Catherine Bolten earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan in 2008. She has been working in Sierra Leone since 2003, focusing first on issues of memory, poverty, morality, and post-war development. Her book I Did It to Save My Life: Love and Survival in Sierra Leone, was published in 2012 as part of the University of California Press Series in Public Anthropology. She is currently writing a book based on field research conducted between 2006 and 2012 tentatively titled The System is Not Fragile: Youth and Social Politics in Urban Sierra Leone. The focus of the book is on the material practices of youth who, instead of wanting to overthrow or change a patronage system widely credited with causing the war, instead yearn to belong to it. Her current field research project investigates bushmeat consumption as a lens through which to understand poverty, development, and the sustainability of rural livelihoods in a country suffering international land grabs and the Ebola crisis.
Bolten has previously consulted for the United Nations World Food Programme and Physicians for Social Responsibility, and has conducted extensive fieldwork on ethnobotany, eco-tourism, and development in Botswana. Her articles appear in American Anthropologist, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Ethnologie Française, African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review, The Journal of Modern African Studies, and The Journal of Political Ecology.