Kristin Phillips

Senior Lecturer

Office: 305 Anthropology

Phone: 404-727-9551



  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009



  • Development anthropology
  • Political anthropology
  • Agrarian change
  • Knowledge and representation
  • Sub-Saharan Africa

I am a sociocultural anthropologist who studies citizenship, development, and social change in East Africa. I am specifically interested in how people in contemporary African contexts organize politically, engage policy structures, and vie for voice and economic resources amidst other everyday pursuits of livelihood, human connection, and meaning. I have conducted ethnographic and historical research in the drought-prone Singida region of central Tanzania since 2004.

My book An Ethnography of Hunger: Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun, is forthcoming in 2018 with Indiana University Press. The book develops a theory of “subsistence citizenship” a concept that refers to a particular relationship between smallholder farmers and the twenty-first century Tanzanian state, that is both constituted and constrained by the unpredictable project of meeting basic needs. This mode of rural political engagement, I argue, is characterized by seasonality in relation to water and food supply; strategic code-switching and code-mixing between market, patronage, and rights-based forms of claims-making; and ebbs and flows of political attention from the state in relation to election cycles and dearth.

The project was supported by fellowships from Fulbright-Hays DDRA, the Foreign Language and Area Studies program, the Spencer Foundation, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Michigan State University. Other publications based on this research appeared in African Studies Review, Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR), Comparative Education Review, Critical Studies in Education, and several edited volumes.

In a new collaborative research project with environmental anthropologist Erin Dean (New College of Florida), I am exploring the development of renewable energies (solar, wind, and biofuel) in Tanzania. The project traces the actors, institutions, values, and trends that are driving energy policy and investment in Tanzania today, and the way they are shaping new energy landscapes in out-of-the-way places like Singida. It asks: how have rural Tanzanians’ relationship with energy changed over time? How do people conceptualize differences between a range of energy sources—old and new, renewable and non-renewable, those that leave and those that stay? What are the links between cosmological notions of energy and colonial and post-colonial infrastructures? And how have transitions to new energy sources shaped people’s sense of connection, disjuncture, continuity, and/or transformation in their lived worlds?


  • ANT 190 Freshman Seminar: The Politics of Humanitarianism in Africa
  • ANT 207 Foundations in Development Studies
  • ANT 385 Special Topics: Political Culture and Citizenship in Africa
  • ANT 385 Special Topics: Africa and the 'Natural Resource Curse'
  • AFS 263/IDS 285 Introduction to African Studies
  • MDP 506 Research Methods for Development Practice I: Introduction to Qualitative Research
  • MDP 585 Research Methods for Development Practice II: Techniques and Critiques of Participatory Development