Indiana University Bloomington
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Stephanie C. Kane

SYC 305, (812) 855-0896

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 1986
  • M.A., University of Texas at Austin, 1981
  • B.A., Cornell University, 1972

Region(s) of Interest

  • South, Central and North America
  • Asia
  • Europe

Research Topics

  • Political ecology/cultural politics of water
  • Ethnography of infrastructure (flood control)
  • Social and environmental justice
  • Creative non-fiction writing bridging science, social science and the humanities

Research Summary

Born and raised in New York City, I have traveled widely, doing ethnographic fieldwork in the cities and forests of Central and South America (first in Costa Rica, then in Brazil, Panama, Belize, Argentina and  Peru) and more recently in Asia (India and Singapore), Canada and Croatia. In the Port City Water Project, the subject of my 2012 book Where Rivers Meet the Sea, I develop a comparative, cross-cultural framework for understanding contemporary infrastructural and ecological dilemmas. In my current fieldwork, I build on this cross-cultural framework to study social and environmental justice dimensions of engineering and flood events and to create an ethnographic entryway into the study of disaster and climate change.

Throughout my career, I have drawn on my training in anthropology, ecology and biology to study central problems in social and environmental justice and public health. My first book, The Phantom Gringo Boat: Shamanism and Development in Panama (1994 Smithsonian, 2004 Cybereditions), based on my mid-1980s fieldwork among the Emberá of the Darién rainforest, focuses on village formation and eco-political integration into the nation-state. My second book, AIDS Alibis: Sex, Drugs, and Crime in the Americas (1998 Temple), based on fieldwork in Chicago and Belize, tracks AIDS as a master signifier that circulates through and transforms different cultures and discourses, revealing how the pandemic enters into and reshapes the political unconscious, even as the virus (HIV) enters into and reshapes life histories and neighborhoods. Theoretical and methodological synthesis of cultural studies and justice studies has led to numerous published essays and to a book co-edited with Phil Parnell entitled Crime’s Power: Anthropologists and the Ethnography of Crime (2003 Palgrave/Macmillan).

Representative Publications

  • 2015 Bird Names and Folklore from the Emberá (Chocó) in Darién, Panamá. Ethnobiological Letters 6(1): 32-62.
  • 2015 (with M. Williams, J. Zalasiewicz, N. Davies, I. Mazzini, J-P. Goiran) Humans as the Third Evolutionary Stage of Biosphere Engineering of Rivers. Anthropocene 7: 57-63.
  • 2015 (with E. Medina and D.M. Michler) Infrastructural Drift in Seismic Cities: Chile, Pacific Rim, 27 February, 2010. Social Text 33(1) (#122): 71-92.
  • 2014 (with H. Klein). Gringo/a as a Sociolinguistic Fractal. Ethnologies 35 (1): 3-2
  • 2013 Environmental Decision-Making in the Argentine Delta. Pp. 77-101. In, Comparative Decision Making. Phil Crowley and Thomas Zentall, Editors. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • 2013 Coastal Conflict: Implementing Environmental Law in Salvador da Bahia. Pp. 379-393. In, Routledge International Handbook of Green Criminology. Nigel South and Avi Brisman, Editors. New York: Routledge.
  • 2012 Water Security in Buenos Aires and the Paraná-Paraguay Waterway. Human Organization 71(2): 211-221.
  • 2012 The Art of Torture and the Place of Execution: A Forensic Narrative. Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR) 35(1):53-76.

External Links


Images of The Emberá (Chocó) of Darién, Panama: The Stephanie C. Kane Collection