Profile: Sean T. Mitchell

Associate Professor of Anthropology

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

I am a cultural anthropologist. My ethnographically-based work focuses on the politics of inequality, particularly in Brazil. My work also touches on science and technology studies; race and ethnicity; war and violence; governance and citizenship; social movements; and the politics of expertise. 

  • Associated Programs

    Core faculty member, Graduate Program in Peace and Conflict Studies
    Core faculty member, Graduate Program in Global Urban Studies
    Affiliate faculty member, Department of African American and African Studies
    Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights
    International Institute for Peace
  • Courses Taught

    Economic Anthropology

    Graduate Seminar: Ethnographic Methods

    Honors Seminar: Anthropology and Politics

    Anthropology Seminar: Political Anthropology

    Graduate Seminar: Peace, Conflict, Security and Development

    Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

    Peoples and Cultures of Latin America

    Anthropology of Inequality

    Culture and Globalization Anthropology

    Urban Ethnography

  • Education

    Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Chicago, 2008
    B.A. Philosophy, Rutgers University

  • Publications

    2017. Constellations of Inequality: Space, Race, and Utopia in Brazil Forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.
    2010. Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency, co-edited with John D. Kelly, Beatrice Jauregui and Jeremy Walton. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  
    (CHOICE winner: Outstanding Academic Title, 2010)
    Edited Journal Issues
    2017  "Afro-Brazilian Citizenship and the Politics of History," African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal. 10(2). co-edited with Merle L. Bowen and LaShandra Sullivan.
    Articles and Chapters
    Forthcoming. “Empire as Accusation, Denial, and Structure: The Social Life of US Power at Brazil’s Spaceport.” (Forthcoming In Ethnographies of U.S. Empire. John Collins and Carole McGranahan, eds. Durham: Duke University Press).
    Forthcoming. "Naming Brazil’s Previously Poor: 'New Middle Class' as an Economic, Political, and Experiential Category" (co-authored with Charles Klein and Benjamin Junge). Economic Anthropology. 5(1).
    Under revision with Current Anthropology. "The Brazilification of the Savage Slot: Race, Fantasy, Utopia, and Dystopia in Brazil and the United States." (co-authored with Thaddeus Blanchette and Ana Paula da Silva).
    2017.  “Introduction: Afro-Brazilian Citizenship and the Politics of History.” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal. 10(2): 109-113.
    2017. “Whitening and Racial Ambiguity: Racialization and Ethnoracial Citizenship in Contemporary Brazil.” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal 10(2): 114-130.
    2016. “Countdown to an Impasse: Expertise and the Mediation of Inequality at Brazil's Alcântara Launch Center.” Kellogg Institute for International Studies Working Paper Series. 413.
    2015. "American Dreams and Brazilian Racial Democracy: The Making of Race and Class in Brazil and the United States." Focaal—Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. 73: 41–54 (Special Issue: "E.P. Thompson, Anthropology, and Twenty-First Century Capitalism").
    2013. Space, Sovereignty, Inequality: Interpreting the Explosion of Brazil’s VLS RocketJournal of Latin American And Caribbean Anthropology. 18(3): 395–412. (Special Issue: "Technoscience in Las Américas: STS Engagements in Latin American Anthropology").
    2010.  Paranoid Styles of Nationalism after the Cold War: Notes from an Invasion of the Amazon. In Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency, ed. John D. Kelly, Beatrice Jauregui, Sean T. Mitchell, and Jeremy Walton, 89-104. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
    Sections of Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency of which I am a co-author: 

                2010. Introduction: “Culture, Counterinsurgency, Conscience” (co-authored with John D. Kelly, Beatrice Jauregui and Jeremy Walton);  
                2010. Introduction to Section Two: “Ethnographic Experiences of American Power in the Age of the 'War on Terror'” (co-authored with Jeremy Walton);
                2010. Introduction to Section Four: “The U.S. Military and U.S. Anthropology” (co-authored with John D. Kelly).

    Review Essays
    2016. “Perspectives on Violence, Neoliberalism, and Security in 21st Century Megacities.” Review essay of: "The Spectacular Favela: Violence in Modern Brazil," by Erika Robb Larkins and  "The Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism," by Paul Amar, in Theoretical Criminology 20 (4): 507–11. 
    2006.  “New Histories of Afro-Descendant and Indigenous Latin America.”  Review essay of: "Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000," by George Reid Andrews and "Beyond Black and Red: African-Native Relations in Colonial Latin America," edited by Matthew Restall,” in Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. 11.2: 515-18.
    2015. Review of: “Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination." Ann Laura Stoler, Ed., Durham: PB  - Duke University Press , 2013.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 20 (2): 387–89.
    2012. Review of: Wall Street at War: The Secret Struggle for the Global Economy, by Alexandra Ouroussoff,  Cambridge, UK: Polity, in Logos: A journal of modern society and culture. 11.2-3.2010.  
    2010. Review of: "Insurgent Citizenship: Disjunctions of Democracy and Modernity in Brazil," by James Holston, Princeton: Princeton University Press, in e-misférica: Performance and Politics in the Americas. 6.2.
    2009. Review of: "In from the Cold: Latin America's New Encounter with the Cold War," edited by G. Joseph and D. Spenser, in Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. 14.2: 514-516.
    Other Publications
    2014. "The Politics of Violence and Brazil’s World Cup." Anthropoliteia, June 30.
    2014   "Todos morirán." Spanish translation of "The Politics of Violence and Brazil’s World Cup." Revista Anfibia. July. 
    2010. Invited Report for the conference, "Environmental Policy, Social Movements, and Science for the Brazilian Amazon." "Panel 3: Science and Technology as a Basis for a New Development Model for the Amazon." University of Chicago, November 5, 2009.
    2008. [With Alfredo Wagner Berno de Almeida, Patrícia Portela, Cynthia de Carvalho Martins, and Aniceto Cantanhede Filho] Projeto Nova Cartografia Social da Amazônia: Quilombolas Atingidas pela Base Espacial de Alcântara, Maranhão. Manaus: PNCSA-Federal University of Amazonas.
    Selected Lectures, Interviews, and Media Appearances
    Sean Mitchell on 2014 World Cup Media Coverage, Duke University Global Brazil Lab, 2015.
    Megaprojects & the Politics of Inequality in Brazil, Duke University Global Brazil Lab, 2015.
    "Corrigir o passado," Interview with Rede Angola, 12/12/2014
  • Research Initiatives

    Constellations of Inequality

    My forthcoming book, Constellations of Inequality: Space, Race, and Utopia in Brazil., is an ethnographic study of the three-and-a-half-decade-old strife surrounding Brazil’s spaceport. The site stands at the center of competing projects of social and material transformation, each aimed at redressing inequality, though on very different scales, and in very different ways. The spaceport was conceived as part of a project to make Brazil a world technomilitary power. It is today populated by two Brazilian space programs and by differing projects for a space program that might confront global political and economic inequalities. Another project is concerned not with international inequalities, but Brazil’s internal inequalities of class and race. Mobilizing as escaped-slave descendants (quilombolas), villagers (and their allies) aim to resist the expansion of the spaceport and to win the villagers rights of wellbeing and citizenship long denied them. Through this case, Constellations of Inequality analyses Brazil’s changing politics of inequality and advances an ethnographic approach to understanding the relationships between inequality and politics at multiple scales.

    Inequality, Mobility, and Precarity in Contemporary Brazil

    With two colleagues, I am beginning a new collaborative long-term research project which has recently been awarded support from the National Science Foundation.  The research investigates changing class relations in Brazilian cities and how they are impacting political subjectivity and protest.  The project is an examination of political-subjectivity among Brazil’s so-called “new middle class”—the estimated 40 million people who, against the backdrop of economic growth, rising wages, and redistributive social-welfare policies, exited official poverty classifications between 2000 and 2013. In recent years, matters have turned for the worse for much of this population, as Brazil has been beset by economic contraction, welfare-state rollback, and fiercely contentious politics. While this is not the situation my colleagues and I imagined when we conceived this project, Brazil’s current situation of tumult and economic decline for the “new middle class” provides a fascinating site for this study on the relation between political subjectivity and inequality.

    Anthropology and War

    I have also worked on issues of war, violence, and on developing anthropological approaches to global politics. My co-edited volume, Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency (University of Chicago Press, 2010—CHOICE winner, Outstanding Academic Title, 2010), stems from this work.  It contains essays that explore the historical and contemporary relationships between anthropology and war.  As a whole, the volume offers an anthropological analysis of war-making, violence, and power in the post-Cold War world.

  • Awards

    Recent Awards

    2015-2018 National Science Foundation Research Grant: Collaborative Research: Social Mobility, Poverty Reduction, and Democracy in an Emerging Middle Class (with Benjamin Junge and Charles Klein).

    2015-6 Faculty Fellowship from the Rutgers Institute for Research on Women (Seminar on "Poverty").

    2013    Rutgers Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs, International Collaborative Research Grant.

    2012    Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis Faculty Fellowship.

    2012    Rutgers Center for Latin American Studies Fund for Faculty and Student Research Fellowship.

    2010    Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency (CHOICE winner: Outstanding Academic Title, 2010)

  • Files