Carol Carpenter

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

Research Overview

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.