Bolt, Professor Maxim


Max Bolt

Associate Professor of Development Studies and Supernumerary Governing Body Fellow

Academic background

Before joining the Oxford Department of International Development and St Anne’s in 2020, Maxim was Lecturer then Reader at the University of Birmingham, and before that was a researcher at the British Museum.

Maxim received his PhD in Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 2011. He had previously read Modern History and Politics as an undergraduate at St Peter’s College, Oxford, and then Social Anthropology as a Masters student at LSE.

Maxim is Co-Editor of AFRICA: Journal of the International African Institute. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Southern African Studies and African Studies Review, and on the council of the African Studies Association of the UK.


Maxim teaches on Oxford Department of International Development’s MPhil in Development Studies.

He has previously taught and convened courses on economic anthropology, anthropological theory, gender and development, South Africa, the anthropology of Africa, and interdisciplinary research methods.

Research interests

Maxim Bolt is an anthropologist working largely on questions of economy in southern Africa – particularly labour, migration, borders, the social dynamics of money, and property inheritance. His first major project investigated South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe, its large-scale commercial agriculture, its black workforces and white landowners, and the effects of concentrated formal employment in a context of crisis, upheaval and displacement. Zimbabwe’s Migrants and South Africa’s Border Farms: The Roots of Impermanence (Cambridge University Press 2015, Wits Press 2016) won the 2016 British Sociological Association / BBC Thinking Allowed Ethnography Award. 

Maxim now researches property inheritance, the state and class reproduction in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the post-apartheid era, making wills has taken on new significance amidst middle-class expansion and the rapid proliferation of financial services. Meanwhile, most people die intestate, their relatives confronted with unfamiliar rules about which relatives officially matter. The project explores the institutions and disputes surrounding urban inheritance, connecting socio-economic position to kinship, property, and legal and bureaucratic processes. As more South Africans accumulate substantial property, its disbursement becomes a new terrain on which battles of kinship obligation are fought.

Recent Publications


Fluctuating Formality: Homeownership, Inheritance, and the Official Economy in Urban South Africa’ (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2021).

A list of Max’s other publications can be found here