Carol Carpenter

Senior Lecturer and Associate Research Scientist in Natural Resource Social Science and Adjunct Lecturer in Anthropology

Teaching Statement

Dr. Carpenter is an environmental anthropologist with experience in conservation and sustainable development. Her teaching interests include the theoretical history of environmental anthropology and the history of social science thought about conservation and sustainable development. Dr. Carpenter teaches the following courses:

  • Environmental Anthropology, an undergraduate course on the history of environmental anthropology, alternating years with Michael R. Dove. Topics include: questioning the nature-culture dichotomy, the relation between social organization and ecology, the debate about swidden agriculture, the idea of the self-sufficient community, indigeneity, environmental movements, sense of place, and constructions of the environment.
  • Social Science of Conservation & Development, a graduate seminar intended to provide a fundamental understanding of the social aspects involved in implementing conservation and sustainable development projects.  Social science has two sorts of things to contribute to the practice of conservation and development.  First, it provides ways of thinking about, researching, and working with social groupings—including rural households and communities, but also development and conservation institutions, states, and NGOs.  This aspect includes relations between groups at all these levels, and especially the role of politics and power in these relations.  Second, social science tackles the analysis of the knowledge systems that implicitly shape conservation and development policy and impinge on practice. The stance throughout will be on how these things shape the practice of conservation and sustainable development.
  • The Anthropology of the Global Economy, a graduate seminar, explores topics in economic anthropology that are relevant to development and conservation policy and practice.  Anthropologists are often assumed to focus on micro- or local-level research, and thus to have limited usefulness in the contemporary, global world of development and conservation policy.  In fact, however, they have been examining global topics since at least the 1980’s, and very little current anthropological research is limited to the village level.  More importantly, the anthropological perspective on the global economy is unique and important.  This course will examine the topics that make up this perspective, including: using a single commodity to study the global economy, the moral relation between economy and society, models for thinking about power in the global economy, the process of becoming a commodity, articulations between rural households and the global economy, rural-urban relations in the global economy, the commons debate, credit and debt, and theorizing the global economy and its transformations.
  • The Black Box of Implementation in Conservation and Development, a graduate seminar. The implementation of development and conservation projects has been described as existing in a “black box”: development and conservation policy (even participatory policy) is typically not defined to inform effective implementation (Mosse 2004), and data on actual implementation is rarely incorporated into policy.  This course will examine the invisibility of implementation, and the common, mistaken assumptions about implementation targets (like households, communities, and gender) that take the place of absent data in policy. The course will also make an effort to use anthropology to illuminate this black box, to allow students to think more critically about the incredibly varied, dynamic, and political field in which project implementation occurs.  Political and economic aspects of relations within households and communities, particularly gender relations, will be examined, in all of their complexity, variation, and dynamism.  The real focus of the course will not, however, be the contents of the black box, but the political and economic relations between households, communities, and gender, on the one hand, and the world of development and conservation, on the other.
  • Social Science of Development and Conservation: Advanced Readings, an advanced graduate seminar on the theory behind the social science of conservation and sustainable development, focusing on theories of power, governmentality, and capitalism. It examines relations between these theories, alternative theories, and how this history influences the field.