Brenda Chalfin is a professor of anthropology and African studies at the University of Florida. Bringing together anthropology, geography, and political economy to establish new analytic points of entry to understanding political life in contemporary African states, her research addresses the complex functioning of national boundaries and frontiers, the popular production of urban public goods, non-territorial and maritime sovereignty, and the economic foundations of emergent security regimes.
At Radcliffe, Chalfin is completing a book examining the shifting contours of maritime governance in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea brought about by offshore hydrocarbon extraction. Highlighting the experience of Ghana, the work examines how offshore oil shapes governing practices, including the sites, strategies, institutional arrangements, and contentions of rule. Attuned to sub- and supranational processes and the mixing of state and corporate projects, Chalfin hopes to generate a more accurate and analytically up-to-date language to talk about oil politics in Africa.
Chalfin’s publications include Neoliberal Frontiers: An Ethnography of Sovereignty in West Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2010), Shea Butter Republic: State Power, Global Markets, and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity (Routledge, 2004), and journal articles in American Ethnologist, Current Anthropology, and Politique africaine. She has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies and been a recipient of Fulbright, Wenner-Gren, and National Science Foundation grants. Chalfin earned her PhD in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.