Alisse  Waterston Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Alisse Waterston

City University of New York, John Jay College

I write about the causes and consequences of marginalization, displacement and structural violence. My Father’s Wars brought me home with my scholarship: my own father fit the category of the displaced and dispossessed. The book is a fascinating chronicle situated in larger history. It is for readers interested in a good story that also informs; it explores the human costs of violence and inequality. I am a New Yorker who teaches at CUNY and President of the American Anthropological Associatio


I am a cultural anthropologist who studies the human consequences of structural and systemic violence and inequality, and am Professor, Department of Anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

"Love, Sorrow and Rage: Destitute Women in a Manhattan Residence" is the title of my book on women and homelessness in New York City. My other work on urban poverty is titled "Street Addicts in the Political Economy." I have two edited volumes: "An Anthropology of War: Views from the Frontline," and "Anthropology off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing" (co-edited with Maria D. Vesperi). All of these works reflect my interest in bringing anthropology into the public conversation on critical issues of our times.

This interest extends to my role as founding editor of "Open Anthropology," a bold new experiment in scholarly publishing unveiled by the American Anthropological Association (AAA).  

I am also an International Scholar of the Open Society Institute affiliated with Tbilisi State University in Gender Studies. Currently President-elect of the American Anthropological Association, I will serve as its President in 2016-2017.


Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Socio-cultural, political-economic and psychological aspects of displacement, diasporas, structural and political violence, and war
    Memory and memorialization
    Anthropology of affect
    Eastern Europe/Poland; Republic of Georgia; US.
    Urban anthropology: poverty and policy issues related to destitution, homelessness and substance abuse, health, welfare and criminal justice; human consequences of structural, political and systemic violence and inequality at the intersection of gender, race, ethnicity and class
    Practicing, public and engaged anthropology
    Writing anthropology
    Scholarly publishing (digital transition in)

Personal Interests

    I enjoy travel, drawing and painting, playing piano, reading and spending time with my family


Featured Title
 Featured Title - My Father's Wars - 1st Edition book cover


Anthropological Quarterly

The Story of My Story: An Anthropology of Violence, Dispossession and Diaspora

Published: Jan 01, 2015 by Anthropological Quarterly
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: History, Sociology, Military & Security Studies, Anthropology - Soc Sci, Area Studies

This is a story of an old man whose travels through the 20th century were marked by sorrow, humor, tragedy, and transformation. In the strands of this tale, we see processes of structural violence and social suffering. Memory, interpretation and narrative can take us towards destruction, ethnocentrism, the worst of nationalism and war, or towards understanding, empathy, justice.

Open Anthropology

World on the Move: Migration Stories

Published: Oct 01, 2014 by Open Anthropology
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: Geography , History, Sociology & Social Policy, Anthropology - Soc Sci, Archaeology

World on the Move suggests change, a process of transformation. In its speediness, the pace of change today is almost incomprehensible. It is also about activity—the movement and circulation of people, ideas, languages, and things, including food, cloth, oil, wood, weapons, money, and these days, investment capital. Sometimes and in some places, the movement is free flowing, crossing borders; in other times and places, movement is held up or stopped altogether...

SACC Notes: Teaching Anthropology

The AAA Publishing Program, the Digital Revolution, and Anthropology

Published: Mar 01, 2014 by SACC Notes: Teaching Anthropology
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: Anthropology - Soc Sci, Archaeology

The AAA publishing program operates in context of an ever changing technological and market environment involving shrinking library budgets, the expansion in the number of new journal titles, new technology, and new reader expectations, including open-access. I review challenges and opportunities for the AAA publishing program in context of the discipline as a whole and describe some specific steps taken by the association that have implications for anthropology’s future.

Open Anthropology

The Social Life of Health, Disease, Medicine, and Health Care: Anthropological V

Published: Mar 01, 2014 by Open Anthropology
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: Health and Social Care, Anthropology - Soc Sci

On March 23, 2010, US President Barack Obama signed into law The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The brouhaha around health care reform had been brewing for years, and wouldn’t end the day the President signed PPACA. Some might argue the real battle had begun that day. Others would recall two decades earlier when oppositional forces converged to defeat the 1993-1994 Health Security Act. Indeed, efforts at national healthcare reform went back even further, by at least seventy years.

Open Anthropology

On Violence

Published: Oct 01, 2013 by Open Anthropology
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: History, Sociology & Social Policy, Military & Security Studies, Anthropology - Soc Sci, Archaeology, Area Studies

News headlines unveil the surface but do not answer important questions about the large territory that is violence. The surface lends itself to easy explanations that I suspect nobody really finds all that convincing or relevant. Most anthropologists avoid such totalizing statements that tend to end discussion and erase history and context. Instead, they approach the subject systematically, building and arranging the knowledge they have acquired…

Open Anthropology

Marriage and Other Arrangements

Published: Apr 01, 2013 by Open Anthropology
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: History, Sociology, Sociology & Social Policy, Anthropology - Soc Sci, Archaeology

In spring of 2013, marriage was brought to the United States Supreme Court in two important cases with implications for the right of same-sex couples to marry. The justices may have found the anthropological record useful and relevant to their deliberations: across time and place there is enormous diversity in this thing we call marriage, an arrangement that always stands in relationship to other social, political and economic conditions...

North American Dialogue

Exoticizing the Other and the Author: Gang Leader for a Day

Published: Apr 01, 2012 by North American Dialogue
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: Sociology, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Sociology & Social Policy, Anthropology - Soc Sci

Those of us who study and write about urban poverty and poor people have a major dilemma: how do we write engaging narrative combined with critical poverty theory together in one book?

Social Analysis

On War and Accountability

Published: Oct 01, 2008 by Social Analysis
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: Sociology, Sociology & Social Policy, Middle East Studies, Military & Security Studies, Anthropology - Soc Sci, Area Studies

This article centers on discussions around 'accountability' as it pertains to war: accounts of war, accounting for war, what war accounts for, and accountability, including anthropological accountability. It reviews explanations for the causes, patterns, and practices of war, and for the occurrences of specific wars. It discusses impunity as systemic and strategic and considers the responsibility of anthropology and anthropologists in facing up to the most significant crises of our times.

Transforming Anthropology

Are Latinos Becoming "White" Folk? And What That Still Says about Race in Americ

Published: Jan 01, 2008 by Transforming Anthropology
Authors: Alisse Waterston
Subjects: History, Media and Cultural Studies, Sociology, Sociology & Social Policy, Anthropology - Soc Sci

I use Karen Brodkin's How Jews Became White Folks as an analytic compass to consider the question: Are U.S. Latinos becoming "White"? The purpose of this paper is to meet the question head-on and to help unravel some of the complexity and contradictory issues related to the changing status of a historically marginalized and heterogeneous ethnic group within a society that operates in a Black/White racial binary.

American Anthropologist

Reflections on Teaching Social Violence in an Age of Genocide and a Time of War

Published: Sep 01, 2007 by American Anthropologist
Authors: Alisse Waterston and Antigona Kukaj
Subjects: Education, Sociology, Military & Security Studies, Anthropology - Soc Sci

This article is a reflection by a teacher and a student on "structural-violence pedagogy," the process of teaching and learning about the structures of inequality implicated in various forms of social violence, including those of everyday life, massacre, and genocide.

American Ethnologist

Out of the shadows of history and memory

Published: Aug 01, 2006 by American Ethnologist
Authors: Alisse Waterston and Barbara Rylko-Bauer
Subjects: History, Psychological Science, Sociology, Military & Security Studies, Anthropology - Soc Sci

This article is grounded in dialogues that revolve around shadows: between the two author–anthropologists, each reconstructing a parent's story, situating it in history and political economy; and between each daughter and her parent. This article focuses on epistemological, emotional, methodological, and ethical issues in doing “intimate ethnography,” a term coined by the authors.



Home Movies, The Suburbs of New York, 1954

Published: Mar 22, 2015

It is difficult to grasp the meanings of what was going on in these scenarios involving actors, bodies, selves, histories and collectivities. Much is happening at once, even in the small domestic scenes portrayed. The scene of my 1950s childhood includes who gets center stage, and who is forgotten or barely considered. There is what is said and what isn’t. There are the signs of discontent and anxiety, the undercurrents of dissatisfaction beginning to stir.

Alfredo Hornedo

Published: Mar 22, 2015

In this video clip, my father offers tidbits on Alfredo Hornedo who built the residence hotel Rosita de Hornedo and the country club Casino Deportivo. Someone could start with those tidbits to develop a rich study on the intersections of race, class, prison labor, architecture and tourism in 1950s Cuba.

Ready to Wear

Published: Mar 22, 2015

“The Jewish presence in their old occupations (trading, providing services and products) persisted to some degree in new urban settings.”

Luciano Blanco

Published: Mar 22, 2015

He remembered my father. The last time Luciano might have seen Miguel was sixty-four years earlier when my father was twenty-three years old.

Happy Memories

Published: Mar 22, 2015

We gathered at Hilda’s home, a single story house surrounded by fruit trees and tropical flowers.


Published: Mar 22, 2015

Returning to the settings of his Cuban life, my father met old friends in Manguito, Cuba