Profile: Genese Sodikoff

Chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology; and Associate Professor of Anthropology

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Global Urban Studies/Urban Systems Ph.D.

I am a cultural anthropologist interested in the political economy of biodiversity loss, conservation, and restoration. I have about twenty years’ experience conducting ethnographic and historical research on labor and rain forest conservation in Madagascar.  I have also been drawn to the problem of extinction (biotic and cultural), tracing how extinction events play out in popular and political culture, and how they shape perceptions of time and being.

My book, Forest and Labor in Madagascar: From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere (Indiana University Press, 2012), is an anthropological-historical account of the role of subaltern labor in forest conservation and ecotourism efforts.  It examines the role of low-wage workers in the creation of value for rare species in Madagascar over the past century.  My edited volume, The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death (Indiana University Press 2012), places the processes of biotic and cultural extinction events into a common analytic framework and presents case studies about extinction from the angles of different anthropological subfields. 

I am now developing a project on multispecies epidemiology concerning the problem of disease spillover from animal species to humans in a strip-mined region of Madagascar that contains a biodiversity offset, a protected forest, established by a big nickel and cobalt mining operation.  This project will examine the social context of emergent and re-emergent zoonoses in settlements around Madagascar’s forest fragments, which are increasingly overcrowded with endangered species populations.  Questions revolve around the human-animal relations contributing to disease communicability, and the social, ecological, and epidemiological dynamics of biodiversity offsetting. 

My courses include the Politics of Extinction; Humans, Animals and Society; Environmental Anthropology; Peoples and Cultures of Africa; Medical Anthropology; and graduate courses in Environmental Conflict and Contemporary Social Theory.

  • Associated Programs

    Department of Anthropology, Rutgers New Brunswick
    Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights
    International Institute for Peace
    Division of Global Affairs

  • Courses Taught

    Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
    Peoples and Cultures of Africa
    Transcontinental Blackness: Africa, America, and the Construction of Diaspora
    Environmental Anthropology
    Anthropology of Development
    Humans, Animals, and Society
    Medical Anthropology
    The Politics of Extinction

    Global Environmental Issues
    Environmental Conflict
    Contemporary Social Theory

  • Education

    Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Michigan, 2005
    M.A. Anthropology, University of Michigan, 2000
    M.A. Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, 1998
    M.A. International Development and Social Change, Clark University, 1996
    B.A. English and Cultural Anthropology, University of California at Santa Barbara, 1989

  • Publications



    2016   “ Zoonotic Tales: Living with Roaches.” 3 Quarks Daily. May 23.

    2016  “American Rabies.” 3 Quarks Daily. July 18.

    2016 “The Plague of Inequality.” Anthropology News, July, 2016.

    2016“Zoonosis.” In “Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen: Theorizing the Contemporary,” Cultural Anthropology,  April 6, 2016.

    2015       “Spillover Anthropology: Multispecies Ethnography and Epidemiology.” EnviroSociety Blog, Environment and Society. August 5, 2015.


    2012   Forest and Labor in Madagascar: From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere. Indiana University Press. (Monograph)

    2012  The Anthropology of Extinction:  Essays on Culture and Species Death. Indiana University Press. (Edited Volume)


    2013 “Neoliberal Conservation and Worker-Peasant Autonomism in Madagascar.” In Autonomism, Syndicalism and Radical Workers’ Movements in the 21st Century: New Responses to Capital’s Offensive, edited by Immanuel Ness.  Oakland, CA: PM Press.  Forthcoming.

    2013  “The Time of Living Dead Species: Extinction Debt and Futurity in Madagascar.” In Debt: Ethics, the Environment, and the Economy, edited by Peter Y. Paik and Merry Wiesner-Hanks.  Pp. 140-163. 21st Century Studies Series. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

    2012  “Accumulating Absence: Cultural Productions of the Sixth Extinction.” In The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death, edited by Genese Marie Sodikoff. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

    2012 “Totem and Taboo Reconsidered: Endangered Species and Moral Practice Madagascar.” In The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death, edited by Genese Marie Sodikoff.  Pp. 67-87. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

    2009  “The Low-Wage Conservationist:  Biodiversity and Perversities of Value in Madagascar.”  American Anthropologist 111(4): 443-455. 

    2008  “Forest Conservation and Low-Wage Labour.”  In Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and Culture, edited by Jeffrey C. Kaufmann.  Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa.

    2007 “An Exceptional Strike: A Micro-History of ‘People versus Park’ in Madagascar.” Journal of Political Ecology 14: 10-33.

    2005 “Forced and Forest Labor Regimes in Colonial Madagascar, 1926-1936." Ethnohistory, 52(2):  407-435.

    2004 “Land and Languor:  Ethical Imaginations of Work and Forest in Northeast Madagascar.” History and Anthropology 15(4): 367-398.

    2003 “The Case of the Lace Leaf:  Nineteenth Century Naturalism and the Containment of Malagasy Species.”  Michigan Discussions in Anthropology 14: 167-192.

    2001 (with Barbara Thomas-Slayter).  “African Women and Sustainable Development:  Institutional Trends in Natural Resource Management Projects.”  Development in Practice 11(1): 45-61.

  • Research Initiatives

    I am currently working on an ethnographic study of the bubonic plague and rabies in Moramanga, Madagascar.  This is a piece of a broader study of zoonosis and land degradation in Madagascar informed by epidemiology and multispecies ethnography. Moramanga is adjacent to a large industrial mine, Ambatovy, and its biodiversity offset, a protected area that shelters a variety of endangered species.  I hypothesize that climate change and deforestation, alongside the conservation of wildlife species populations within shrinking forest fragments, are intensifying the problem of zoonosis in surrounding settlements.

    In the area of Newark, I will collaborate with earth and environmental scientists at Rutgers-Newark on a study of climate change, risk perception, and economic and environmental damages in communities of the Meadowlands. Risks include flooding and spillover of toxins, income and job loss, and health problems. 

    With a group of interdisciplinary scholars from Canada, Australia, and the US, I am participating in a comparative study of “Indigenous Visions of Global Extinction,” focusing on Madagascar (project led by Dr. Audra Mitchell, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Canada).