- Research Interests/Specializations
Municipal finance, public infrastructure, urban street markets, governing/governance, decentralization, fiscal autonomy, liberal administration, global development, urban and planning theory, value, publics, territory, risk, West Africa, ethnography.
- M.A. Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University
- B.A. Political Science, Webster University
I am a scholar of urban planning, policy, and politics. I take an ethnographic approach to the study of contemporary urban problems with an empirical focus on fiscal politics and the role of public and private finance in sub-national urban governance. In my research I argue that planners, politicians, and publics are increasingly addressing contemporary problems of development and urban governance in the domain of fiscal and financial administration. Taking this financial problematic as an entry point, I examine the general concepts and historical practices that I argue are central to understanding contemporary fiscal politics in most of the urban world. I contribute to a set of timely concepts—territory, risk, publics, informality, refusal—through an inquiry into the government of liberal democracy. But I do so from a location still relatively overlooked by scholarship on political modernity: urban Africa.
In my dissertation, Fiscal autonomy: Urban democracy and the politics of public finance in Dakar, Senegal, I argue that contemporary transformations in urban democracy and citizenship are increasingly unfolding in the domain of municipal public finance. Although Senegal’s postcolonial political leaders designed the past half century of decentralization reforms to promote local democratic control over public services, widespread political and technical blockages regularly confound access to this much-needed wealth. I argue that, far from being fixed by law, municipal fiscal authority is constituted by diverse and provisional techniques of rule—from credit risk rating to charismatic violence. I organize Fiscal autonomy around four politically contentious revenue streams—central state transfers, local taxes, municipal bonds, and user fees—that are at the heart of the practical expansion of municipal fiscal authority and autonomy in the contemporary urban world.
Alongside my dissertation, I set out two collaborative research agendas that bring the disciplines of urban studies and planning closer to the political changes in—and practical challenges of—financing urban public services in the Global South. My ongoing research with Hannah Appel (Assistant Professor in UCLA’s Department of Anthropology) examines a new paradigm of development in which pan-African financial institutions use investment in infrastructures, municipalities, and households to realize a postcolonial vision of continental unity. Further, I am outlining a collaborative research agenda with Liza Rose Cirolia (African Center for Cities, University of Cape Town) that draws on science and technology studies to focus scholarly and policy attention on the often unacknowledged political effects of the legal and technological aspects of urban fiscal reform.
- Courses Taught
CP 200 History of City Planning (with Stephen Collier)
GMS 200 Global Metropolitan Studies: Introduction to Theories, Histories, & Methods (with Joan Walker)
DS 100 History & Theory of Development (with Gillian Hart)
Environmental Policies (taught at Temple University)
Global Cities (taught at Temple University)
Coping with the Vacant City (designed and taught at Temple University)
- Awards + Recognition
- 2017-2018 National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (Cultural Anthropology)
- 2017-2018 Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
- 2017 Fulbright-Hays, United States Department of Education Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship
- 2016 Institute of International Studies at UC, Berkeley. John L. Simpson Memorial Research Fellowship in International and Comparative Studies
- 2015 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award. Nominated by the Department of International and Area Studies for the course “History of Development and Underdevelopment” with Gillian Hart
- 2015 Social Science Research Council’s Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship
- 2015 West African Research Association Pre-Dissertation Fellowship for summer research
- 2013 Chancellor’s Multi-Year Fellowship from UC Berkeley Graduate Division
- Selected Publications
Cirolia, L.R. & Mizes, J.C. (2019) Property tax in African secondary cities: Insights from the cases of Kisumu (Kenya) and M’Bour (Senegal). International Center for Tax and Development Working Paper 90. Access at link.
Mizes, J.C & Cirolia, L.R. (2018) Contournements: Fiscalité et exceptions informelles dans les villes de M'Bour et de Kisumu. Politique Africaine. Special Issue: Fiscalité en Afrique contemporaine : Formalités et informalités.
Mizes, J.C. (2016) Who Owns Africa’s Infrastructure? Limn Issue Number Seven: Public Infrastructure/Infrastructural Publics. Access at link.
Collier, S. J, Mizes, J. C, Von Schnitzler, A. (2016) Preface: Public Infrastructure/Infrastructural Publics. Limn Issue Number Seven: Public Infrastructures/Infrastructural Publics. Access at link.
Mizes, J. C. (2015) Book Review of Ato Quayson’s “Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism” for the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.
Kondo, M. Mizes, C., Lee, J. & Burstyn, I. (2014) Black carbon concentrations in a goods movement neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 186: 4605-4618.
Kondo, M., Mizes, C., Lee, J., McGady-Saier, J., O’Malley, L., Diliberto, A., & Burstyn, I. (2014) Towards Participatory Air Pollution Exposure Assessment in a Goods Movement Community. Progress in Community Health Partnerships, 8(3), 291-304.
Mizes, C. (2013) Taking up space in the vacant city: The politics of inclusion in Philadelphia. Conference proceedings e-publication by Centro Estudos Sociais (CES) at University of Coimbra, Portugal.