Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


Donna O. Kerner

Donna O. Kerner

Professor of Anthropology, William Isaac Cole Professor of Anthropology

Ph.D., M. Phil., CUNY
M.A., New York University
B.A., Kirkland College

Main Interests

Development, gender, food studies, cultural transformations of the body, social memory, sub-Saharan Africa, S. Pacific

Research Interests

Micro-enterprise and micro-finance; cooperatives; women and development in Africa and the Pacific

Memory, material culture, social history of literacy and nationalism in East Africa

Teaching Interests

Peoples and Cultures of Africa; Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific; Women in Africa; Feast or Famine: The Ecology and Politics of Food; Political Anthropology; Women and Development; Gender and Social Organization; Core Courses (in rotation) FYS (several versions of "Magical Hair"), Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Research Methods, Seminar in Anthropological Theory, Senior Seminar.
Connections: Food, African Worlds, Global Music, Sexuality.

As a cultural anthropologist I spend a considerable amount of time traveling and conducting research abroad (mainly Tanzania and Fiji).  I have been working in Tanzania since 1982 and consider it a second home.  More recently I have been able to introduce Wheaton students to this wonderful country through the short-term summer course, Anthropology 215 "Tanzania: Education and Development." http://wheatoncollege.edu/anthropology/wheaton-tanzania/

During the 2005-06 academic year I served as Wheaton's Resident Director for JYA programs in Australia and New Zealand. I was based at the University of Wollongong and team taught two courses there, Women and Politics: Production and Reproduction and The Sociology of the Family.

I am a Posse Plus member, having served as the faculty mentor to Wheaton's 8th Posse  (2011).

Other Interests

Reading (modern world fiction, especially African, Asian, Latin American, and Pacific authors); world music, cooking, swimming, modern art, and independent films (especially new wave African cinema).


2002 Review of Creighton and Omari (eds.) GENDER, FAMILY AND WORK IN TANZANIA, in Canadian Journal of African Studies, 16:3:586-588.

1997 Review of Abiodun, Drewal and Pemberton (eds.) THE YORUBA ARTIST. WORD AND IMAGE, 13:1

1995 "Chaptering the Narrative: The Material of Memory in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania," in M.C. Teski and J.C. Climo (eds.) THE LABYRINTH OF MEMORY: ETHNOGRAPHIC JOURNEYS, Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, pp 113-128.

1994 "The Material of Memory on Kilimanjaro: Mregho Sticks and the Exigesis of the Body Politic," PASSAGES 7:3-7.

1992 "Surviving Famine and Providing Food Security in Africa." White Paper of the American Anthropological Association for the Clinton transition team (in collaboration with Bruce Crenshaw [WFP], Steve Hansch [NGO staff member], Art Hansen [Univ of Florida], Lynellyn Long [USAID] and Ellen Messer [Director of the Allan Shawn Feinstein Center for World Hunger, Brown University]

1992 "Enabled or Invisible: The Role of Women in the Cooperative Movement Transition. (with F.A. Macha and M.Msonganzila) TUSHIRIKIANE (Journal of Cooperative Studies) Special Issue/May, pp. 76-96

1991 THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF AFRICAN FAMINE (co-edited with R.E. Downs and S.P. Reyna) Phildelphia: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.

1991 "Gender, Hunger and Crisis in Tanzania' (with Kristy Cook) in THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF AFRICAN FAMINE pp. 257-272

1989 "Gender and Food Shortage in Tanzania" (with Kristy Cook) FEMINIST ISSUES 9:1:57

1988 "Land Scarcity and Rights of Control in the Development of Commercial Farming in Northeast Tanzania," in LAND AND SOCIETY IN CONTEMPORARY AFRICA, R.E. Downs and S.P. Reyna (eds) Hanover: University of New England Press, pp. 159-191.

1988 "'Hard Work and Informal Sector Trade in Tanzania," in TRADERS VS THE STATE, G. Clark (ed) Boulder: Westview Press, pp. 41-56.


1986 "Reading at Home is Like Dancing in Church: A Comparison of Educational Opportunity in Two Tanzanian Regions," WORKING PAPERS ON WOMEN IN INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, #123, Michigan State University

1985 "Education, Production and Social Differentiation in Tanzania: A Comparative Study of Two Regions, PAPERS IN EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: SPECIAL ISSUE: EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH IN TANZANIA, #10, Department of Education, University of Dar es Salaam

1984 "The Political Economy of Secondary School Education in Tanzania : A Regional Analysis," WORKING PAPERS SERIES, Women's Resources and Documentation Project, Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam


Student Projects

All students majoring in Anthropology conduct an independent fieldwork project and write/present a thesis in the fall of their senior year. I have supervised a wide range of these senior thesis projects since joining the Wheaton faculty in 1988. These projects have varied from local studies such as thesis on Norton Town politics to those as far afield as a study of the use of sacred texts in Balinese healing rituals or plural marriage among the Luo of Western Kenya.

In the spring of 2002 Anthropology majors/minors enrolled in the "Seminar in Anthropological Theory" participated in a journal archives project at the invitation of the American Anthropological Association. Students in this course joined undergraduates across the US and Canada in writing summaries of articles appearing in the flagship journal the American Anthropologist. These summaries are then published on the Public Anthropology website (www.publicanthropology.org/Archive).

Students enrolled in "Feast and Famine: The Ecology and Politics of Food" participate in a number of service-learning projects throughout the semester including voluteering and running food drives for the Cupboard of Kindness, Norton Food Pantry, organizing an all campus dinner in honor of Gandhi's birthday in October that explores his life and non-violent political activism; organizing dinner talks on alternative trade and local and organic food movements.