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Faculty Experts


Melissa Johnson

Professor of Anthropology

meljohn

Areas of expertise

Topical: Nature, the non-human and the human; Race and Racism; Environment; Conservation; Development Social Theory; Environmental History; Tourism; Gender. Area: Belize; Caribbean; U.S.-Mexico Borderlands; Central Texas


Dr. Johnson is a cultural anthropologist who specializes in environmental issues (most currently framed as the human and the more-than-human), race and gender, and the Caribbean and Latin America.  She focuses most of her research on Belize's Afro-Caribbean Creole population. Her book manuscript, Becoming Creole: Nature and Race in Belize is currently under review with a university press.  The book explores how people become who they are in relationship to the natural worlds in which they live; and how these relationships in turn are always entangled in processes of racialization. Her analysis focuses on Creole communities in northern and central Belize. She has also published on the intersections of race and environment in the history of Belize, conservation as a process of creolization in Belize, and has a manuscript under review on gender and ecotourism. Future projects include a meditation on the jaguar in Belize, a project on rural Belizean entanglements with climate change, theorizing race as simultaneously materially present and socially constructed, rethinking the human through the human-cashew relationship in Belize, and critically considering swamps as a site of relational living. She also has plans to work with students on the historical connections between slavery, indigenous peoples in this part of Texas and Southwestern University. She has conducted an interdisciplinary faculty-student collaborative project on environmental justice in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, and a project with Southwestern student Kimberly Griffin (Env Studies '10) on a social and environmental history of the San Gabriel River in Central Texas.

She is especially interested in bringing critical analysis of systems of privilege and oppression to the examination of the intersections of the human with non-human--from analyses of the meanings of place and landscape to relationships between human and non-human animals. The contexts that attract her attention are those in which people and other things are moving--sites of tourism, international biodiversity conservation, toxicity, emigration, immigration, and transnational and trans-place networks, to name a few.

She is passionate about teaching, and regularly teaches Introduction to Anthropology, Theory in Anthropology, Global Environmental Justice, Race, Class and Gender in the Caribbean and the Anthropology Senior Research Seminar. She currently chairs the Anthropocene Paideia Cluster (2014-2018) and regularly teaches a First Year Seminar "Race and Racism in a "Post-Racial" Age". She will offer a new course, Race, Nature and the Anthropocene for May Term 2017.  She is committed to doing all that she can to promote social justice in her communities. She serves as a Social Justice fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year, Chairs the Race and Ethnicity Studies program, and has served as a member and leader of Southwestern's Diversity Enrichment Committee for many yerars. She has also been consistently involved with the Environmental Studies committee, serving as co-Chair (with Dr. Romi Burks) of that committee from Fall 2014-present.

 


Education

Ph.D.,University of Michigan 1998
B.A.,Williams College 1984

Positions

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Southwestern University
August 01, 2004 - present

Chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Southwestern University
August 01, 2005 - August 01, 2010

Assistant Professor of Anthropoogy
Southwestern University
August 01, 1998 - July 01, 2004

Research

Summer 2013. Four week research trip to Lemonal and Crooked Tree, Belize.

From 1990 to 2011--Long term ethnographic and historical research on the rural Belizean Creole communities of the Belize River Valley, and Crooked Tree Lagoon areas, including a residence in Crooked Tree and nearby communities between February 1993 and February 1996. Last visit, December 2009. Since 1996, ethnographic research conducted among the diaspora of these communities in the U.S. (primarily Texas and Chicago)

Summer 2009--Conducted historical research on the San Gabriel River in Williamson County, focusing on environmental and social changes as they manifest themselves in people's relationship to the River

2002 - 2003-- Conducted ethnographic research, supervised undergraduate anthropological research, and participated in an interdisciplinary team on questions of environmental justice and the meaning of landscapes on the U.S.-Mexico border at Matamoros, Mexico.


Publications

Creolized Conservation: A Belizean Creole Community Encounters a Wildlife Sanctuary. Anthropological Quarterly 88(1): 67-96. 2015.

Environment in James Carrier and Deborah Gewertz (eds.). Handbook of Sociocultural Anthropology. London: Berg Publishers. 2013.

(with Emily Niemeyer) Ambivalent Landscapes: Environmental Justice in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands  Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal  36 (3): 371-382.  2008.

Racing Nature and Naturalizing Race: Rethinking the Nature of Creole and Garifuna Communities Belizean Studies, Special Issue: Colonialism and Nature in Belize (ed Joel Wainwright) 27(2/November): 43-56. 2005.

The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras, Environmental History 8(4): 598-617. 2003


Seminars & Presentations

Invited and Sponsored Participant, Center for Race and Ethnicity conference Race, Place and Nature, part of Rutgers' Sawyer Seminar on Race, Place and Space in the Americas, Rutgers University. "Racing Nature in Belize" March 7-8, 2013

Co-organizer, Panel "Social Assemblages and the Pursuit of Nature in the Global Resource Economy," American Anthropological Association 112th Annual Meeting, November 14-18, 2012, San Francisco,

""Hunters, Ecotourists and Hicatee: Creolizing Socionature in Belize," for Panel "Social Assemblages and the Pursuit of Nature in the Global Resource Economy," American Anthropological Association 112th Annual Meeting, November 14-18, 2012, San Francisco.

"Creolized Natures in Belize" 37th Annual Caribbean Studies Association Conference, May 28-June 1, 2012, Le Gosier, Guadeloupe.

"Circulating Nature, Producing Belizean Creole Identity" for panel "Belize: Continuity and Change" American Anthropological Association 110th Meeting, November 17-21, 2010. New Orleans, Louisiana.


Honors & Awards

Joe S. Mundy Award for Exemplary Service, 2009

Southwestern University Senior Teaching Award, 2006.

Fulbright Grant for dissertation research in Belize, 1993-1994

Social Science Research Council/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Fellowship, for dissertation research in Belize, January 1993 - October 1994.

Inter-American Foundation Field Research Doctoral Fellowship, for dissertation research in Belize, January 1993 - October 1994.


Specific subjects or issues you can knowledgeably discuss:
Ecotourism, race, issues of biodiversity conservation in the developing world (especially with intersections with race and gender, etc.).

I am willing to talk to the media: yes

I am willing to talk to community groups about my area of expertise: no

Can you do interviews in Spanish? no

Other languages you are fluent in:

Experience with the news media (especially electronic media):

Contact Details:
(512) 863-1406(office)
Office: Mood-Bridwell 310
meljohn@southwestern.edu