Alisse Waterston
Presidential Scholar and Professor
Phone number
Room number
9.63.20 NB

PhD CUNY Graduate Center, Anthropology
MA  Columbia University, Anthropology
BA New York University, Psychology


I am at the point in my life when I want to explore fully my creative potential in the interest of publicly engaged anthropology. I am author or editor of seven books--the latest is a graphic novel of art and anthropology with illustrator Charlotte Corden that in its first two years since being published has been used in over 50 classes in North America and Europe. Teaching at this wonderful public university has enabled me to work with wonderful students, many who are engaging in social justice work and are transforming the world in important ways. The accomplishments I'm most pleased with includes building our Department of Anthropology community, and designing and launching new projects, not least the major in Anthropology as well as co-founding News from the 9th Floor, our department’s newsletter that features work by students and faculty.  It also includes building programs at John Jay over the years: working with Abby Stein and Caroline Reitz to establish the Vera Fellows Program, the model for the college, and working in that program with Caroline and Nina Rose Fischer for over a decade. It includes working with Caroline and Sondra Leftoff over a dozen years ago to design and implement the Honors Program and its organizing theme, “The Common Good.” It includes establishing the Rising Star Fellowship and working with and on the JJC Foundation Board to bring new resources—and fellowships—to our students. It includes serving the discipline in multiple capacities such as President, American Anthropological Association (2015-17; VP 2013-15) and chairing the Association’s committee to guide its transition to electronic publishing many years ago.

I’m ready now to explore other aspects of my self and creative potential – dare I say abilities. Inspired by Gina Ulysse’s call for synthesis—let us not be split between the scholar in us and the responsible global citizen—let us not be split between the anthropologist in us and the artist or poetI now long for the time and space to venture into new possibilities in communicating knowledge in accessible ways.

Alisse Waterston is a cultural anthropologist who studies the human consequences of structural and systemic violence and inequality. Her areas of specialty include urban poverty and policy issues in the U.S. related to destitution, homelessness and substance abuse, health, welfare and migration, and applied policy-related research and writing. Her most recent cross-cultural work focuses on the processes and aftermaths of political violence, ethnic and religious conflict, displacement and transnationalism, remembering, diaspora, cultural trauma and identity formation, issues of enormous importance as we struggle in a world marked by the shadows of war and other forms of violence.

Professor Waterston is author of Light in Dark Times: The Human Search for Meaning, a graphic book of art and anthropology published in the ethnoGRAPHIC series of the University of Toronto Press. She is also author of the award winning My Father’s Wars: Migration, Memory and the Violence of a Century an intimate ethnography in the Routledge Series on Innovative Ethnographies. Alisse Waterston served as President of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) 2015-2017.  She is Series Editor of the Intimate Ethnography series of Berghahn Books, the founding editor of Open Anthropologythe public journal of the American Anthropological Association, and she served as editor of North American Dialogue for six years. Her edited volume, Anthropology off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing, with Maria D. Vesperi has proven an important contribution to discussions and debates on "writing culture," the politics of representaton, and how to demonstrate the relevance of the discipline to real-world concerns. 

Professor Waterston was International Scholar of the Open Society Institute affiliated with the Gender Studies Department, Tbilisi State University, Republic of Georgia (2012-2015). She is co-editor with Maia Barkaia of Gender in Georgia: Feminist Perspectives on Culture, Nation and History in the South Caucasus (Berghahn Books: 2017; paperback 2020). In 2018, she received a grant from the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC), co-organized a  symposium on "Gender in Georgia" held at the Georgian National Parliamentary Library in Tbilisi, and received the Doctor Honoris Causa, Honorary Doctorate, from Ilia State University in Tblisi, Georgia (2018). 

In 2020, Professor Waterston was named Fellow, Program in Transnational Processes, Structural Violence, and Inequality, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study where she will take up a three-month residency in spring 2022. 

JJC Affiliations
Vera Fellows Program
Scholarly Work

Light in Dark Times: The Human Search For Meaning 

Gender in Georgia: Feminist Perspectives on Culture, Nation, and History in the South Caucasus, Maia Barkaia, co-editor

My Father’s Wars: Migration, Memory, and the Violence of a Century

An Anthropology of War: Views from the Frontline 

Anthropology off the Shelf: Anthropologists on WritingMaria D. Vesperi, co-editor 

Love, Sorrow and Rage: Destitute Women in a Manhattan Residence

Street Addicts in the Political Economy 


2022. Ways of Seeing Light in Dark Times with Graphic Ethnography: A Reflection. Cultural Anthropology, available online.

2020. Interiors. Anthropology Now. December

2020. Imaging World Solidarities for a Livable Future. Swedish Journal of Anthropology, open access

2019. Intimate Ethnography and the Anthropological Imagination: Dialectical Aspects of the Personal and Political in My Father's Wars. American Ethnoologist, open access.

2018. Four Stories, A Lament, and an AffirmationAmerican Anthropologist.

2020. Matters of Social Justice and Anthropology: Reflections on Collaboration. In Sustaining Anthropology: Collaborations in a Neoliberal Age.  Emma Heffernan, Fiona Murphy and Jonathan Skinner. NY: Routledge.

2017. Review of Drones: Remote Control Warfare. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Volume 23: 855-856.

2017. Contextualizing Gender in Georgia: Nation, Culture, Power and Politics. In Gender in Georgia: Feminist Perspectives on Culture, Nation and History in the South Caucasus. Maia Barkaia and Alisse Waterston, eds. New York: Berghahn Books.

2016. For What It’s Worth. Anthropology News, Volume 57, Issue 12: e38-341.

2016. Getting Proximate on Israel Palestine. Anthropology News, Volume 57, Issue 5-6: 9-10.

2015. Sebastian Junger’s The Last Patrol, a dialogue. Anthropology Now Volume 7, No. 1 (April).

2015. Policing Poverty: An Analysis Revisited in “Anti-Black Racism, Police Violence, and Activism.” Hot Spots-Cultural Anthropology online, forthcoming.

2015. Latinos, Militarism, and Militarization. Co-authored with Luis F.B. Plascencia and Gina M. Pérez. Latino Studies Volume XIII-2, forthcoming.

2015. Toward an Anthropology of Affect and Evocative Ethnography. Co-authored with Ian Skoggard. Anthropology of Consciousness, forthcoming.

2015. This American Tragedy. Dialectical Anthropology.

2014. World on the Move: Migration Stories. Open Anthropology Volume 2, Number 3 (October): 1-14.

2014. The Social Life of Health, Disease, Medicine, and Health Care: Anthropological Views. Open Anthropology Volume 2, Number 1 (March): 1-11.

2014. The AAA Publishing Program, the Digital Revolution, and Anthropology: Challenges and Opportunities in Scholarly Publishing. Teaching Anthropology: SACC Notes Volume 20, Number 1 (Spring): 6-9.

2014. Review of Virtual War and Magical Death: Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing, Neil L. Whitehead and Sverker Finnstrom, eds. Australian Journal of Anthropology. Volume 25, Issue 1 (April): 125-126.

2013. On Violence. Open Anthropology Volume 1, Number 2 (October): 1-9.

2013. Sacred Memory and the Secular World: The Poland Narratives. In War and Peace: Essays on Religion and Violence. Bryan Turner, ed. London: Anthem Press.

2013. Marriage and Other Arrangements. Open Anthropology Volume 1, Number 1 (April): 1-8.

2013. Autoethnography. Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology. R. Jon McGee and Richard L. Warms, eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Honors and Awards

Honorary DoctorateDoctor Honoris Causa, Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, 2018

Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS), 2020-2022

Grantee, American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC) 2018 

Book of the Year Award, International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, 2016

International Scholar, Open Society Institute, Tbilisi State University, 2012-2015

Research Summary

War and violence studies: Intimate Ethnography, 20th Century Transnational Violence; Polish-Christian/Catholic and Polish-Jewish relations; Polish-Christian immigration, northeastern Poland & Greenpoint, NY.

Urban research projects: Mexican Migration to metro NY area; Poverty, Homelessness and Marginalization in NYC; Gender and Poverty; Youth and the Labor Market in Edge Cities.

Media projects: Knowledge, Awareness and Usage of Media and Telecom in urban US; Minority Employment in the Media Industry.

Gender studies: Gender, Poverty and Homelessness; Gender at the Intersection of Ideology, Affect, habitus and Political Economy.