Brenda Chalfin, Ph.D.
Website and African Studies Faculty Profile
- Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 1998
- B.A., Anthropology, Amherst College, 1986
Political Anthropology, Economic Anthropology, Anthropology of the State, Governance, Biopolitics, Political Economy, Maritime Anthropology, Globalization, Commodities, Waste, Infrastructure, Cities, Ports, Off-shore Oil, Bureaucracy, International Organizations, Borders, Interdisciplinarity, African Studies
Brenda Chalfin is the Director of the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida, and also holds appointments as a professor of anthropology and African Studies. Bringing together cultural anthropology, geography, and political economy to establish new analytic points of entry to understanding political life in contemporary African states, her research addresses the complex functioning of national boundaries and frontiers, the popular production of infrastructure and urban public goods, non-territorial and maritime sovereignty, the built environment, and the changing political valence of waste in the context of late-capitalism.
Dr. Chalfin is now working on a book tentatively titled “Vital Politics: Infrastructures of Bare Life on Ghana’s Urban Frontier.” An urban ethnography drawn from her extended research in the West African nation of Ghana, this work explores alternative infrastructures of waste management that emerge in contexts where state and municipal provisioning of public works are grossly, and deliberately, inadequate to urban realities.
Dr. Chalfin has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies and been a recipient of Fulbright, Wenner-Gren, and National Science Foundation grants. Dr. Chalfin earned her PhD in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her publications include Neoliberal Frontiers: An Ethnography of Sovereignty in West Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2010), Shea Butter Republic: State Power, Global Markets, and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity (Routledge, 2004), and journal articles in American Ethnologist, Current Anthropology, and Politique africaine. The January 2016 issue of Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, includes the article “Wastelandia: Infrastructure and the Commonwealth of Waste in Urban Ghana.”
Positions and Honors
Positions and Employment
- 2016 – present, Director, Center for African Studies, University of Florida
- 2013-present, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
- 2013-present, Faculty Affiliate, Center for African Studies, University of Florida
- 2013-present, Faculty Affiliate, Center for International Business Education and Research, University of Florida
- 2013-present, Faculty Affiliate, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Florida
- 2007-2013, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
- 2007-2013, Faculty Affiliate, Center for African Studies, University of Florida
- 2007-2013, Faculty Affiliate, Center for International Business Education and Research, University of Florida
- 2001-2007, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
- 2001-2007, Faculty Affiliate, African Studies, University of Florida
Other Experience and Professional Memberships
- Visiting Researcher, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon. 2010-2011, 2008-2009, 2000-2001, 1994-1995, 1990
- 2014-2017, Board Member, African Studies Association
- 2015-2017, Chair of Publications Committee, African Studies Association
- Reviewer, American Council of Learned Societies, Lewis and Clark Award, 2012, 2013, 2014
- 2009-2011, 2014, Reviewer, National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology Section
- Member, Editorial Board, Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge University Press)
- Member, Editorial Board, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (Sage Publications)
- Member, American Anthropological Association
- Member, Society for Political and Legal Anthropology
- Member, American Ethnological Society
- Member, Society for Cultural Anthropology
- Member, Society for Economic Anthropology
- Member, Association for Africanist Anthropology
- Member, African Studies Association
Chalfin, Brenda. 2014. Public Things, Excremental Politics, and the Infrastructure of Bare Life in Ghana’s city of Tema. American Ethnologist 41(1):92-109.
Chalfin, Brenda. 2012. Border Security as Late-Capitalist ‘Fix’. In A Companion to Border Studies, edited by Thomas M. Wilson and Hastings Donnan, pp. 283-300. Blackwell, Malden, MA.
Chalfin, Brenda. 2010. Recasting Maritime Governance in Ghana: The Neo-Developmental State and the Port of Tema. Journal of Modern African Studies 48(4):573-598.
Chalfin, Brenda. 2010. Neoliberal Frontiers: An Ethnography of Sovereignty in West Africa. University of Chicago Press.
Chalfin, Brenda. 2009. La Renovation du Port de Tema. Economic Politique de la Frontiere Maritime du Ghana [Recasting the Port of Tema: The Political Economy of Ghana’s Maritime Frontier]. Politique Africaine 116:63-84.
Chalfin, Brenda. 2008. Sovereigns and Citizens in Close Encounter: Airport Anthropology and Customs Regimes in Neoliberal Ghana. American Ethnologist 35(4):519-538.
Chalfin, Brenda. 2008. Cars, the Customs Service and Sumptuary Rule in Contemporary Ghana. Comparative Studies in Society and History 50(2):424-453.
Chalfin, Brenda. 2004. Shea Butter Republic: State Power, Global Markets and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity, Routledge, New York.
Contribution to Science
Ongoing Research Support
US Department of Education
- Title VI Award Center for African Studies
- Total Award $650,000 per annum
Completed Research Support (within the past three years)
National Science Foundation
- PI, with Co-PI Donald Berces (UF PhD student)
- “The Emergence and Impact of Law in Oceanic Space,”
- Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, Cultural Anthropology and
Law, Social and Behavioral Sciences Division
- $23,946 Awarded August 2015
- Award #00097895/00123631
Social Science Research Council and Mellon Foundation
- Oceanic Studies: Seas as Sites and Subjects of Inquiry
- Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship Workshop
- Summer 2014