Seth Holmes

Job title: 
Associate Professor
Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

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(link is external) at UC Berkeley. At the Lab, I lead the development of software platforms for mobile and web-based applications that address the terms and scales of democratic assembly, civic action, and urban knowledge. My software projects include and which engage people in assembly-based direct democracy. Various instances concern participatory budgeting (Vallejo, CA), master planning (São Paulo), and community-based arbovirus vector control (Managua).

Research interests: 

Citizenship; democracy; political theory; cities and urban studies; development of software platforms for democratic assembly; Brazil, the Americas, Denmark; Director of the Social Apps Lab.