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Associate Professor of Development Studies, University of Oxford

Maxim Bolt is also a research associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), University of the Witwatersrand. He is an anthropologist working largely on questions of economy in southern Africa.

Maxim's earlier research was on South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe, between 2006 and 2008, during acute economic and political troubles in Zimbabwe. It focused on the border farms, their black workforces and their white landowners in this context of crisis, upheaval and displacement. The monograph that emerged from this research - Zimbabwe's Migrants and South Africa's Border Farms: The Roots of Impermanence (Cambridge University Press and Wits University Press) - won the 2016 British Sociological Association / BBC Thinking Allowed Ethnography Award.

Maxim now researches property inheritance, the state and class reproduction in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the post-apartheid era, making wills has taken on new significance amidst middle-class expansion and the rapid proliferation of financial services. Meanwhile, most people die intestate, their relatives confronted with unfamiliar rules about which relatives officially matter. The project explores the institutions and disputes surrounding urban inheritance, connecting socio-economic position to kinship, property, and legal and bureaucratic processes. As more South Africans accumulate substantial property, its disbursement becomes a new terrain on which battles of kinship obligation are fought.


  • –present
    Maxim Bolt is a Lecturer in Anthropology and African Studies, University of Birmingham