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by laram — last modified May 01, 2013 11:51 AM

Meet Townsend Middleton, one of the newest members of the Global Studies curriculum faculty!


The Details

I grew up in Savannah, Georgia, but spent much of my formative years in Charlottesville, VA.  Amid the semi-nomadic life that has followed (through the U.S., South Asia and beyond), I have always felt most at home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I received: a BA from the University of Virginia; a MA from the University of Chicago; and a MA and PHD from Cornell.

Academic Interests

To date, my research has focused on the politics of recognition, belonging, and autonomy in contemporary India. I work in the Himalayan region of Darjeeling, with people striving, yet hitherto denied, their rightful place in the nation-state.  As a political anthropologist, I rely principally on ethnographic techniques to understand the various political movements afoot for rights, recognition, and autonomy.  Yet I also use the archives to develop historical awareness of the colonial and postcolonial conditions within which these movements necessarily take shape.  My interest in these dynamics was born from longstanding engagements with the peoples of the Himalayas more generally. That said, I continue to be intellectually attracted to the political dynamism of Darjeeling and India–both for its history, its people, and its constant challenge to the conventional parameters of anthropology itself.


My pathway to my present interests has taken me through the Himalayas of Nepal and now India. Conceptually, I have covered a good bit of anthropological ground, from religion and ethnicity in my earlier work, to questions of identity, recognition, and ‘tribal’ politics in my current writing, and onward to questions of autonomy, belonging, and political volatility in my future work. Throughout, anthropology’s relationship to the world it studies has remained an ongoing concern. On the one hand, I hope to continue to interrogate anthropological knowledge from within the discipline. On the other, I continue to be fascinated by who is doing what with anthropology beyond the confines of the academy.

Life at UNC

Having been ‘on the move’ for so long, I am thrilled to have landed in such a dynamic and balanced university, where my colleagues are as great as my colleagues.  Having traipsed through forbidden territories like U.V.A and Duke in my previous lives, I am still working on re-tinting the palette of my life to the proper shade of blue. I must admit, this remains an ongoing, but very welcomed project.  For now, I am primarily concerned with getting this newfound gunk off of my shoes…


Beyond being an anthropologist, I try to keep myself busy in a range of other ‘disciplines’—be they yoga, cycling, playing music, or chasing my Bloodhound Percy through the mountains (the latter being more a discipline of non-discipline).