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School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment

Faculty and Staff Directory

Jessica Barnes

Title: Associate Professor
Peter and Bonnie McCausland Fellow of Geography
Department: Geography; Earth Ocean and Environment
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-9945
Office: Callcott, Room 221
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
Lab Webpage - Critical Ecologies Lab 
Department of Geography
Jessica Barnes


Dr. Barnes received her Ph.D. in sustainable development from Columbia University in 2010 and held a postdoctoral fellowship with the Yale Climate & Energy Institute and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies from 2011 to 2013. She joined the University of South Carolina in 2013 as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography with a joint appointment in the School of Earth, Ocean and Environment.


Dr. Barnes's research examines the culture and politics of resource use and environmental change in the Middle East. Her first book, Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt (Duke University Press, 2014) is an ethnographic study of water and the politics surrounding its use. In subsequent work, she has explored the intersections of climate change, water, and agriculture, focusing in particular on how scientific understandings of climate change and its impact on the water resources of the Nile Basin are produced, interpreted, and negotiated in different knowledge communities. Related to this research interest, Dr. Barnes has co-edited a collection of anthropological essays on climate change with Michael Dove, entitled Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change (Yale University Press, 2015). Dr. Barnes is currently working on a book titled, Secure States: Wheat, Bread, and the Politics of Sufficiency in Egypt, which examines the longstanding and widespread identification of food security in Egypt with self-sufficiency in wheat and bread. Drawing on ethnographic and archival work, the book approaches food security as a matter not just of national agricultural policy and the international grain trade, but culturally-embedded practices through which wheat is produced and bread is baked and consumed. Work on this book has been supported by an ACLS Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and Howard Fellowship from the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation.


  • GEOG 347: Water as a Resource
  • GEOG/ANTH 569: Environment and Development
  • GEOG 730: Seminar in Environmental Geography
  • ENVR 201: Environmental Science and Policy
  • ENVR 501: Global Food Politics (special topics)
  • SCHC337: Food and Politics


Farmer, T. and Barnes, J. 2018 Environment and Society in the Middle East and North Africa: Introduction. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 50(3): 375-382.

Barnes, J. 2017. The Future of the Nile: Climate Change, Land Use, Infrastructure Management, and Treaty Negotiations in a Transboundary River. WIREs Climate Change. 8: e449. doi: 10.1002/wcc.449.

Barnes, J. 2017. States of Maintenance: Power, Politics, and Egypt’s Irrigation Infrastructure. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 35(1): 146-164.

Barnes, J. 2016. Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: The Social Worlds of Wheat. Environment and Society: Advances in Research, 7: 89-106.

Barnes, J. 2016. Uncertainty in the Signal: Modeling Egypt's Water Futures. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 22(S1): 46-66.

Barnes, J. and M. Dove (eds) 2015. Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Barnes, J. 2015. Scale and Agency: Climate Change and the Future of Egypt's Water. In Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change. Jessica Barnes and Michael Dove (eds). New Haven: Yale University Press, 127-145.

Barnes, J. 2014. Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt. Durham: Duke University Press.

Barnes, J. 2014. Mixing Waters: The Reuse of Agricultural Drainage Water in Egypt. Geoforum, 57: 181-191

Barnes, J. 2014. Water, Water Everywhere but Not a Drop to Drink: The False Promise of Virtual Water. Critique of Anthropology, 33(4): 369-387.

Barnes, J., M. Dove, M. Lahsen, A. Mathews, P. McElwee, R. McIntosh, F. Moore, J. O’Reilly, B. Orlove, R. Puri, H. Weiss, and K. Yager. 2013. Anthropology’s Contribution to the Study of Climate Change. Nature Climate Change, 3:541-544.

Barnes, J. 2013. Who is a Water User? The Politics of Gender in Egypt’s Water User Associations. In Contemporary Water Governance in the Global South: Scarcity, Marketization, and Participation. Leila Harris, Jacqueline Goldin, and Christopher Sneddon (eds). London: Routledge, 185-198.

Barnes, J. 2012. Pumping Possibility: Agricultural Expansion through Desert Reclamation in Egypt. Social Studies of Science,42(4): 517-538.

Barnes, J., and S. Alatout 2012. Water Worlds: Introduction to the Special Issue of Social Studies of Science. Social Studies of Science, 42(4): 483-488.

Barnes, J. 2012. Expanding the Nile’s Watershed: The Science and Politics of Land Reclamation in Egypt. In Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East. Alan Mikhail (ed). New York: Oxford University Press, 251-272.

Barnes, J. 2009. Managing the Waters of Ba'th Country: The Power and Politics of Syria’s Water Scarcity. Geopolitics, 14(3): 510-530.

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