Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Emory University


A sociocultural anthropologist by training, Phillips studies inequality and activism in issues of energy, development, and food insecurity. Her first book, An Ethnography of Hunger: Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun (Indiana University Press: 2018) traced how generations of food insecurity have shaped political activism in rural central Tanzania. It won the 2020 Society for Economic Anthropology Book Prize and Honorable Mention for the 2019 African Studies Association’s Book Prize. Phillips’ current research, conducted in collaboration with environmental anthropologist Erin Dean, explores energy and infrastructure in Tanzania and focuses on people and places unserved by the national electricity grid. They are studying two distinct but related global movements in the 21st century: energy access and energy transition. They ask how people in Tanzania navigate the convergence and contradictions of these projects—that seek to expand energy production, markets, and consumption while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions—across unequal relationships and postcolonial histories. The research has been generously supported by funding from the National Science Foundation. Grounded in the ingenuity, postcolonial politics, and ethical frames of people living off the grid, the project contributes a uniquely gendered perspective to anthropological debates about environment, infrastructure and economy in the Anthropocene.

Selected publications

Phillips, Kristin D. 2020. “Prelude to a Grid: Nature, Labor, and Cosmology on a Tanzanian Electric Frontier.” Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. 38(2): 71-87.**

Phillips, Kristin D. 2018. An Ethnography of Hunger: Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Phillips, Kristin D. 2013. “Dividing the Labor of Development: Education and Participation in Rural Tanzania,” Comparative Education Review 57(4), 637-661.**

Phillips, Kristin D. 2010. “Pater Rules Best: Political Kinship and Party Politics in Tanzania’s Presidential Elections”. PoLAR: Political & Legal Anthropology Review 33(2), 109-132.**

Phillips, Kristin D. 2009. “Hunger, Healing, and Citizenship in Rural Tanzania”. African Studies Review. 52(1): 23–45.**