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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

Research areas:

  • Environmental Racism and Justice 
  • Critical Anthropologies of North America 
  • Political Ecology/Environmental Anthropology
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Decolonial Geographies: Theory and Methods


Monica Patrice Barra holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. Dr. Barra joined the University of South Carolina in 2018 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 and Department of 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 of coastal environments. Her current book project, Good Sediment, is an ethnography of coastal land loss and restoration that examines ideologies of natural (geologic) processes and environmental restoration as a lens through which to understand the reproduction of racial difference and social inequalities in the context of unprecedented climate change in southeast Louisiana. Drawing on three years of participant observation among coastal scientists and Black coastal communities brought together by Louisiana's "losing a football field per hour" land loss crisis, Good Sediment explores how these groups come to understand, and challenge, notions of protection, restoration, and justice poised upon the unsteady grounds, and uncertain futures, of a subsiding lower Mississippi River Delta. Her 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 along the U.S. Gulf and southeast coasts. Her work has been supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the National Academies of Sciences Gulf Research Program, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University.


  • ANTH 291/SOST 298: Southern Voices (special topics)
  • ANTH 291: Science and Society (special topics)
  • ANTH 342/ENVR 342: Environmental Anthropology
  • AFAM 348/ENVR 348: Environmental Racism and Justice
  • ENVR 490: Environmental Studies Seminar
  • ENVR 540: Decolonizing the Environment
  • ANTH 730: Theory Through Ethnography

Representative Publications

Barra, M.P. 2021. Good sediment: Race and restoration in coastal Louisiana. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(1), pp.266-282.

Barra, M.P., Hemmerling, S.A. and Baustian, M.M., 2020. A Model Controversy: Using Environmental Competency Groups to Inform Coastal Restoration Planning in Louisiana. The Professional Geographer, 72(4), pp.511-520.

Hemmerling, S.A., Barra, M. and Bond, R.H., 2020. Adapting to a smaller coast: restoration, protection, and social justice in coastal Louisiana. Louisiana's Response to Extreme Weather, pp.113-144.

Hemmerling, S.A., Barra, M., Bienn, H.C., Baustian, M.M., Jung, H., Meselhe, E., Wang, Y. and White, E., 2019. Elevating local knowledge through participatory modeling: active community engagement in restoration planning in coastal Louisiana. Journal of Geographical Systems, pp.1-26.

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