Mary S. Caesar’s primary research areas are public health, urban food security, urban governance, gender and race in South and southern Africa.
Her doctoral research focused on the history of public health and local governance in twentieth century South Africa. She examined the requisite institutional arrangements to manage and prevent urban health crises in a political context where racial policies deprived black South Africans from enjoying effective local government institutions that provided them with basic services. She has documented the construction of public health by South African public health bureaucrats, especially their emphasis on environmental or non-personal health services. Finally, her research examined the ways in which public health opened up political spaces for black South Africans.
Prior to doctoral studies, she worked as a researcher and research project co-ordinator at the IDASA, South Africa, where she conducted research on HIV/AIDS specifically in relation to governance of HIV/AIDS responses and in relation to human rights protections. She has worked with researchers from five African countries to conduct an analysis of the multi-sectoral responses to HIV and AIDS at a national level. The participating countries were Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Her interests in health, rights and governance are three themes she is building on her post-doctoral fellowship work with the Hungry Cities Initiative and the urban food security-related research.