Faculty Profile

James Ellison

(he/him/his)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

2023-2024 Academic Year

Fall 2023

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 320 The Future in Ruins
Cross-listed with ANTH 345-01.

ANTH 345 The Future in Ruins
Cross-listed with AFST 320-03.

Spring 2024

ANTH 101 Intro to Cultural Anthropology
This course is a comprehensive introduction to how cultural anthropologists study culture and society in diverse contexts. We will use ethnographic case studies from across the world to examine the ways people experience and transform social relationships and culture in areas including families, gender, ethnicity, health, religion, exchange, science, and even what it means to be a person. We will examine how culture and society are embedded within, shape, and are shaped by forces of economics, politics, and environment. Offered every semester.

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.

ANTH 495 Senior Thesis
Senior anthropology majors who qualify with a cumulative GPA of 3.6 or higher by the end of the junior year can take this course during the spring semester of their senior year. This course involves writing a senior thesis based on original fieldwork or laboratory research and used to determine departmental honors. Prerequisite: ANTH 400.