Skip to main content

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Email: scsmith(@)

Phone: (919) 286-7396

Fax: (919) 962-1613

Office: 409C Alumni Bldg.

CV of Sandy Smith-Nonini

Area of Interest:

New Energy Poverty resulting from Debt, Climate and Fossil Fuel Crises; Neoliberalism, Migrant Labor, Resurgent Epidemics, Health Policy.


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)


Since 2017 I’ve done research on “New Energy Poverty” – a variation on conventional energy poverty in that the focus is on crises in places that previously enjoyed energy services. Loss of   energy services creates socio-economic and health problems and is often related to the intersection of fragile fossil energy systems, climate crises and chronic debt. My ethnographic research on this in Greece and Puerto Rico from 2017-2020, resulted in three scholarly publications and a film, “Dis.em.POWER.ed: Puerto Rico’s Perfect Storm,” (53 min.) on causes of the year-long Hurricane Maria blackout.  More recently I did research on (post-)pandemic energy crises and energo-politics of the Russian war in Ukraine. My current book project, AfterShocks: Fossil Debt Crises and New Energy Poverty draws on this pool of research.  In 2020 I carried out a “crisis” epidemiology study (w/ 2 journalists) on Meatpacking’s contribution to Covid-19 spread in NC and Georgia, which resulted in two scholarly publications and several media articles. Other recent projects include a review of complexity theory for social studies of climate change, and a study of the contribution of Corporate Oil to the rise of neoliberalism (2015 -2017). Previous ethnographic research on farm labor organizing, the French health system, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis epidemics in Peru and New York City). I published “Healing the Body Politic: El Salvador’s Popular Struggle for Health Rights, from Civil War to Neoliberal Peace” (Rutgers Univ. Press) in 2010, based on a decade of fieldwork and journalism.

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.

Past Projects:

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:

Book: Healing the Body Politic: El Salvador’s Popular Struggle for Health Rights from Civil War to Neoliberal Peace

Research and Media articles: See:

Film: Dis.em.POWER.ed: Puerto Rico’s Perfect Storm -Trailer:
Full film: