Jeffrey Kaufmann

Professor of Anthropology

Research Interests
Dr. Jeffrey Kaufmann is a cultural anthropologist interested in ethnohistory and cultural ecology. His primary research area is Africa, with a focus on Madagascar, but he has begun ethnographic research in Mississippi. Dr. Kaufmann teaches the Human Experience, Cultural Anthropology, World Cultures, and Peoples and Cultures of Africa, as well as advanced undergraduate and graduate level courses in Ethnographic Field Methods, Ethnographic Fieldwork, Ecological Anthropology, Economic Anthropology, and the Seminar in Ethnology. He is also a member of the African Studies Program.

Ethnohistory: Dr. Kaufmann brings an array of materials into his Madagascar ethnohistorical studies. French, American, Mexican, and Malagasy documents, oral histories, and ethnographic testimonies have contributed to his research into human involvement with prickly pear cactus on Madagascar. He is planning to publish this project in a book on “cactus pastoralists.” He is also continuing to research the environmental history of prickly pear in worldwide comparative perspective since Columbus. Finally, his research agenda includes a new ethnohistory project into a fairly recent (1800s) massive migration of Tanosy people to southwest Madagascar following Merina conquest of the Tanosy homeland in the southeast part of the island.

Cultural ecology: Dr. Kaufmann contributes to a growing literature that connects, rather than separates, humans and nature. In his Madagascar research, he discovered that the success of prickly pear was as much a result of human actions, attitudes, and beliefs as it was natural (the soils and climate of the country suited to the cacti species introduced to the island in 1769). He also found that the diverse attitudes toward this plant are as much inscribed on the land itself as cultural and historical. He resists the oft-held notion that human actions are determined by an independent natural or physical environment. His research demonstrates how humans have helped form the landscapes they inhabit.

Mississippi ethnography: Dr. Kaufmann is interested in bringing a landscape approach to understanding how African-American populations in and around Hattiesburg construct their environments. This project began in summer 2003 as part of an “ethnography of a street” project (Mobile Street). He will expand his Mississippi research to an “ethnography of a farm” in the near future.

Dissertation
Cactus Pastoralism on Madagascar: Ecology, Politics, and Events

Publications

2009    “The Sediment of Nomadism,” History in Africa 36: 235–264

2008    Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and Culture. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) [edited book volume]

2008    “The Nonmodern Constitution of Famines in Madagascar’s Spiny Forests: ‘Water-Food’ Plants, Cattle, and Mahafale Landscape Practice,” Environmental Sciences 5(2): 73–89

2008    “Lemurs and the People Without History.” In Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and Culture. Pp. 3–15. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa

2008    “Agency in a Mahafale Pastoralist Landscape.” In Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and Culture. Pp. 197–217. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa

2008    “Absence of Shade: Deforestation in Mahafale Forest-Pastures,” (with S. Tsirahamba). In Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and Culture. Pp. 179–196. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa

2008    “An Experiment in Lessening Cultural Distance,” (with J. Ratsimbazafy). In Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and Culture. Pp. 33–47. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa

2008    “Saving Nature, Changing Cultures: Andrew Watson on Madagascar’s Environmental Action Plan.” In Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and Culture. Pp. 19–32. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa

2006    New Perspectives on Conservation in Madagascar, guest editor, Conservation and Society 4(2): 179–324 [edited journal volume]

2006    “The Sad Opaqueness of the Environmental Crisis in Madagascar,” Conservation and Society 3(2): 179–193

2006    “Forests and Thorns: Conditions of Change Affecting Mahafale Pastoralists of Southwestern Madagascar,” (with S. Tsirahamba) Conservation andSociety 4(2): 231–261

2004    “Prickly Pear Cactus and Pastoralism in Southwestern Madagascar,” Ethnology 43(4): 345–361

2001    Emerging Histories in Madagascar, guest editor, Ethnohistory 48(1/2): 3–322 [edited journal volume]

Courses Taught
ANT 101. Human Experience
ANT 221. Introduction to Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology
ANT 313. Peoples and Cultures of Africa
ANT 416/516. Ethnographic Field Methods
ANT 422/522. Ecological Anthropology
ANT 423/523. Economic Anthropology
ANT 621. Seminar in Ethnology