Rebecca Louise CarterAssistant Professor of Anthropology and Urban Studies
Rebecca Louise Carter is an assistant professor at Brown University, jointly appointed in the Department of Anthropology and the Urban Studies Program. She received a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Michigan in 2010 and also holds an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, where she concentrated in psychology and art theory and practice. Prior to joining the faculty, Carter completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in anthropology at Brown (ACLS New Faculty Fellow, 2011-2013), and was a lecturer in the department of Anthropology and Sociology at Middle Tennessee State University (2009-2011). Her recently published work appears in The Journal of Southern Religion and in City & Society.
Carter's research, teaching, and service are fundamentally concerned with the production of knowledge about the human condition in the twenty-first century. As a cultural anthropologist and interdisciplinary urban scholar, she examines the conditions of social and environmental vulnerability that impact human dwelling in a globalized and now urbanized world, tracing in particular the creative movements, practices, forms of relatedness, and ways of inclusive being that support human survival, flourishing, and the sustainable development of the world to come.
Carter identifies the urban delta in the Atlantic world as a key site for this work, one that reveals the dominant racist determinations of human value that accompanied conquest, empire building, and exploitation in the Old and New World, while simultaneously highlighting their persistence and possible reconfiguration in twenty-first century global citymaking. Three port cities currently serve as comparative sites: New Orleans (United States); Nantes (France); and Saint-Louis (Senegal). Carter considers the pasts, present realities, and possible futures of these places and their inhabitants, focusing in particular on the ways that residents – particularly youth at the urban margins - understand, creatively navigate, and remake the city and world they envision.
Carter's book manuscript, Prayers for the People: Homicide and Humanity in the Crescent City, is a historical and ethnographic study of the religious work of residents in New Orleans who mourn and memorialize the dead, primarily the young African American men who are most frequently the victims of homicide. Identifying a larger system of social death and erasure, particularly well illuminated in the decade since Hurricane Katrina, the project documents how residents create and deploy distinct practices of kinship and relatedness, which reframe and assert black social and spiritual connectivity and value. With a Baptist church in the Central City neighborhood as a primary site, the manuscript focuses on the anti-violence ministries of clergy and parishioners – from public demonstrations and vigils to more private support groups for mothers who have lost children to violence. It traces, more broadly, their active remaking of an inclusive, peaceful, morally correct, and socially just urban society.
Carter's second project builds on her research in New Orleans in two related sites, Nantes (France) and Saint-Louis (Senegal), completing the larger retracing of the trans-Atlantic triangular trade that gives both physical and symbolic structure to her scholarship. Her preliminary research in Senegal examined the impact of climate change and sea level rise on the West African coast, focusing in particular on inundation, erosion, and the ways in which poor residents – children and youth in particular – perceived and responded to risk. Drawing also on the historic prominence of visual art in the social and political movements of Senegalese youth, continued research would involve working with participants to generate drawings and paintings as an important method for understanding how urban lives are both imaged and imagined. The project would also link with several UN-sponsored international children’s art competitions to comparatively examine how young people visualize their urban futures, assessing the extent to which their views factor into recommendations and policies for health and human security.
In preliminary research in France, Carter examined the history of Nantes as the dominant port city in the African slave trade from the mid-l7th to the mid-l9th century, juxtaposed against its current identity as a "human rights city," particularly in the period since the passage of the Taubira Law (2001), which recognizes the slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity and mandates scholarly, educational, and memorial sites and actions. Carter's research focuses on the education of young Nantais, following their introduction to the history of the city through museum and city tours, visual and performing arts, and other community based programs. Future research would continue this collaboration, giving additional attention to the impact of these experiences in an increasingly multicultural and immigrant city, where concerns about integration and security have reached critical intensity.
Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Humanities/Social Sciences, Brown University, 2016
Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, 2016-2017
Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award, Brown University, 2015
Dr. Carter teaches courses in social and cultural anthropology, urban anthropology and the built environment, disasters and social-environmental sustainability, ethnographic research methods, and the anthropology of the United States and the circum-Atlantic world.
ANTH 1236 - Urban Life: Anthropology in and of the City. Fall 2015.
ANTH 1255 - Anthropology of Disasters. Spring 2015.
URBN 0230 - Urban Life in Providence: An Introduction. Fall 2014, Fall 2015.
URBN 1240 - In Search of the Global Black Metropolis. Spring 2015.
URBN 1870S - The City, the River, and the Sea: Social and Environmental Change at the Water's Edge. Spring 2014.