MIT Anthropology Faculty

Christine J. Walley

Christine J. WALLEY

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Room E35-335U · 617-258-7908


Christine Walley is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at MIT. She received a Ph.D. in anthropology from New York University in 1999. Her first book Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park (Princeton University Press, 2004) was based on field research exploring environmental conflict in rural Tanzania. Her current project Exit Zero uses family stories to examine the long-term impact of deindustrialization in the United States. It includes a forthcoming book with University of Chicago Press (2013) as well as a documentary film made with director Chris Boebel. Chris Walley and Chris Boebel are also the co-creators and co-instructors of the documentary film production and theory class DV Lab: Documenting Science Through Video and New Media.


Exit Zero Project

This project has three components, including a forthcoming book with University of Chicago Press (2013) and a forthcoming documentary film made with director Chris Boebel. The book and film use family stories and home movies to explore the long-term impacts of deindustrialization in the former steel mill community of Southeast Chicago and to consider the impact of the loss of industrial jobs on expanding class inequalities in the United States. The third component of this project is an online collaborative documentary mapping project being made in conjunction with the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. More

Selected Publications

2013 Exit Zero: Family and Class in Post-Industrial Chicago. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).
2013 Exit Zero, a documentary film by Chris Boebel and Christine Walley, 2013.
2009 Deindustrializing Chicago: A Daughter’s Story. In: The Insecure American, eds. Hugh Gusterson and Catherine Besteman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).
2004 Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
2003 "Our Ancestors Used to Bury Their 'Development' in the Ground": Modernity and the Meaning of Development in Tanzania’s Mafia Island Marine Park. Anthropological Quarterly 76, no. 1 (2003): 33-54.
2002 "They Scorn Us Because We are Uneducated": Power and Knowledge in a Tanzanian Marine Park. Ethnography 3, no. 3 (2002): 265-298.
1997 Searching for "Voices": Feminism, Anthropology, and the Global Debates over Female Genital Operations. Cultural Anthropology 12, no. 3 (1997): 405-438.
To see a full publication list with links to downloadable PDFs, please click here.


21A.550J / STS.064
DV Lab: Documenting Science Through Video and New Media

Introductory exploration of documentary film theory and production, focusing on documentaries about science, engineering, and related fields. Students engage in digital video production as well as social and media analysis of science documentaries. Readings drawn from social studies of science as well as from documentary film theory. Uses documentary video making as a tool to explore the worlds of science and engineering, as well as a tool for thinking analytically about media itself and the social worlds in which science is embedded. Class includes a lab component devoted to digital video production in addition to class time.

Video work from this class has been presented at special screenings at the MIT Museum as well as in other venues. Several videos have been posted in the DV Lab video collection on TechTV.

Advanced DV Lab: Documenting Science Through Video and New Media

Advanced exploration of documentary film theory and production that offers a social scientific perspective on documentaries about science, engineering, and related fields. Student work focuses on final digital video projects. Discussion and readings tailored to the questions and issues raised by specific student projects; labs focus on the technical skills required to complete more advanced work.

What is Capitalism?

Introduces academic debates on the nature of capitalism, drawing upon the ideas of scholars as diverse as Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Examines anthropological studies of how contemporary capitalism plays out in people's daily lives in a range of geographic and social settings, and implications for how we understand capitalism today. Settings range from Wall Street investment banks to auto assembly plants, from family businesses to consumer shopping malls.

The Stakes of International Development

Offers an anthropological perspective on international development. Students consider development, not in policy or technical terms, but through its social and political dynamics and its impacts on daily life. Examines the various histories of, and meanings given to, international development as well as the social organization of aid agencies and projects. Follows examples of specific projects in various parts of the world. Examples: water projects for pastorialists in Africa, factory development in Southeast Asia, and international nature parks in Indonesia.

Environmental Struggles

Offers an international perspective on the environment. Using environmental conflict to consider the stakes that groups in various parts of the world have in nature, while also exploring how ecological and social dynamics interact and change over time, subject considers such controversial environmental issues as: nuclear contamination in Eastern Europe; genetic bioprospecting in Mexico; toxic run-off in the rural US; the Bhopal accident in India; and the impact of population growth in the Third World.

American Dream: Exploring Class in the United States

Americans have historically preferred to think of the United States in classless terms, as a land of economic opportunity equally open to all. Yet, social class remains a central fault line in the US. Subject explores the experiences and understandings of class among Americans positioned at different points along the US social spectrum. Considers a variety of classic frameworks for analyzing social class and uses memoirs, novels and ethnographies to gain a sense of how class is experienced in daily life and how it intersects with other forms of social difference such as race and gender.

21A.429J / STS.320J
Environmental Conflict and Social Change

Explores the complex interrelationships among humans and natural environments, focusing on non-western parts of the world in addition to Europe and the United States. Use of environmental conflict to draw attention to competing understandings and uses of "nature" as well as the local, national and transnational power relationships in which environmental interactions are embedded. In addition to utilizing a range of theoretical perspectives, subject draws upon a series of ethnographic case studies of environmental conflicts in various parts of the world.


2012 LEF Moving Image Documentary Grant
2009 MIT Alumni Class Funds Award
2004 Jaspar and Marion Whiting Foundation Fellowship

MIT Anthropology
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