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Adjunct Assistant Professor

Email: scsmith(@)

Phone: (919) 286-7396

Fax: (919) 962-1613

Office: 409C Alumni Bldg.

Area of Interest:

Energy and Inequality in Late-Capitalism, Political Ecology and Sustainability, Systems Theory/ Complexity, Social Movements, Politics of Health and Medicine, Labor, Latin America – research experience in El Salvador, Peru, on farm labor migrants in North Carolina, and Puerto Rico. Fieldwork planned for summer 2018 in Greece.


Ph.D. 1998, M.A. 1993, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Anthropology)
Graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies

B.S. 1978 Duke University (Anthropology & Zoology)

Previous Academic Positions:

2006-2007 Richard Carley Hunt Post-Doctoral Fellow, Wenner-Gren Foundation, based in Dept. of Anthropology, UNC-Chapel Hill, for revision of El Salvador book manuscript.

2000-2005 Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, Elon University, Elon, N.C.

1999-2000 Mellon-Sawyer Post-Doctoral Fellow, University Center for International Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill.

1999 Mellon-Sawyer Post-Doctoral Fellow, Center for the Study of Health, Culture and Society, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.

Current and Past Projects:

My current book project: Shocked: Oil, Debt and Dispossession in Late Capitalism is a study of the relationship of oil price volatility to debt and inequality since World War II. It will include chapters on the Marshall Plan and Europe’s conversion to an oil economy, on how the 1970s oil shocks shaped the rise of neoliberal ideology and sovereign debt crises, and several case studies — including Citibank in Mexico, oil and the fall of the Soviet Union, the role of oil trading and petrodollars in financialization, and three studies of oil and debt in/after the 2008 crisis – on consumer debt and automobility in the United States, on oil dependence and the Greek debt crisis and on fossil capitalism, Hurricane Maria and the long blackout in Puerto Rico.

I am co-producing (w/ Roque Nonini) a video documentary on Puerto Rico’s blackout with the working title: Dis.em.POWER.ed: Puerto Rico’s Perfect Storm.

In May 2011 I co-founded CommunEcos, an environmental education non-profit, in Durham which sponsors weekly events on sustainability, community economics, social justice and how-to workshops. We run a “creative re-use” thrift/vintage shop called Recyclique (at 2811 Hillsborough Rd.) that supports the non-profit work.

In 2010 my book Healing the Body Politic: El Salvador’s Popular Struggle for Health Rights, from Civil War to Neoliberal Peace, was published with Rutgers University Press, based on research in the country in the post-war period and 2002 and previous work there as a journalist during the civil war.

From 1998 to 2005 I did engaged research on Latino farmworkers in North Carolina, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s (FLOC’s) successful campaign to organize the state’s H2A farmworkers. I also did a research project on the occupational health risks of Latino meatpacking workers in Duplin County, N.C. in collaboration with Hispanic workers and the NC Occupational Health and Safety Project. In 1999, while based at Emory University, I did a post-doctoral research project on responses by public health institutions to drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemics in Lima, Peru and New York City.

Prior to entering grad school in 1991 I worked for 10 years as a journalist, including five years as a medical reporter in Washington, D.C., and two and a half years as a freelance correspondent based in El Salvador where I covered human rights in Central American wars for U.S. media, including The San Francisco ChronicleThe Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times. During most of 1990 I was a fulltime investigative reporter for Southern Exposure magazine.

Teaching and Related Research

Recent/Current courses:

  • ANTH 540 Planetary Crises: Ecological & Cultural Transitions
  • ANTH 390 Political Economy of Health Care
  • ANTH 539 Environmental Justice
  • ANTH 447 Anthropology of Work
  • ANTH 502 Anthropology of Transnationalism and Globalization
  • LTAM 697 Latin American Studies Seminar

Prior courses taught include: comparative healing systems, Latin American social movements, human dilemmas of globalization, anthropology of development, anthropology through science fiction, and Aboriginal Australia (study abroad).

Academic Awards:

2005 Excellence in Teaching Award, Elon University Panhellenic Council.
1998 Manning Prize for best dissertation, UNC Dept. of Anthropology.
1997 Steven Polgar Prize for applied anthropology, UNC Dept. of Anthropology.
1995 Peter K. New Prize, Society for Applied Anthropology.

Selected Publications:


Healing the Body Politic: El Salvador’s  Struggle for Health Rights — From Civil War to Neoliberal Peace. Rutgers University Press, 2010.

Articles under revision or review:

“Oil Dependency and the Greek Economic Crisis: A Scalar Analysis” chapter for a book: “The Politics of Scale,” edited by Donald M. Nonini and Ida Susser

“Oil price, (Auto-)Affordability and the 2008 Financial Crisis: Fossil capitalism as a complex system,” to be submitted to Capitalism, Nature and Socialism.

Selected Recent Journal Articles/Book Chapters/Blogs:

2017 “Inventing Eco-Cycle: A Social Enterprise Approach to Sustainability Education,” in Global Sustainability and Communities of Practice, edited by Carl A. Maida and Sam Beck, Berghann Press.

2017 “Making Complexity Your Friend: Reframing Social Theory for the Anthropocene,” Weather, Climate, and Society, in special issue: “Thinking the Earth. Ways of Knowing. Modes of Care” edited by Lenore Manderson, Vol. 9(4): 687-699.

2016 “The Role Of Corporate Oil And Energy Debt In Creating The Neoliberal Era.” Economic Anthropology 3: 57–67

2015 Petrodollar Financialization, the State and Fictive Production, in FOCAALBlog

2013  “Seeing No Evil:  The H2A Guest-Worker Program and State-Mediated Labor Exploitation in Rural North Carolina.” In Latin American Migrations to the Heartland: Changing Social Landscapes in Middle America, edited by Linda Allegro and Andrew Wood. University of Illinois Press, pp. 101-124.

2011  “The Illegal and the Dead: Are Mexicans Renewable Energy?” Medical Anthropology,  30 (5): 454-474.  Part of series on “Structural Vulnerability and Latino Migrant Laborer Health.”

2011   (with Beverly Bell) “Operationalizing a Right to Health: Theorizing a National Health System as a ‘Commons’.” In A Companion to Medical Anthropology, eds. Merrill Singer and Pamela I. Erickson, Wiley-Blackwell.