Catherine Bolten

Professor of Anthropology and Peace Studies

Catherine Bolten

100 Hesburgh Center for International Studies
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Phone: (574) 631-5099
Fax: (574) 631-6973

Areas of Expertise: Development anthropology; youth; structural violence; poverty, education; food security; Ebola; multi-species; climate change

Dr. Bolten has been working in Sierra Leone since 2003. Her initial focus was on issues of memory, poverty, morality, and post-war development. Bolen's first book I Did It to Save My Life: Love and Survival in Sierra Leone (2012) is part of the University of California Press Series in Public Anthropology. Her second book, Serious Youth in Sierra Leone: An Ethnography of Performance and Global Connection, was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. The book focuses 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. This bid to be taken “seriously” is misinterpreted by adults who feel threatened by young people’s facility with technology and the trappings of globalization, causing intergenerational friction.

Since 2014 Bolten has been involved in the Tonkolili Chimpanzee Project in central Sierra Leone, where she has been investigating the nexus between food insecurity, population growth and family dynamics, wildlife competition, land degradation, and climate change. The first outputs from that project have been published in the edited volume Living With Animals, and in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology, African Studies Review, and Economic Anthropology. Her third book project, titled Unknowing the World: Humans, Chimpanzees, and Climate Change in Sierra Leone is currently being supported by writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Studies.

Bolten was a member of the international Ebola Anthropology Emergency Task Force, and co-edited a special issue on Ebola for Anthropological Quarterly in 2017. She has 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, Anthropological Quarterly, and The Journal of Human Rights, among many others.

Recent Work

Journal Article: Cat Bolten and Richard Marcantonio. 2019. "Farmers Facing Climate Change in Southern Zambia 61," Journal of Transdisciplinary Peace Praxis, Vol. 1, No. 1: 61-84 

Journal Article: Bolten, C., & Marcantonio, R. (2021). The Paradox of Planning: Agriculture, Schooling, and the Unresolvable Uncertainty of Ideal Family Size in Rural Sierra LeoneAfrican Studies Review, 1-22. 

Journal Article: Bolten, C.E. and Marcantonio, R.“. (2022), Usurious strangers and “a better tomorrow”: Agricultural loans, education, and the “poverty trap” in rural Sierra Leone. Economic Anthropology

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Curriculum Vitae