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School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment

Faculty and Staff Directory

Monica Barra

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment and Department of Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803 576-8340
Office: EWS 501

Critical Ecologies Lab

School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment

Department of Anthropology

African American Studies Program

Monica Barra

Monica Barra holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. Dr. Barra is as an assistant professor in the area of Race and Environment at the School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment and Department of Anthropology and is a faculty affiliate in African American Studies. 


My research focuses on the ways racial belonging and difference are shaped by science, technology, and environmental change. My areas of interest include critical race studies, political ecology, and science studies, with a particular focus on North America. Currently, my research examines these topics in the lower Mississippi River Delta (Louisiana, USA), where scientists and communities of color struggle to confront coastal land loss and large-scale environmental restoration in a landscape forged by histories of racism entwined with ambitious riverine engineering projects. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, I utilize ethnographic and other qualitative methods to investigate the ways residents, scientific knowledge and practices, and the coastal landscape encounter and transform one another. Research among these groups has grown into a second project in collaboration with engineers, ecologists, fishermen, and other coastal residents to create environmental models that bring together scientific and traditional environmental knowledge. This work is aimed at democratizing scientific expertise by integrating the knowledge and values of communities most directly exposed to climate change - frontline communities - into cutting-edge scientific research on environmental restoration.

Research areas:

Race and Inequality, Environmental and Urban Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, Environmental Justice, Ethnography of North America, Race and Geography 


Dr. Barra’s research focuses on the ways racial inequalities and geographies are forged in and through scientific knowledge and practices, racial histories, and transformations and uses of physical environments. Her current book project, Losing Louisiana, examines these topics through an ethnography of land loss that considers the complicated ways scientists and residents conceptualize space, water, land and sediment in the context of historic and contemporary race relations. This work is theoretically situated within scholarship on histories of racial formations in the U.S., the political ecologies of the plantation, critical science studies, black geographies, and environmental anthropology. This research has led to collaborations with engineers, ecologists, fishermen, and coastal residents aimed at democratizing scientific expertise on coastal restoration by integrating the knowledge and values of the communities most directly exposed to climate change into environmental restoration science.

In spring 2019 Dr. Barra began work on a second book project that focuses on the intersection of housing, land justice, and climate change for communities of color living in along the U.S. Gulf and southeast coasts. Supported by an Early Faculty Career Grant from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, this ethnography of home and housing examines the ways diverse histories of land tenure and issues around housing justice intersect with ongoing research and planning efforts to make coastal U.S. South resilient to the environmental, cultural, and legal challenges that accompany climate change. 


  • ENVR 540: Decolonizing the Environment (special topics)
  • ANTH 342/ENVR 342: Environmental Anthropology
  • AFAM 348/ENVR 348: Environmental Racism and Justice
  • ANTH 291/SOST 298: Southern Voices (special topics)
  • ENVR 101: Introduction to the Environment
  • ANTH 291: Science and Society (special topics)


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