Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Ph.D., Joint Program in Medical Anthropology at UC, San Francisco and UC, Berkeley
Office: McGraw 213
Research Interests: Medical Anthropology, Feminism, NGOs, Violence; Ghana, Africa
Research and teaching interests: medical anthropology (health activism and biopolitics, violence and social suffering, humanitarianism, science and medical knowledge, global health governance), transnational gender and sexuality studies (women's movements, activism, feminist theory), legal and political anthropology (NGOs, human rights, development, law and politics beyond the state and at the margins of the state, sovereignty, migration, and citizenship), and intersections of postcolonial theory with ethnographic and feminist critiques of liberalism and neoliberalism. Globalization, Africa (esp. Ghana). and Europe.
My research examines the relationship between activism and governmentality in contemporary transnational movements that take gendered bodies as a site of intervention. I focus on NGO and state projects that seek to transform social and political orders by reconfiguring gender and sexuality. My current and published work is based on ethnographic research of Ghanaian NGOs' cultures of governance and their transnational dimensions, including a project on women's rights advocacy for domestic violence legislation and a project on interventions against female genital cutting. I point to imbrications of Ghanaian feminism and NGOs within historical legacies of colonialism, national and global geopolitics, and liberal and neoliberal regimes of governance, but I neither dismiss NGOs nor focus on their failures. Overall, I am interested in productive power of political formations whose effects are not simply salutary, and my aim is to expand the objects and modalities of anthropological critique. To that end, I examine unexpected social change, the contingencies of governmental power, and the unintended consequences of NGOs' tenuous successes.
My forthcoming book, Of Rebels, Spirits, and Social Engineers: The Awkward Endings of Female Genital Cutting examines the logics and effects of surprisingly successful Ghanaian NGO interventions against cutting. This ethnography analyzes the shifting place of African activists and NGOs in international campaigns against cutting, the practices of making and using medical and cultural knowledge as techniques of intervention, NGO's involvement in law-making and enforcement, and rural women's reconfigurations of affect and meaning of cutting. Contrary to modernist assumption about knowledge and social engineering, NGO interventions were successful because of their contingent and performative character as well as the NGOs' misreadings of cultural forms and practices. I show that the larger effects of NGO governmenality include the reconfigurations of meaning, sovereignty, and global governance, and the emergence of popular critiques of precarity and legal violence.
My next project, Affective Encounters will examine the productive work of affect in forging of global connections, and its circulation and commodification in the name of humanity. This project builds on long-standing ethnographic research on new forms of exchange and indebtedness emerging in the uneven terrain of transnational encounters of people engaged in development and humanitarian efforts in Ghana, human rights activism at Amnesty International, and immigrants' and women's rights activism in Germany