Maxim conducted his doctoral fieldwork along South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe, between 2006 and 2008, during acute economic and political troubles in Zimbabwe. His research focused on the border farms, their black workforces and their white landowners in this context of crisis, upheaval and displacement.
After his PhD research, he worked as the anthropologist on the British Museum’s comparative, collaborative ‘Money in Africa’ project, alongside historians and an economic historian. As part of this project, he conducted research with central banks in Nigeria and Uganda, and with small businesspeople in Malawi.
Maxim’s monograph, based on his PhD research, was published in 2015 by the International African Institute and Cambridge University Press. Wits University Press published a South African paperback edition in 2016. The monograph - Zimbabwe's Migrants and South Africa's Border Farms: the roots of impermanence - won the 2016 British Sociological Association / BBC Thinking Allowed Ethnography Award. You can listen to the BBC radio programme about Maxim’s book, and read an edited extract published in The Conversation.
In 2016, Maxim began research on property, inheritance and class reproduction in Johannesburg, South Africa, funded by an ESRC Future Research Leaders award. In the post-apartheid era, making wills has taken on new significance amidst exponential middle-class expansion, as well as the rapid proliferation of financial services. At the same time, most people die intestate, and their relatives are suddenly confronted with unfamiliar rules about which relatives officially matter. The project explores the institutions and disputes surrounding inheritance, connecting questions of socio-economic position to questions of 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.