School of Social and Political Science

Dr Jacob Doherty

Job Title

Lecturer in Anthropology of Development

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Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square

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Research interests

Research interests

Urban anthropology, Environmental anthropology, Development studies, African studies, Waste, Mobility, Infrastructure, Informal economies, Work & Labour, Capitalism, Race & Racism, Visual Culture, Social Reproduction


Jacob Doherty specializes in urban and environmental anthropology. His research grapples with how African cities are responding to the entwined issues of economic inequality and environmental justice. He has conducted ethnographic research in Uganda, the Ivory Coast, and the United States, examining the everyday infrastructures through which urban residents construct and provision their lives, focusing particularly on waste and mobility.

He is currently carrying out research on Everyday Mobilities in African Informal Transport Systems. His ethnographic work in Abidjan, Ivory Coast is about how informal transport systems like motor-bike taxis, minibuses, and walking differentially provide opportunities for social mobility and reproduce social inequalities. Rather than framing "informal" transport as yet another example of a continent lagging behind and in need of western intervention, he approaches traffic as a paradoxical and generative site of economic and cultural production, of unevenly distributed everyday mobility, of class and gender identities, and of political authority and contestation. The focus is not what the city lacks, but how it works, for whom, with what consequences, examining the spatial and cultural paradoxes of informal mobility in order understand how transformations in existing modes of transport shape belonging, wellbeing, and upward mobility.

His first book, Waste Worlds: Inhabiting Kampala's Infrastructures of Disposability, an ethnography of the Ugandan capital city's diverse waste streams and the social worlds that surround them, was published in 2021 by the University of California Press.

He holds a PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University (2016), an MA in Anthropology from the New School for Social Research (2009), and a BA in Globalization Studies from the University of Mary Washington (2006). Prior to joining Edinburgh, he held teaching and research posts at Wesleyan University (Anthropology), the University of Pennsylvania (Wolf Humanities Center), and Oxford University (Transport Studies Unit, School of Geography and the Environment).

Select Publications

2022. "Waste: The First and Final Frontier." Handbook of Economic Anthropology, 3rd Edition. James Carrier, ed. Edward Elgar Publishing. Pp 162-174.

2021. Waste Worlds: Inhabiting Kampala's Infrastructures of DisposabilityOakland CA: University of California Press.

2021. "Mobilizing Social Reproduction: Gendered Mobility and Everyday Infrastructure in Abidjan." Mobilities. 

2021. "Multiple Marginality and the Emergence of Popular Transport: ‘Saloni’ Taxi-Tricycles in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography. Co-authors: Vakaramoko Bamba & Irene Kassi-Djodjo.

2020. "Motorcycle taxis, personhood, and the moral landscape of mobility." Geoforum [In Press].

2019. "Labor Laid Waste: an Introduction to the Special Issue on Waste Work.” International Journal of Labor and Working-Class History 95: 1-17. Co-author: Kate Brown.

2019. "Capitalizing Community: Waste, Wealth and (Im)material Labor in a Kampala Slum.” International Labor and Working-Class History 95: 95-113.

2019. “Filthy Flourishing: Para-Sites, Animal Infrastructure and the Waste Frontier in Kampala." Current Anthropology 60 (S20): S321-S332.

2019. “Maintenance Space: The Political Authority of Garbage in Kampala, Uganda.” Current Anthropology 60(1): 24-46.

2018. “Why Is This Trash Can Yelling at Me? Big Bellies and Clean Green Gentrification.” Anthropology Now 10(1): 93-101.

2017. “Life (and Limb) in the Fast-Lane: Disposable People as Infrastructure in Kampala’s Boda Boda Industry.Critical African Studies 9(2): 192-209.

PhD Applicants

I am not currently taking on any new PhD supervisions.

Works within

Staff Hours and Guidance

Office hours: Thursdays 12:00-13:00 & 14:00-15:00 in CMB 4.15