Department of Global Development Studies


Global Development Studies

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David McDonald

David McDonald

PhD (Political Studies), University of Toronto
On leave January 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017

Curriculum Vitae (PDF 319KB)


phone: 613-533-6000, ext 36962 

fax: 613-533-2986

Global Development Studies

Mac-Corry Hall A407


Research Interests:

My research revolves around debates over public versus private service delivery (with a focus on water, electricity and health care), but encompass a broad spectrum of related questions on urbanization, environmental justice and uneven development.  Much of this research has been conducted through the Municipal Services Project (, which I founded and have been co-director of since 2000.  The focus of this project is 'alternatives to privatization', with research partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.  We work with academics, social movements, labour unions and community groups in an effort to deepen our grassroots engagement 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 structures that tie everyday service delivery to the larger currents of (re)production, but I am also interested in socio-cultural concepts of space and place that make up the connectivities of public engagement.  My research has had a largely urban focus, including the growing networks of 'world cities'.

Finally, I spent a number of years working on international migration with the Southern African Migration Project ( I am no longer directly involved in this work but remain interested in questions of migration and xenophobia.

Supervisory Interests

I supervise graduate students in all three of the departments I am affiliated with (Global Development Studies, Geography, Environmental Studies). I encourage applications from students focused on topics related to my research interests, and in particular on debates around public/private service provision in the global South.

Other Appointments

Cross Appointed with the Department of Geography and the School of Environmental Studies


DEVS 100: Canada and the 'Third World'
DEVS 492: Cities and Urbanization in the South (not offered in 2016/2017)
DEVS 492: Privatization and Its Discontents (not offered in 2016/2017)
DEVS 801: Development Theory in Contemporary and Historical Perspective

Selected Publications (see curriculum vitae for complete list)

Single-Authored Books

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

Edited books

DA McDonald (ed), (2016) Making Public in a Privatized World: The Struggle for Essential Services, Zed Books: London, 241 pp (see details)

DA McDonald (ed) (2014) Rethinking Corporatization and Public Services in the Global South. Zed Books: London, 240 pp (see details)

M Pigeon, DA McDonald, S Kishimoto and O Hoedeman (eds), (2012) Remunicipalization: Putting Water Back Into Public Hands, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, 116pp (see details).

DA McDonald and G Ruiters (eds). (2012). Alternatives to Privatization: Public Options for Essential Services in the Global South, Routledge (New York), HSRC Press (Cape Town), Leftword Books (Delhi), 540pp. (see details)

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.

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

Selected Articles

DA McDonald (2016, in press). “To Corporatize or Not to Corporatize (And if so How)?”, Utilities Policy

DA McDonald, (2016) “The Wonderful Worlds of Making Public”, in DA McDonald (ed). Making Public in a Privatizing World: The Struggle for Essential Services, Zed Books, London, pp 1-22

DA McDonald, (2016) “Building a Pro-Public Movement”, in DA McDonald (ed). Making Public in a Privatizing World: The Struggle for Essential Services, Zed Books, London, pp 251-263                  

DA McDonald. (2015). “You are Public…Now What? New Ways of Measuring Success”, in in Kishimoto, S., Lobina E, and Petitjean, O. (eds). 2015. Our Public Experience: The Global Experience with Remunicipalisation, Transnational Institute: Amsterdam, pp 86-94

DA McDonald (2015), “Till Death Do Us Part: Reuniting Water and Health in the Struggle for Pro-Public Services”, in A Sengupta (ed), Global Health Watch IV, Zed Books, London

DA McDonald (forthcoming), “Icon(oclastic): John S Saul Reflects on Some of the Lessons of Liberation Struggles”, in C Bassett and M Clarke (eds), Legacies of Liberation (Fernwood Press: Blackwood and HSRC Press: Cape Town).

Making Public in a Privatized World
World City Syndrome
Electric Capitalism
Rethinking Corporatization and Public Services in the Global South
Alternatives to Privatization