My research revolves around debates over public versus private service delivery (with a focus on water, electricity and health care), but encompasses 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 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 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 is 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 cross-border migration in Southern Africa. I am no longer directly involved in this work but remain interested in questions of migration and xenophobia.
I supervise graduate students in all three of the departments I am affiliated with (Global Development Studies, Geography, and 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.
Cross Appointed to the Department of Geography and the School of Environmental Studies
Full publication list is available on Google Scholar.
DA McDonald. 2023. Meanings of Public and the Future of Public Services. Routledge: New York
DA McDonald, S Spronk and D Chavez (eds). 2020. Public Water and Covid-19: Dark Clouds and Silver Linings, Transnational Institute (Amsterdam) and Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) (Buenos Aires)
DA McDonald, T Marois and D Barrowclough (eds). 2020. Public Banks and Covid-19: Combatting the Pandemic With Public Finance. Municipal Service Project (Kingston), UNCTAD (Geneva) and Eurodad (Brussels)
DA McDonald (ed) (2016). Making Public in a Privatized World: The Struggle for Essential Services, Zed Books, London
DA McDonald (ed). 2014. Rethinking Corporatization and Public Utilities in the Global South, Zed Books, London
DA McDonald and G Ruiters (eds). 2012. Alternatives to Privatization: Public Options for Essential Services in the Global South, Routledge, New York
M Pigeon, DA McDonald, O Hoedeman and S Kishimoto (eds), 2012. Remunicipalisation: Putting Water Back Into Public Hands, TNI: Amsterdam
DA McDonald (ed). 2009. Electric Capitalism: Recolonizing Africa on the Power Grid, HSRC Press: Cape Town, Earthscan, London.
DA McDonald (2008). World City Syndrome: Neoliberalism and Inequality in Cape Town. Routledge: New York, 355 pp
DA McDonald and GR Ruiters (eds). 2005. The Age of Commodity: Water Privatization in Southern Africa. Earthscan Press: London, 304 pp.
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, 207 pp.
DA McDonald (ed) Environmental Justice in South Africa. 2002. Ohio University Press: Athens and University of Cape Town Press, 341 pp.