Elizabeth Cullen Dunn

Elizabeth Cullen Dunn

Professor, Geography


  • Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1998


Elizabeth Cullen Dunn’s work focuses on forced migration. For more than a decade, she has worked with refugees and internally displaced people. In her latest book, No Path Home: Humanitarian Camps and the Grief of Displacement, looks critically at the refugee camp as a space of both bureaucratic regulation and existential crisis. Using an ontological approach, she shows that displaced people become stuck in camps not only because of war, but because of the logic of humanitarianism, which traps people in states of uncertainty, extreme pressure, and eventually abandonment. No Path Home is based on more than 16 months of ethnographic work in the Republic of Georgia, where Dunn lived and worked in a camp for victims of ethnic cleansing.

Dunn also works in food studies. From 2001-2008, her work focused particularly on global food safety regulations, and the new spaces they created. Working in Colorado’s beef industry, Poland’s pork industry and fruit and vegetable processing in the Republic of Georgia, Dunn investigated how regulations put forth by USDA, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the European Union turned places from kill floors and lairages to the back end of a cow into new sites of scientific investigation and bureaucratic regulation. Her new work returns to her roots in labor studies, and looks at the ways American meatpacking has become dependent on refugee labor.

Most of Dunn’s work has been done in the former Eastern Bloc. Her early work, which culminated in Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business and the Remaking of Labor, focused on the transition from socialism in former Warsaw Pact states. Beginning in 2001, she focused on the former USSR, particularly on the non-Russian republics. In addition to her work in Georgia, she has also conducted research on displaced Chechens in Kyrgyzstan.

Her scholarly work has been published in Antipode, Cultural Anthropology, American Ethnologist, and Slavic Review. She also writes for wide-circulation media, including Slate, and Boston Review.


  • G110: Introduction to Human Geography
  • G385: Food, Place and War
  • G428: Geography of Europe
  • G469: Food and Global Poverty


  • 2018, No Path Home: Humanitarian Camps and the Grief of Displacement. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • 2016, Dunn, Elizabeth Cullen. "Refugee Protection and Resettlement Problems." Science, 352(6287): 772-773.
  • 2015, Cowley, Austin, Elizabeth Cullen Dunn and Caitlin Ryan. "The Law, The Mafia, and the Production of Sovereignties in the Kyrgyz Penal System" Ab Imperio 2015(2):183-208.
  • 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.

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