Thomas Leavitt is a PhD student in political science at Columbia University in the U.S. His areas of focus are comparative politics (with a regional emphasis on Africa), statistical methodology, and political theory. Thomas visited the Alan Paton Centre from the 13-15 July 2015, for pre-dissertation research in July 2015. His research at APC focused on colonial state formation, and the ways in which the South African historical experience challenges the conventional Weberian account of state-building as a process of increased centralization and bureaucratization. The apartheid government, through forced removals and the creation of self-governing homelands, sought to extricate its population from the state’s purview, and even advocated for nationally independent Bantustans.

The terms of independence and self-government, however, were dictated by the 1913 Land Act. Thomas argues, therefore, that the disintegration of the state, and the existence of rural hinterlands, is not necessarily an expression of state weakness (as much of the literature argues), but may be a manifestation of state power. Thomas is currently using the APC archives to compile a quantitative database in which he will use a variety of causal inference, Bayesian, and automated text analysis methods to estimate the effect of apartheid, colonial edicts on the ways in which South Africans living in Bantustans related to the apartheid state.