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Associate Professor
Name: Melanie Samson
Department of Sociology  Staff Members

Contact Details:
Tel: 0115592979


About Prof Melanie Samson


Melanie Samson is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. She previously lectured in human geography at the University of the Witwatersrand. Prior to joining academia, Melanie worked in the South African trade union movement and for local and international NGOs focusing on women’s and informal workers’ struggles for justice. For the past decade, Melanie’s primary body of research has arisen out of and contributed to her political work accompanying reclaimer (waste picker) movements. Related to this, she recently facilitated a multi-party participatory process to develop national government’s “Waste Picker Integration Guideline for South Africa. Melanie has published widely on issues including feminist political economy; articulations of gender, race and class; the production of value outside of wage labour; political ecology; labour and organising in the “informal” economy; nationalism; and the centrality of space in social analysis. Melanie is passionately committed to teaching and supervision that enables and inspires students to critically interrogate and contribute to transforming the world around them.


BA (Honours), Political Studies and Economics, Queen’s University, Canada.

MA, Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand.

PhD, Political Science, York University, Canada.

Publications Book:

Revitalizing Recyclables: Forging the Economy, Polity and Nation on a Soweto Garbage Dump. Contract with University of Georgia Press, Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series. Expected date for completion of manuscript: April 2022.

Forthcoming book and book chapters

Critical Ethnographies of Power: Working Concepts with Gillian Hart, co-editor with Sharad Chari and Mark Hunter. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. Publication in 2022.

“Working Concepts with Gillian Hart”. Chapter in Critical Ethnographies of Power: Working Concepts with Gillian Hart. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. Co-authored with Sharad Chari and Mark Hunter.

“Getting dirty dealing with nationalism: Thinking alongside Hart at a South Africa garbage dump”. Chapter in Critical Ethnographies of Power: Working Concepts with Gillian Hart. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

Journal articles

Sekhwela, M. M. and M. Samson. 2020. “Contested Understandings of Reclaimer Integration – Insights from a Failed Johannesburg Pilot Project”. Urban Forum, 31(1): 21-39.

Samson, M. 2020. “Whose frontier is it anyway? Reclaimer ‘integration’ and the battle over the ‘waste-based commodity frontier’ in the city of Gold”. Special edition ‘Beyond the ‘end of Cheap Nature’: The production of waste-based commodity frontiers’, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 35(4): 60-75.

Samson, M. 2019. “Trashing Solidarity: The Production of Power and the Challenges to Organizing Informal Reclaimers”. Labor Laid Waste Special Edition of International Labor and Working Class History, edited by Kate Brown and Jacob Doherty, 95 (Spring 2019): 34-48.

Samson, M. 2017. “Not Just Recycling the Crisis – Insights into the Production of Value from Waste Reclaimed from a Soweto Garbage Dump,” Historical Materialism, 25(1): 36-62.

Samson, M. 2017. “The Social Uses of the Law and Struggles Over Waste – Reclaiming the Law and the State in the Informal Economy,” Beyond Dichotomization: Informality and the Challenges of Governance in Cities of the Global North and South, special edition of Current Sociology edited by Julie-Anne Boudreau and Diane E. Davis, 65(2): 222-234.

Samson, M. 2015. “Accumulation by Dispossession and the Informal Economy – Struggles Over Knowledge, Being and Waste at a Soweto Garbage Dump,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(5): 813-830.

Samson, M. 2020. “Producing Privatization: Rearticulating Race, Gender, Class and Space,” Antipode, 42(2): 404-432. Samson, M. 2009. “(Sub)imperial South Africa? Reframing the Debate,” Review of African Political Economy, 36(119): 93-103.

Samson, M. 2009. “Wasted Citizenship? Reclaimers and the Privatized Expansion of the Public Sphere,” Africa Development¸ 34(3-4): 1-25.

Samson, M. “Mopping Up the Labour Shortage – The Privatisation of Waste Management and Gendered Work Reorganisation,” Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation, Special Issue, The New Gold Rush: The New Multinationals and the Commodification of Public Sector Work, 2(2): 103-118.

Samson, M. 2008. “Rescaling the State, Restructuring Social Relations – Local Government Transformation in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg and its Implications for Waste Management Workers,” International Feminist Journal of Politics, 10(1): 19-39.

Samson, M. 2007. “Developmental Local Government in Post-Apartheid South Africa? A Feminist Rethinking of the State and Development in the Context of Neo-liberalism,” Africa Development, 32(3): 26-57.

Samson, M. 2007. “When Public Works Programmes Create Second Economy Conditions,” Africanus, Special Issue, Transcending Two Economies: Renewed Debates in South African Political Economy, 37(2): 244-256.

Samson, M. 2007. “Privatizing Collective Public Goods – Re-fracturing the Public and Re-Segmenting Labour Markets. A Case Study of Street Cleaning in Johannesburg, South Africa,” Studies in Political Economy, 79(Spring): 119-143.

Samson, M. 2009. “Undressing Redress: A Feminist Critique of the National Qualifications Framework,” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 20(3): 443-460. Samson, M. 1999. “Training for Transformation?” Agenda, 15(41): 6-17.

Unterhalter, E. and Samson, M. 1998. “Gendering the Global and the Local: Ambiguous Partnerships in the South African Transition,” Development, 41(4): 54-57.

Samson, M. “Towards a ‘Friday’ Model of International Trade: A Feminist Deconstruction of Race and Gender Bias in the Robinson Crusoe Trade Allegory,” Canadian Journal of Economics, 28(1), 144-158.