Visiting Assistant Professor
Office: SOC 117
I have extensive experience teaching introductory and upper-level undergraduate anthropology courses. The courses I teach are grounded in and reflect my research interests and teaching philosophy: that students learn best when course material and abstract theory connect directly to issues in their lives. I try to build as many small research assignments into my courses as possible to make students connect course themes with their life experiences.
I am an urban anthropologist specializing in globalization, informal economies, and digital media in East Africa. My research is based on 26 months of fieldwork conducted during seven trips to Kenya since 2001. Contributing to the study of globalization and development as well as anthropology of media, art, and communication, my research focuses on transnational crafts dealers and how they balance the intimacy and distance afforded by Internet-based media. I have witnessed how a reliance on new social media can allow individuals access to a fickle and unpredictable global economy, where the responsibility to manage risk has been left to individual citizens and highly personalized social and ethnic networks. I reassess narratives about bridging the digital divide, arguing for a focus not on connection versus disconnection but the lived experiences of ups and downs, abjection, precariousness, and intense competition. I build on interdisciplinary social theory on neoliberalism and global informal economies by exploring the strategies emerging among the traders and other Kenyans I found working in the shadow of the country’s international tourism industry. I demonstrate how Internet-based media enables the production of an illusion of transparency – epitomized by Fair Trade labeling and similar branding of NGO aesthetics.