Faculty Profile

James Ellison

Associate Professor of Anthropology (2005)

Contact Information


Denny Hall Room 307


A broadly trained cultural anthropologist, Ellison researches political and economic transformations and culture in eastern Africa, focusing on colonialism, socialism, and "neoliberalism." His main fieldwork sites are in Tanzania and Ethiopia. He also co-directs a summer field school in Tanzania to teach anthropological research methods.


  • B.A., Michigan State University, 1987
  • M.A., University of Florida, 1990
  • Ph.D., 1999

2017-2018 Academic Year

Fall 2017

FYSM 100 First-Year Seminar
The First-Year Seminar (FYS) introduces students to Dickinson as a "community of inquiry" by developing habits of mind essential to liberal learning. Through the study of a compelling issue or broad topic chosen by their faculty member, students will: - Critically analyze information and ideas - Examine issues from multiple perspectives - Discuss, debate and defend ideas, including one's own views, with clarity and reason - Develop discernment, facility and ethical responsibility in using information, and - Create clear academic writing The small group seminar format of this course promotes discussion and interaction among students and their professor. In addition, the professor serves as students' initial academic advisor. This course does not duplicate in content any other course in the curriculum and may not be used to fulfill any other graduation requirement.

AFST 220 Ethnography of Postcol Africa
Cross-listed with ANTH 230-01. This course is intended as both an introduction to the ethnography of Africa and an examination of postcolonial situations in Africa. We will learn a great deal about the cultural, social, political, and economic diversity of the continent while avoiding the typological thinking that once characterized area studies. Through ethnography we will learn about African cultures, their historical contingencies, and their entanglements in various fields of power. We will assess the changing influences of pre-colonial traditions, colonialism, postcolonial states, and the global economy.

ANTH 230 Ethnography of Postcol Africa
Cross-listed with AFST 220-02.

ANTH 336 Social Distinctions
This course covers anthropological theories of social hierarchy and stratification. Both the material and ideological bases of social distinction are examined. Gender, class, race, ethnicity, kinship, and slavery are some of the specific topics covered in the course. Prerequisite: 101. Offered every fall.

Spring 2018

AFST 220 Health & Healing in Africa
Cross-listed with ANTH 256-01. This course addresses three interrelated aspects of health and healing in Africa. We examine health in Africa from a biomedical perspective, learning about disease, morbidity, mortality, and biomedical care. We place African health and health care into a framework of political economy, examining the causes and consequences of illness and disease and the forces that shape and constrain care. We also examine the cultural and historical dimensions of health and healing in specific regions of the continent, bringing ethnographic knowledge to bear on contemporary health problems and thereby gaining an understanding of the lived experiences of health and healing in Africa.

ANTH 256 Health & Healing in Africa
Cross-listed with AFST 220-01.