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Dr. David McDonald
Professor, Department of Global Development Studies
PhD - Political Science (University of Toronto), MA - Political Economy (Toronto), HBA - (University of Western Ontario)
Office: Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room E330
Phone: +001 (613) 533-6962
Fax: +001 (613) 533-2986
Email: dm23@queensu.ca



Research Interests

Teaching Interests



Research Interests

My research interests relate primarily to the delivery of basic services in the global South (such as water, electricity and health care), but encompass a broad spectrum of related questions around urbanization, environmental justice and uneven development.  Much of this research has been conducted via the Municipal Services Project (www.municipalservicesproject.org) which I founded and have been co-director of since 2000.  The focus of the project was initially on the impact of privatization, cost recovery and other neoliberal policy reforms on the delivery of basic service in Southern Africa, but has since broadened its geographical and thematic scope.   Our primary focus now is on ‘alternatives to privatization’ in the delivery of basic services, with research partners throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.  We continue to work with social movements, labour unions and community groups in an effort to deepen our grassroots engagement, develop longer-term research capacity and create research products that are relevant and useful to the communities and organizations most affected by these debates.

Theoretically, I am interested in competing conceptions of ‘public’ and how they have changed and been transformed under neoliberalism.  As a (marxian) political economist my focus in on the financial, institutional and ideological elements that tie everyday service delivery to the larger currents of (re)production, but I am also interested in a wide range of geographical and socio-cultural concepts of space and place that make up the broader connectivities of public engagement, from gender relations to different notions of ‘value’.  The extent to which one can talk of ‘universal norms’ with regards to services is central to this inquiry, as communities in the global South struggle for improved ‘public’ services (and fight privatization) but remain heterogeneous in their demands and contexts.

Regionally, the bulk of my work has been in Southern Africa but I have been directly involved in research in other parts of Africa and in Latin America, and now oversee research throughout the global South, and to some extent in Europe and North America.  I do not claim to be an expert in all these regions, but have found the larger empirical focus to be useful in shaping and informing my broader thematic interests.

My research has also had a largely urban focus, primarily on questions of service delivery but more broadly on questions of urbanization and the increasing connectivity of cities through so-called ‘world city networks’.  The latter raise important questions about the changing nature of global capitalism and present challenging – and fruitful – questions about the nature of public services that are equitable, affordable and accessible to all.

 Finally, I spent a number of years working on international migration, specifically in Southern Africa.  As Project Manager of the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) (www.queensu.ca/samp), I was involved with migration research and policy making in the region.  I am no longer directly involved in this work but remain interested in questions of migration, particularly as it relates to urbanization in the global South.

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests cover a range of development themes, including courses on development theory, environmental sustainability, cities and globalization and international migration. I have taught in political studies, geography, environmental studies and development studies.


The following is a selected list of books and articles. For a complete list please see curriculum vitae


DA McDonald. World City Syndrome: Neoliberalism and Inequality in Cape Town. Routledge: New York, 2008, 355 pp. (see details)

Edited Books

DA McDonald (ed). 2009. Electric Capitalism: Recolonizing Africa on the Power Grid, HSRC Press: Cape Town, Earthscan: London, 504pp. (see details)

DA McDonald and G Ruiters (eds). 2005. The Age of Commodity: Water Privatization in Southern Africa. Earthscan Press: London, 304 pp. (see details)

DA McDonald and J Pape (eds). 2002. Cost Recovery and the Crisis of Service Delivery in South Africa. Zed Press: London and HSRC Publishers: Pretoria, 2002, 207 pp. (see details)

DA McDonald (ed) Environmental Justice in South Africa. 2002. Ohio University Press: Athens and University of Cape Town Press, 341 pp. (see details)

J Crush and DA McDonald (eds). 2002. Transnationalism and New African Immigration to South Africa. Canadian Association of African Studies: Toronto, 184 pp. (see details)

DA McDonald and J Crush (eds). 2002. Destinations Unknown: Perspectives on the Brain Drain in Southern Africa. Africa Institute, Pretoria, 401 pp. (see details)

DA McDonald and EN Sahle (eds). 2002. The Legacies of Julius Nyerere: Influences on Development Discourse and Practice in Africa. Africa World Press, Trenton, New Jersey. 145 pp. (see details)

DA McDonald (ed). 2000. On Borders: Perspectives on International Migration in Southern Africa, St Martin’s Press, New York, 303pp. (see details)

Refereed Articles

DA McDonald. 2010. "Ubuntu Bashing: The Marketization of "African Values" in South Africa", Review of African Political Economy, Vol 37, No 124, June, pp 139-152.

G Boag and DA McDonald. 2010. “A Critical Review of Public-Public Partnerships in Water Services”, Water Alternatives, Vol 3, Issue 1, February, pp 1-25.

K Cocq and DA McDonald. 2010. “Minding the Undertow: Assessing Water ‘Privatization’ in Cuba”, Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, Vol 42, No 1, January, pp 6-45.

DA McDonald. 2007. "World Class Inequality: Cape Town, South Africa", Queen's Quarterly, Vol 114, No 3, Fall, pp 395-407.

A Mayher and DA McDonald. 2007. “Paving the Way for Privatization: Neoliberal Hegemony and the Print Media in South AfricaReview of African Political Economy No.113, pp 203-220.

A Breen, L Swartz, AJ Flisher, JA Joska, J Corrigall, L Plaatjies and DA McDonald. 2007. “Experience of Mental Disorder in the Context of Basic Service Reforms: The Impact on Care-Giving Environments in South Africa”, International Journal of Environmental Health Research, Vol 17, No 5, pp 327-334.

M Dambrun, DM Taylor, DA McDonald, J Crush and A Méot . 2006.  “The Relative Deprivation-Gratification Continuum and the Attitudes of South Africans towards Immigrants: A Test of the V-Curve Hypothesis”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes

DA McDonald and S Jacobs. 2005. "(Re)writing Xenophobia: Understanding Press Coverage of Cross-Border Migration in Southern Africa", Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol 23, No 3, pp 295-325

DA McDonald and L Smith. 2004. "Privatizing Cape Town: From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in the Mother City", Urban Studies, Vol 41, No 8, July, pp 1461-1484

DA McDonald. 2002. "No Money, No Service: South Africa's Experience With Cost Recovery for Water and Power", Alternatives, Volume 28, Number 3, pp 15-20.

R Danso and DA McDonald. 2001. "Writing Xenophobia: Immigration and the Print Media in Post-apartheid South Africa", Africa Today, Volume 48, Number 3, 2001, pp 114-137

DA McDonald and J Crush. 2001. Evaluating South African Immigration Policy After Apartheid, Africa Today, Volume 48, Number 3, pp 1-13

A Loftus and DA McDonald. 2001. Of Liquid Dreams: A Political Ecology of Water Privatization in Buenos Aires, Environment and Urbanization, Volume 12, Number 2, pp179-200 (published in Spanish as “Sueños líquidos: una ecología política de la privatización del servicio del agua” in Réalidad Economica No. 183 (Nov-Dec 2001), pp. 76-103.)

DA McDonald and J Crush. 2000. Understanding the Character of Skilled Migration in Southern Africa, African Insight, Volume 30, Number 2, pp 5-10

DA McDonald. 2000. We Have Contact: Foreign Migration and Civic Participation in Marconi Beam, Cape Town. Canadian Journal of African Studies. Volume 34, Number 1, pp 101-124

DA McDonald and J Crush. 2000. Transnationalism and New Communities: The Changing Face of Cross-border Migration in South Africa. Canadian Journal of African Studies. Volume 34, Number 1, pp 1-20

DA McDonald, L Zinyama, J Gay, R Mattes and F de Vletter. 2000. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Perspectives on Cross-Border Migration from Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe to South Africa International Migration Review. Volume 34, No.3, pp 812-840. (published in Italian in Afriche e Orienti, Number 2, 2002; reproduced in Paul Ganster and David Lorey (eds), Borders and Border Politics in the Globalizing World, SR Books, Oxford, 2005)

DA McDonald. 1999. Lest the Rhetoric Begin: Migration, Population and the Environment in South Africa. Geoforum. No. 30, pp 13-25

DA McDonald. 1998. Hear No Housing, See No Housing: Immigration and Homelessness in the New South Africa. Cities. Volume 15, Number 6, pp 449-62

DA McDonald. 1998. Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back: Ideology and Urban Ecology in the New South Africa. Review of African Political Economy. No. 75, pp 73-88

DA McDonald. 1997. Neither From Above, Nor From Below: Municipal Bureaucrats and Environmental Policy in Cape Town, South Africa. Canadian Journal of African Studies. Volume 30, Number 2, pp 315-340

DA McDonald. 1997. City Limits: New Public-Private Partnerships for Improving Cities May Not Meet UN Habitat II Conference Expectations Alternatives. Volume 23, Number 2, Spring, pp 26-32