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Mary Galvin


Prof Mary Galvin
Faculty of Humanities
Department of Anthropology and Development Studies
Associate Professor

Mary Galvin joined Development Studies as Associate Professor in 2014.  She holds an MA from Yale University and a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.  

Mary has worked as a researcher, development practitioner, and social justice activist in South Africa since 1992.  During this period she established and directed two South African non-profit organisations, the Regional Consultative Forum on Rural Development and Umphilo waManzi (‘Water is Life’) as well as coordinating a national multi-stakeholder initiative, The Water Dialogues.  She also conducted research and completed strategic assessments for a range of national and international organisations such as Oxfam, the Department of Water Affairs, and the European Union.   While completing her PhD she worked for the University of KwaZulu Natal and the Human Sciences Research Council.  She has been a board member of a land-rights organisation, the Association for Rural Advancement, and an environmental justice organisation, the Institute for Zero Waste in Africa, and has served as the South African-based organiser for the Council of Canadian’s Blue Planet Project.

Throughout this period, Mary conducted extensive research on development in southern Africa, which she presented national and internationally to policy makers and academic audiences. Her research has focused on citizen participation, governance and the role of civil society, local government and traditional authorities, barriers to achieving the human right to water, “innovative” approaches to sanitation, issues of rural development, debates concerning the public-private provision of services,  environmental and climate justice, and community-based climate change adaptation. 

Her recent publications (available on

 “A Hot Climate for Civil Society Engagement with Climate Change and Water in Durban” in P. Perkins (ed) Water and Climate Change in Africa: Challenges and Community Initiatives in Durban, Maputo and Nairobi, London: Routledge, 2013.

“Addressing Southern Africa’s Development Challenges through Community Led Total Sanitation”. Report published by Oxfam, 2013.

Constructing Large Dams in Southern Africa: What has been learned?” in “Dam Truths: A compilation of case studies about popular struggles against dams”, Blue Planet Project, Council of Canadians, 2013.

Brief articles published by the Blue Planet Project (Council of Canadians) 2011-2014.

“Participating in Urban Myths about Women’s Rural Water Struggles”.  Agenda 88, 2011.

“Lifeboats and icebergs: Pragmatic adaptation in the water sector” in J.Wilson (ed),Water and climate change: an exploration for the concerned and curious, Cape Town: Environmental Monitoring Group, 2011.

 “Rural survival, development or advocacy?” in B.Maharaj et al (ed), Zuma’s Own Goal: Losing South Africa’s ‘War on Poverty’, Trenton: Africa World Press, 2010.

“Unintended Consequences: Development Interventions and Socio-Political Change in Rural South Africa” in B.Freund and H.Witt (eds), Development Dilemmas in Post-Apartheid South Africa, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2010.

“The Politics of Decentralization and Donor Funding in South Africa’s Rural Water Sector”.  (with Adam Habib), Journal of Southern African Studies 29, 2003.

Her publications are available on

Contact details

Auckland Park Kingsway Campus

D-Ring 508

Tel: +27 (0) 11 559 4865