Deborah PellowDeborah Pellow
Professor of Anthropology
Director of Maxwell African Scholars Union


My research program is grounded in the roles and relationships enacted by individuals in the urban arena and plural society, under conditions of social change. Most of my work has involved the conception, use, and social reproduction of identity and through it access to power. My primary geographic area of interest has been West Africa, primarily Ghana; I have also done research in Chicago and Shanghai, China. My fieldwork in Africa and Chicago has dealt with issues of identity by "strangers" or "marginals" (women, members of sub-cultures) in a "strange" (urban) context.

Three approaches continue to predominate in my research interest: ethnicity; feminism or gender relations; and proxemics-that is, the interrelationship of social and physical space. According to the proxemic paradigm, cultural and sub-cultural groups, be they different ethnicities, race, or genders, socially produce their domestic and community spaces that in turn feed into the group's social organization. I did a long-term project on socio-spatial arrangements in a migrant community in Accra, Ghana, which resulted in the book Landlords and Lodgers (2002). Picking up on my interest in micro-politics, in 2005 I began a new project on the involvement of the Dagomba educated elite living in the capital of Ghana in chieftaincy and destabilization in their hometown area in northern Ghana. I spent 6 months doing fieldwork with support from a Fulbright Senior Research Grant.

I am a founding member and director of the Space and Place Initiative based in the Global Affairs Institute and a faculty member in Maxwell’s Master of Social Science program.