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.
As a cultural and urban anthropologist, Carter's research, teaching, and service are fundamentally concerned with the production of knowledge about the human condition in the twenty-first century. 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's research considers the urban delta in the Atlantic world as a key site for the examination and reduction of social and environmental vulnerability. Her research focuses in particular on the dominant and racist determinations of human value that accompanied conquest, empire building, and exploitation in the Old and New World, considering also their persistence and possible reconfiguration in twenty-first century global citymaking. Three Atlantic port cities serve as primary sites: New Orleans; Nantes, France; and Saint-Louis du Sénégal. Carter examine 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 margins of the urban sphere, understand, creatively navigate, and ultimately produce 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 African American residents in New Orleans who mourn and memorialize the dead, primarily the young Black 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 value. Based on fieldwork within several Christian congregations (from 2007-2009), the project focuses on the anti-violence ministries of a Baptist church in the Central City neighborhood. Findings reveal in particular the inventive forms of religious placemaking and social and spiritual relatedness, performed by black women, who engage more broadly in the humanistic refashioning of an inclusive, just, and non-violent urban society.
Carter's second project builds on her research in New Orleans in two related sites, Nantes (France) and Saint-Louis (Senegal), completing with New Orleans the larger retracing of the trans-Atlantic triangular trade that gives both physical and symbolic structure to her scholarship. Her preliminary research in Senegal examines 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 – perceive and respond to risk. Drawing also on the historic prominence of visual art in the social and political movements of Senegalese youth, future research will 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 will assess, more broadly, the extent to which the views of young peopel factor into recommendations and policies for health and human security.
In France, Carter examines the history of Nantes as the dominant port city in the triangular 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 and slave trade through museum and city tours, visual and performing arts, and other community based programs. Her research considers also the impact of this education in an increasingly multicultural city and nation, 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 2013, 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.