright,” The Guardian

2017.Aid in reverse: how poor countries are developing rich countries,” The Guardian

2016. "To deal with climate change we need a new financial system," The Guardian

2016. "Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet," The Guardian

2016.  “Clean energy won’t save us –only a new economic system can,” The Guardian

2016.  “Global inequality may be much worse than we think,” The Guardian 

2016.  “Does the West really care about development?” The Guardian

2016.  “To save ourselves, we need to break the one sacred rule of the global economy,” Fast Company

2016. "Time for degrowth: To save the planet, we must shrink the economy," The Conversation

2015. "Enough of aid. Let's talk reparations," The Guardian   

2015. "Forget 'developing' poor countries, it's time to 'de-develop' rich countries," The Guardian 

2015. "Global poverty is worse than you think. Could you live on $1.90 a day?The Guardian 

2015. "A just response to climate change violence," Saferworld   

2015. "Using design thinking to eradicate poverty creation," with Martin Kirk and Joe Brewer, Stanford Social Innovation Review 

2015. "Five reasons to think twice about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals," LSE Africa / LSE South Asia 

2015. "The problem with saving the world: The SDGs aim to save the world without transforming it," Jacobin

2015.  “The Hunger Numbers: Are we counting right?” The Guardian

2015.  “The Pope v. the UN: Who will save the world first?” with Martin Kirk and Joe Brewer, The Guardian

2015. “The Microfinance Delusion: Who Really Wins?” The Guardian

2015. “It will take 100 years for the world’s poorest people to earn $1.25 a day,” The Guardian

2015. "The Death of International Development," Red Pepper

2015. "Take it from an American: Don't let them privatize your NHS," Open Democracy

2015. "3 Ways Humans Create Poverty (and why you might find it hard to believe),Fast Company

2015. “4 Things you Probably Know about Poverty that Bill and Melinda Gates Don’t,” with Martin Kirk and Joe Brewer, Fast Company

2014. "The Death of International Development," Al Jazeera

2014. "Exposing the Great 'Poverty Reduction' Lie," Al Jazeera

2014. “Are Economic Growth and Social Justice Incompatible?”  with Alnoor Ladha, Truthout

2014. "The New Shock Doctrine: 'Doing Business' with the World Bank," Al Jazeera

2014. "South Africa at 20: Storms Behind the Rainbow," Al Jazeera

2014. "Flipping the Corruption Myth," Al Jazeera

2013. "'Free Trade' and the Death of Democracy," Al Jazeera 

2013. "The Madness of Capital: Rethinking GDP Growth," Al Jazeera

2013. "It's Time for a Global Minimum Wage," Al Jazeera

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

My research