Carolyn Holmes, Ph.D.

Mississippi State University

Country: United States (Mississippi)

About Me:

Dr. Carolyn E. Holmes is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Mississippi State University.  Her research focuses on nationalism and post-conflict transitions to democracy in sub-Saharan Africa.  She earned her Ph.D. from Indiana University in 2015.  She has conducted extensive field research in South Africa, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Fulbright-Hays Program.  She has also conducted preliminary work in Ghana, while teaching graduate students in Accra. Dr. Holmes teaches classes on African Politics, Politics of the Developing World, Comparative Politics, Qualitative Methods, and Nationalism.  Her research has appeared in African Affairs, Acta PoliticaCommonwealth and Comparative PoliticsDemocratization, and the Journal of Southern African Studies.

Research Interests

African Politics


Race, Ethnicity and Politics

Gender and Politics


Nationalism, National Identity

Conflict Resolution/Transformation

Ethnic Politics

Democratic Backsliding

Sub-state Nationalism

Countries of Interest

South Africa


Journal Articles:

(2019) The Politics of Non-Political Activism in Democratic South Africa, Comparative Politics

Twenty years after the first democratic elections in South Africa, organizations representing key voting constituencies—youth and the economically marginalized—are becoming major forces of opposition to the ANC-led government while explicitly framing their activities as non-political. They prefer instead to talk in terms of “rights,” and “activism.” Drawing from fieldwork and online publications of three opposition organizations—#RhodesMustFall, Abahlali baseMjondolo and Afriforum— this paper argues that the abandonment of “politics” is more than rhetorical positioning. By framing their actions as non- political these groups engage in a deep-seated critique of the possibilities presented by democratic politics, and a lack of perceived efficacy or legitimacy of institutionalized contestation. Perhaps more importantly, it means that opposition politics are occurring in an environment without institutional incentives for cooperation.

(2016) Icons of the Old Regime: Challenging South African Public Memory Strategies in #RhodesMustFall, Journal of Southern African Studies

Students engaged in the spring 2015 protests on the University of Cape Town campus demanded the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, prompting renewed debate over the appropriate treatment of colonial and apartheid-era statuary in contemporary South African public spaces. While the students’ protests were often dismissed in public discourse and media coverage as misguided or misinformed, this article situates them in the broader context of symbolic reparations central to the transition to multiracial democracy. We introduce the terms ‘monologic commemoration’ and ‘multiplicative commemoration’ to describe the two dominant phases of South African public memory initiatives during and after apartheid. Monologic commemoration promotes a singular historical narrative of national identity and heroic leadership, whereas multiplicative commemoration requires the representation of as many diverse experiences and viewpoints as possible. We examine the #RhodesMustFall campaign as an eruption of discontent with both the monologic and multiplicative approaches, potentially signalling a new ‘post-transitional’ phase of South African public culture.

(2016) Winning Is Not Everything: Public Perceptions of Losers and Non-Voters in South Africa, Acta Politica

Which factor – being an electoral loser or being a non-voter – has a greater negative influence on perceptions of democratic institutions in South Africa? Employing four waves of Afrobarometer data, this analysis finds that both negatively correlate with evaluations of democracy and parliament in particular, with weaker results after controlling for demographic and geographic factors. However, little consistency emerges as to which has the greater negative influence on perceptions. Furthermore, disaggregating non-voters finds that those preferring parties that lost have the lowest evaluations overall.

(2015) Marikana in translation: Print nationalism in South Africa's multilingual press, African Affairs

This article attempts to understand how print cultures servicing different language communities fuel nationalisms that are not coterminous with a nation state. In the tradition of scholars like Benedict Anderson, it examines the connections between nationalism and print culture, but with reference to a single important event: violence at the Marikana mine. These events constituted the largest act of lethal force against civilians in the post-apartheid era. The South African press in three languages – Afrikaans, isiZulu, and English – covered the violence that erupted at the Lonmin mine in Marikana in mid-August 2012. Using original translations of daily newspapers and quantitative content analysis, the article assesses the differences among the various print media outlets covering the event. It finds that news coverage varied significantly according to the language medium in three ways: attribution of action, portrayal of sympathy and blame, and inclusion of political and economic coverage in the aftermath of the violence. These variations in coverage coincided with differences between reading publics divided by race, class, and location. The article argues that the English-language bias of most media analysis misses key points of contestation that occur in different media, both within South Africa, and throughout the post-colonial world.