Kristin Phillips

Senior Lecturer

Office: 218D Anthropology. Office hours Monday 1:00 - 2:00pm.

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 first book, An Ethnography of Hunger: Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun, was published with Indiana University Press (2018) in its new Mellon Foundation-supported series, “Framing the Global.” In it, I ask how generations of food insecurity have shaped political participation in rural central Tanzania. I argue that a particular mode of rural political engagement frames the relationship between smallholder farmers and the twenty-first century Tanzanian state, and it is both constituted and constrained by the unpredictable project of meeting basic needs. This mode of political engagement is characterized by seasonality in relation to water and food supply; ebbs and flows of political attention from the state in relation to election cycles and dearth; and strategic code-switching and code-mixing between market, patronage, and rights-based forms of claims-making. The book contributes a theorization of this “subsistence citizenship” to the African studies literatures on politics, rural livelihoods, and development as well as to the anthropologies of human rights, citizenship, and agrarian change.

Research for An Ethnography of Hunger was supported by extramural fellowships from the Fulbright-Hays DDRA, the Foreign Language and Area Studies program, the Spencer Foundation, a two year-residential fellowship at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American & African Studies at the University of Virginia, as well as internal funding grants from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Virginia, Michigan State University, and Emory University. Other publications based on this study have appeared in African Studies Review, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Comparative Education Review, Critical Studies in Education, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and several edited volumes.

I am now working on a new project with environmental anthropologist Erin Dean titled “Anthropological Perspectives on Renewable Energy Infrastructures,” for which we have been awarded a National Science Foundation Senior Research Award, Cultural Anthropology Program (2019-2022). In it, we are exploring how the emerging infrastructure of renewable energy in Tanzania is shaping gendered, geographic, and sociopolitical relations in everyday life.

The project is grounded in case studies of three distinct sites: semi-arid and food-poor Singida Region, the eco-conservation and tourist hub of peri-urban Arusha, and the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar. Through engaging the conceptual frames of energy poverty, energy justice, and gender inequality in data collection and analysis, the project theorizes the distribution of energy access, costs, and benefits across individuals and groups. Through focusing on intimate, domestic, and everyday expressions of energy production and consumption, it contributes a uniquely gendered, emplaced, and historical perspective to the anthropologies of energy, infrastructure, and politics in sub-Saharan Africa. 



  • 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