Letter to Prospective Students

So you are looking for a graduate supervisor?

When you are a graduate student, after all is said and done—after the ideas and the coursework and the reading and the research—your job is to put words on the page for your dissertation, for research articles, for grant applications, and for job applications. It is the words we write as scholars that make the research we do visible and help us reach our audiences and build our careers.

The words are the hard part, I think.

As a supervisor, I work hard to help students with their writing. I am always interested in students who are eager to learn the craft of ethnography and ethnographic writing, as part f their graduate work.

My research focuses on writing fine-grained ethnography and on environmental anthropology. My areas are environmental anthropology, economic anthropology, political economy, and the anthropology of resource extraction. I have written on a gold rush of artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the Chocó in northwestern Colombia, on the impacts of the buzz phase of resource extraction, on citizenship and violence, on alternative futures in New Brunswick. I am particularly interested in rural life and livelihoods and agrarian change. My geographical areas of expertise are Colombia, particularly the Magdalena River and Chocó regions, and the Canadian Maritimes, particularly New Brunswick and the Saint John River Valley.

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Brunswick and an Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa. I am part of the International Development Studies programme at the University of New Brunswick, I run a workshop on post-extractivism with Donald Kingsbury, I am the former English book review editor for Anthropologica, and I coordinate the Human Environments Workshop with Noah Pleshet.

If you’re interested in working with me, I can supervise M.A. students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and M.IDST and Ph.D. IDST students in the Interdisciplinary studies program. I can also co-supervise M.A. or Ph.D. students in the Anthropology programme at Carleton University.

I sometimes employ undergraduate and graduate research assistants to help with my work as part of the Human Environments Workshop to write articles, and to support ongoing research. I am open to collaborative writing and research projects as a supervisor. I am also open to students pursuing their own independent research and working with me in a supervisory capacity.

Topics I am interested in:

  • Exploring the process of writing ethnography and developing the art and craft of writing as a way of constructing analysis, advancing arguments, and telling stories.
  • Investigating the ways resource extraction reshapes places and the people who live there.
  • Examining how natural resource projects create social impacts long before operations begin, during what Marieka Sax and I call the buzz phase.
  • Understanding how rural Afro-desendent communities in the Colombian Pacific pursue place-based rural life and livelihoods.
  • Understanding aquatic-histories of agrarian change and rural livelihoods in the Magdalena region of Colombia.
  • Building alternative narratives for the future.

Updated April 28, 2023

Why I Suck at Email and Social Media

As academics, we get a lot of emails. Sometimes, my response time can vary from a few seconds to a few months. I’m not a Luddite, but if I want to prioritize the most important work, such as writing articles, books, lectures, and supervising students, then email has to come last. To free myself from the tyranny of email, I try to follow a few rules—often, I fail.

I try not to read or reply in the morning, and I attempt to avoid checking emails on weekends. I schedule emails to be sent the next morning and access them only on my computer.

As I get older, I try to avoid social media.

No email or social media on mobile devices.

So, what do I do when I’m not writing or checking email? Sometimes, although not often enough, I play with my children. Other times, I work in the garden, run errands, repair a crumbling farmhouse, ski, or find other ways to avoid writing. Not enough, but still significant, is the time I spend reading, drafting, transcribing, revising, editing, or engaging in other writing-related activities.

Often, I try to walk.

Writing a book is a time-consuming endeavour. It requires years of fieldwork, thousands of pages of notes, and a considerable amount of cutting, polishing, revising, and editing. In my written work, I come across as thoughtful, articulate, and well-written. However, I am not as articulate over email or social media.

The same goes for social media.

If I can write a good sentence for every unwritten post and unliked tweet, I am happy. I do post sometimes, but my posts are mostly about the process rather than my work or current affairs. I have no hot takes or quick analyses.

I am a slow writer.

I spend a lot of time on the computer, but I struggle with email and social media. I want to focus on writing. I often fail.

So, by all means, get in touch. I may reply, and if I do, it’ll be late in the day.

Updated 29 April 2023.