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Edward-John Bottomley, BA (Hons), MPhil

Edward-John Bottomley, BA (Hons), MPhil

PhD Student

Edward-John is a journalist and researcher who looks at issues of race, poverty and identity in the early twentieth century. He is a Commonwealth Scholar and awarded a Rockefeller Archive Grant.


His research work has primarily been on the impact of white poverty in the intensely racialised society of pre-war South Africa. The 'Poor White Problem', as it was called, had a profound and lasting effect on the country, and its after-affects can still be felt.


  • 2014: Research Assistant on BiS-funded project, University of Sheffield Management School
  • 2010-2013: Senior journalist, Media24 newspapers, Cape Town.
  • 2007-2009: Journalist, Media24 newspapers, Johannesburg.


  • PhD in Geography, University of Cambridge, 2013-.
  • MPhil in Geographical Research, with distinction, University of Cambridge.
  • BPhil in Journalism, with merit, University of Stellenbosch.
    • Awarded a full scholarship by Naspers, the largest media company in Africa
    • Awarded a post-graduate scholarship for academic merit
  • BA in Socio-Informatics, with distinction, University of Stellenbosch.
    • Scholarships for academic achievement (First Class): 2004, 2005


My thesis is entitled: 'Governing Poor Whites: Race, philanthropy and transnational governmentality between the United States and South Africa".

In my PhD research, I consider the 'Poor White Problem' as part of a broader concern over racial power in the racially mixed societies of the United States and the British colonial world. I aim to discover evidence for this concern in the work of international philanthropic organisations such as the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations, and their international impact. I want to consider what difference this makes to our understanding of race, poverty, and power: how we should think differently about the impact that 'Poor Whites' had on these countries – not only politically, but also culturally. Along the way I explore the issue in tropical medicine, eugenics, environmental theories, literature and photography. I am keenly interested, moreover, in the contemporary significance of the racialisation of poverty, and the power of both discourse and affect to mould our reactions to the sufferings of others.


Selected publications

  • Bottomley E, Poor White (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 2012).
    • Longlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award
    • Awarded ANFASA writing grant from government of Norway
  • Bottomley E, "Transnational governmentality and the 'poor white' in early twentieth-century South Africa" Journal of Historical Geography 54 (2016) 76-86.
  • Articles (newspaper, magazine and online) published in, amongst others, Sake24, News24, Beeld, Die Burger, Rapport, City Press, Sarie and Taalgenoot


  • Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, The violence of photography: race and suffering in the twentieth-century photography of 'poor whites, April 2015
  • PhD conference, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, The Poor White as Pathogen: Governing race and disease in early twentieth-century South Africa, April 2016


Supervision teaching

First year (I.A) supervisions
Understanding Cultural Geography
Geopolitics and Political Geography
Race and the development of Victorian anthropology
Visual methods

Second year (I.B) supervisions
Citizenship, cities and civil society: Citizenship in Victorian England
Dissertation supervision
Field trip supervisor (2016) - Nationalism and memory in Dublin's Easter Rising commemorations.

External activities

  • Member of the Association of American Geographers.
  • Member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.
  • Member of the Marshall Economics Research Group