Portrait of Carol Carpenter

Carol Carpenter

Senior Lecturer in Natural Resource Social Science and Adjunct Lecturer in Anthropology

Dr. Carpenter’s teaching and research interests focus on the social science of conservation and sustainable development, the social science of the global economy, relations between economy and ecology, the impacts of these relations on agriculture in developing countries, and the theories that underlie this social science. She spent four years in Indonesia in the early 1980s engaged in household and community-level urban research on rituals and social networks. She then spent four years in Pakistan in the late 1980s working as a development consultant, primarily on social forestry issues, for USAID, the World Bank, and the Asia Foundation, among others. She has held teaching positions at Syracuse University, the University of Hawaii, and Hawaii-Pacific University, and a research position at the East-West Center.  She has taught at the Environment School at Yale since 1998.  She is a fellow of Grace Hopper College.

I am an environmental anthropologist with area expertise in Indonesia and Pakistan. My research focuses on the relationship between human societies and the environment, especially on how this relationship is modeled in conservation and sustainable development policy and in the literature of environmental anthropology. Current research interests include:

  • The anthropology of conservation. This work steps outside the worlds of conservation (including policy and implementation), using the social science literature to think critically about the knowledge systems and models of government and economy that implicitly shape conservation policy and impinge on practice. I trace the conceptual history of social science thinking about conservation to its roots, focusing on theories of power, government, resistance, subject creation, and the economy. This project is taught in two courses, one on the literature explicitly concerning conservation, and one on the root theories.  I recently published a book on this topic, Power in Conservation: Environmental Anthropology beyond Political Ecology, with Routledge.
  • The anthropology of the global economy.  This work explores theories in economic anthropology (and other social sciences) about: the transition to capitalism, the moral relation between economy and society, articulations between rural households and the global economy, rural-urban relations in the global economy, commodities, the commons debate, credit and debt, contracting and flexible accumulation, globalization and scale, and REDD.  The goal is to complement and question the narrowly economic view that dominates development and, increasingly, conservation.  The project is taught in a course on the anthropology of the global economy. 
  • The often-invisible relationship between economy and ecology, and the impact of this relationship (and its invisibility) on agriculture in the developing world. This will be a new course Fall 2021, and my next book project.
  • The relationship between human society and the environment in the history of environmental anthropology. I have published a history of studies of the environment within anthropology, in collaboration with Michael Dove, by Blackwell. I also teach an undergraduate course on environmental anthropology.

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. 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, based my my book, Power in Conservation.  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.  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.
  • Economy is Ecology: The Anthropology of Agriculture, a new graduate seminar that explore the premise that small-scale agriculture, its distinctive economic character, and its ecology shape each other in important ways.  This course will explore smallholder farming in the developing world through ethnographies.
  • 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.

Ph.D., M.A. Cornell University, B.A., Binghamton University


1 Publication