Kenan Distinguished Professor


Phone: (919) 843-7392


(919) 962-1613


311B Alumni Bldg.

Area of Interest:

Political Ecology; anthropology of development, social movements, and science and technology; Design; Latin America; Colombia.


Ph.D., University of Calfornia, Berkeley, 1987.


Research Background

Fieldwork experience: Department of National Planning, Bogota, Colombia, 1981-82; Pacific rainforest region of Colombia, 1993-1994; summers 1996, 97, 98.

Present Research: My current field research focuses on the interrelations among state, capital, and social movements in a Colombia rainforest region. I examine the interaction among these actors from the perspective of the cultural and political struggles over the definition of, and control over, the region’s biodiverse resources. My most recent work identifies the political ecology framework developed by the region’s social movement of black communities, and suggests that this framework contains important elements for rethinking sustainability and biodiversity conservation. On the theory side, I am most interested at present in theories of nature, place, and networks.
I am beginning to develop a more substantial research program on anti-globalization social movements. This interest arises from several sources: witnessing the growing transnationalization of the social movement of black communities of the Colombian Pacific; becoming aware of the pressing need to undertake the ethnography of anti-globalization social movements, and working with several students toward this goal; and being involved in several networks. Among the latter, I would highlight the project I have been co-directing with Wendy Harcourt, of the Society for International Development in Rome, on “Women and the Politics of Place.” This project brings together intellectual-activists and activists-intellectuals working with place-based movements in various parts of the world, particularly involving women. For more information on this project (including the project’s background paper), see Society for International Development

WAN: A Project for a World Anthropology/ies Network
Brief description: The project for a World Anthropology/ies Network was initiated at Chapel Hill by Arturo Escobar, Marisol de la Cadena, and Eduardo Restrepo. Besides the three of us, the “WAN Collective” includes at present Gustavo Lins Ribeiro (Universidade de Brasilia) and Penny Harvey (U. of Manchester). Our aim is to facilitate the beginning of a self-organizing, non-hierarchical and decentralized anthropology network that builds chiefly on subaltern anthropologies and that questions current patterns of knowledge production, opening up anthropology to a plurality of styles, modes of thinking, practices, and inquiries about culture world wide.

The Social Movements Working Group (SMWG)
Brief Description: This collective project started in the Fall of 2003, encompassing faculty and graduate students in anthropology, sociology and geography primarily, with a few participants from othe disciplines. The aim of the group is to infuse the field of social movements theory and research with new ideas arising from both interdisciplinary conversations in the academy and intellectual-political conversations within and among social movements themselves. One of the group’s main motivations so far has been thinking seriously about social movement activists as knowledge producers in their own right, instead of “theorizing” about movements only from academic positions. Over the past two years, the group has had collective discussion about established and emergent notions in the field (knowledge, networks, identities, space and place, ethnography, etc.), some of which has taken place in the context of dialogue with activists from various parts of the world. The anthropologists in the group are of course interested in the anthropological contributions to the field, which have remained largely invisible or secondary in the field as a whole, but also in dialogues across disciplines and epistemologies with sociologists, political scientists, geographers, and others. We are currently working on some materials for publication. Current faculty facilitators are: Dorothy Holland and Arturo Escobar (Anthropology) and Charles Kurzman (Sociology).