Catherine L. Besteman
Francis F. Bartlett and Ruth K. Bartlett Professor of Anthropology
M.A.; Ph.D. University of Arizona
Areas of Expertise
- Inequality and racism
- security, insecurity, violence, militarism
- Africa, South Africa, southern Somalia, US
- migration and mobility
- engaged anthropology
- visual anthropology
Migration and Borders. The Somali civil war sent millions of Somalis across borders as refugees, precipitating one of the largest refugee movements at the time. For the past two decades I have studied how borders, nationalisms, statecraft, neoliberalism, and militarism shape mobilities and migratory routes. Some of this work has been ethnographic and focused on the trajectories and experiences of Somalis I have known since the late 1980s, as in Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine and some analyzes structural and systemic dimensions at the global level, as in my current book project, Militarized Global Apartheid.
Visual Anthropology. In addition to teaching and writing op-eds, I’m acutely interested in exploring ways to bring anthropological critiques to broader audiences through visual registers, such as websites, films, and most especially art exhibitions, as in my fall 2018 project Making Migration Visible: Traces, Tracks, Pathways at Portland’s Institute of Contemporary Art, co-curated with artist Julie Poitras Santos and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition is accompanied by a wide range of events about migration, mobility, and border crossings hosted by partner organizations, such as performances, exhibitions, films, lectures, community conversations, and poetry readings.
Security, Militarism and Militarization.As discourses of security and risk continue to feed militarization, anthropologists need to be attentive to their effects. My edited series at Duke University Press, Global Insecurities, showcases ethnographic work on security and insecurity, and I continue to work with the Network of Concerned Anthropologists to critically analyze and challenge militarism and militarization.
Click on this link to read the pledge against anthropological involvement in covert intelligence work: Pledge
Public Anthropology. Anthropology is a discipline of profound importance in a globalized world. Demonstrating anthropology's critical insights on contemporary issues is the central project of three coedited books with anthropologist Hugh Gusterson (George Washington University). The Insecure American (University of California Press, 2009), Why America's Top Pundits are Wrong (University of California Press, 2005), and Life by Algorithms: How Roboprocesses are Reshaping our World (forthcoming from University of Chicago Press).
Transforming Cape Town, University of California Press, 2008 (Leeds Honor Book Award, Society for Urban, National, and Transnational Anthropology, 2009)
Selected Recent Journal Articles
2019 "Refuge and Security Panics." Public Anthropology.
2019 "Militarized Global Apartheid." Cultural Anthropology.
2019 "Hostile Charity: Somali Refugees and Risk in a New Security Age." In Erica Caple James, ed., Governing Gifts, Faith, Charity, and the Security State. Santa Fe, NM: School of Advanced Research Press.
2017 "Experimenting in Somalia: The New Security Empire." Anthropological Theory 17(3): 404-420. 2014 "On Ethnographic Love." In Roger Sanjek, ed., Mutuality. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
2013 "Refuge Fragments, Fragmentary Refuge." Ethnography.
2013 “Three Reflections on Public Anthropology.” Anthropology Today 29(6): 3-6.
2013 “Somali Bantus in a State of Refuge.” Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies 12: 11-33.
2012 “Translating Race Across Time and Space: The Creation of Somali Bantu Ethnicity.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 19(3): 1-18.
2010 "“In and Out of the Academy: The Case for a Strategic Anthropology.” Human Organization 69(4): 407-417.
2009 “A Refuge Odyssey: A Story of Globalization and Somali Bantu Refugees.” Anthropology Now 1(2): 96-108.
2009 “Counter Africom.” In The Counter-Counter Insurgency Manual, or Notes on Demilitarizing American Society. Network of Concerned Anthropologists Steering Committee. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, p. 115-135.
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