James Holston

Job title: 
Professor, Director of the Social Apps Lab
Department of Anthropology

I am a political anthropologist. My research investigates the city as a strategic site for the emergence and erosion of citizenship, popular sovereignty, and democracy. I have conducted fieldwork projects in Brazil, Denmark, Nicaragua, and the United States. My current work focuses on new forms of direct democracy and the development of application software for different kinds of democratic assembly. My books, research articles, and software development engage these issues as an anthropology of critique and experiment. My books include The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasília, Cities and Citizenship, and Insurgent Citizenship: Disjunctions of Democracy and Modernity in Brazil. A recent research article from 2019 concerns metropolitan rebellions and the politics of commoning the city. Another in 2021 presents the results of a pilot study I conducted with a team of researchers and residents in Managua. It implemented a social and software platform for citizen entomology that mobilizes community-based mosquito control to prevent dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. I am also the founding director of the Social Apps Lab.

Research interests: 

Interests: Citizenship, democracy, political theory; cities and urban studies; development of software platforms for direct democratic assembly; citizen entomology and arbovirus vector control; Brazil, the Americas, Denmark;Social Apps Lab

Current research focuses on (1) new forms and problems of democratic association; (2) community-based entomology for arboviral disease prevention, using the assembly-based social and software platform DengueChat; (3) insurgent cities and urban citizenships; (4) associational life in Danish cities in the wake of Covid-19; and (5) the development of application software at the Social Apps Lab.