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Department of Anthropology


Courtney Amber Lewis

Title: Associate Professor
Department: Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-9922
Office: Anthropology: Gambrell Hall 411 & Southern Studies: Gambrell Hall 115
Courtney Lewis

Dr. Lewis will not be mentoring any new graduate students for the Academic Year 2022-2023.


Dr. Lewis is an Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina – Columbia. This position is joint between the Department of Anthropology (housed) and the Institute for Southern Studies. In 2012, she earned her PhD at the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. This followed two degrees in economics (B.A. University of Michigan, M.A. Wayne State University). She then was chosen as the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Americas at Wesleyan University–Middletown, CT in the fall of 2012. Dr. Lewis is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.


ANTH 102 – Understanding Other Cultures

SOST 302 – 20th Century Southern Studies

ANTH 317 – American Indian Nations Today

Honors College/ANTH 391 – American Indian Voices: Global Issues, Local Focus

ANTH 703 – Anthropological Inquiry

ANTH 591-001 – Economic Development: From Red Power to Casinos in Indian Country

Research Interests

Economic anthropology, political economy, entrepreneurship and small businesses, food studies, Indigenous rights, Native Nation sovereignty, American Indians, Cherokees.


Dr. Lewis's fields include Indigenous studies, American studies, and food studies. Her research topics include: economic sovereignty, "Indianpreneurship," agriculture  justice, settler-colonialism & ‘post’coloniality, dividends and guaranteed annual income (and universal basic income), tourism, and tribal economic development. Dr. Lewis's first project is in tribal economic development for Native Nations in the United States and, consequently, issues of sovereignty related to—and based upon the necessity of—economic stability. Specifically, her research is focused on small businesses located on the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina. Her fieldwork took place during the height of the Great Recession and reveals that small businesses provide a crucial impact on reservation economies, especially during a time of economic crisis. Subsequent projects focus specifically on Indigenous food and agriculture entrepreneurship.

Representative Publications 



2022. Lewis, C. (In print, expected 2022). Native food sovereignty. In M.C. Ferris (Ed.), Edible North Carolina: A journey across a state of flavor. University of North Carolina Press. 

2019. Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Cherokee Small Business Owners and the Making of Economic Sovereignty. Critical Indigeneity Series. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.


  1. Confronting Cannabis: Legalization on Native Nation Lands and the Impacts of Differential Federal Enforcement. American Indian Quarterly 43(4). Currently at press for proofing
  1. Economic Sovereignty in Volatile Times: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Strategies Supporting Economic Stability. Research in Economic Anthropology 38.
  1. Frybread Wars: Biopolitics and the Consequences of Selective United States Health Care Practices for American Indians. Food, Culture, and Society 21(4).
  • Association for the Study of Food and Society award for best article published in Food, Culture & Society (2018)
  1. Betting on Western North Carolina: Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort's Regional Impacts. Journal of Appalachian Studies 23(1):29-52 (Special Forum on Economic Development in Appalachia: two-year forum on sustainable economic development in Appalachia).
  1. The Case of the Wild Onions: The Impact of Ramps on Cherokee Rights. Southern Cultures 18(2):104-17 (Special Issue: Southern Cultures Food).

Recent Awards 

  • 2019 Southern Anthropological Society's James Mooney Award for Sovereign Entrepreneurs: Cherokee Small Business Owners and the Making of Economic Sovereignty
  • Association for the Study of Food and Society award for best article of 2018 published in Food, Culture & Society
  • McCausland Faculty Fellowship
  • Two Thumbs-Up Teaching Award – Spring 2014

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.