College of Arts and Sciences

Elizabeth Dunn

Associate Professor, Department of Geography

Office: SB 104
TEL: (812) 856-2847


Ph.D., 1998, Johns Hopkins University


My work focuses on the effects of large bureaucratic systems during periods of cataclysmic social change. Looking at industrialized humanitarianism, business management, and the government regulation of agriculture, I ask how people both use, modify and circumvent rationalized managerial systems as they rebuild their lives after disaster or large-scale social transformation.

My current project focuses on humanitarianism and displacement. Using a theoretical lens derived from Alain Badiou and Jean-Paul Sartre, I look at the effects of international aid among internally displaced people (IDPs), victims of ethnic cleansing who have been forced to become refugees in their own countries. Between 2009-2012, I conducted 16 months of fieldwork in IDP settlements in the Republic of Georgia, where nearly 30,000 people were ethnically cleansed during a 2008 war with Russia. A forthcoming book, Unsettled: Humanitarianism and Displacement in the Republic of Georgia, has emerged from this work, as well as articles in Humanity, Slavic Review, American Ethnologist, and Antipode. I have also conducted research among the family and friends of the Boston Marathon Bombers, who were part of a community of Chechens displaced to Kyrgyzstan. Articles from that project are forthcoming in Ab Imperio and American Ethnologist.

In the past, I have looked at another cataclysmic change: the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. My first book, Privatizing Poland, looked at what happened when a multinational corporation took over one of the first Communist-run factories to be privatized after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Using a Foucauldian approach, I looked at how neoliberal management practices sought to remake workers as individuals of varying qualities--and how workers resisted being deemed as nothing more than low-value labor. I have also looked at the ways that standards and regulations in the food industry label entire countries as low-value, contaminated or disease-producing, and how those standards are used as non-tariff trade barriers to keep farmers from reaching European and American markets.


  • G110: Introduction to Human Geography


  • Dunn, Elizabeth, and Michael Bobick. 2014. "The Empire Strikes Back: War Without War and Occupation Without Occupation in the Russian Sphere of Influence." American Ethnologist 41(3):405-413. (in Romanian translation, Platzforma, 2014)
  • Dunn, Elizabeth Cullen. 2014. "Notes Towards an Anthropology of Nothing: Humanitarianism and the Void in the Republic of Georgia” Slavic Review 73(2).
  • Dunn, Elizabeth Cullen, and Jason Cons. 2014. “Aleatory Sovereignty and the Rule of Sensitive Spaces.” Antipode 46(1):92-109.
  • Dunn, Elizabeth Cullen. 2012. "The Chaos of Humanitarianism: Adhocracy in the Republic of Georgia" Humanity 3(1):1-23.
  • Dunn, Elizabeth Cullen. 2008. “Postsocialist Spores: Disease, Bodies and the State in the Republic of Georgia.” American Ethnologist 35 (2): 243-258. (in Polish translation in Renata E Hryciuk, Joanna Mroczkowska (eds)., Jedzenie:Perspektywa Antropologiczna. Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego. 2012).
  • Dunn, Elizabeth. 2004. Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. (In Polish translation, Prywatyzujac Polske, 2008, Warsaw: Krytyka Polityczna). Winner of the 2004 Orbis Prize and the Ed A. Hewett Book Prize.