Elana Shever is a cultural anthropologist with interests in natural resources and materiality; science, technology and corporations in society; neoliberalism; globalization; and capitalism. She has conducted research in Argentina, Colombia, and the United States.
Dr. Shever's first book, Resources for Reform: Oil and Neoliberalism in Argentina (Stanford University Press, 2012) explores how people’s lives intersect with the increasingly globalized and concentrated oil industry through a close look at Argentina’s experiment with privatizing its national oil company in the name of neoliberal reform. Examining Argentina’s conversion of its state-controlled oil market to a private market, the book reveals interconnections between large-scale transformations in society and small-scale shifts in everyday practice, intimate relationships, and identity. It offers a window into the experiences of middle-class oil workers and their families, impoverished residents of shanty settlements bordering refineries, and affluent employees of transnational corporations as they struggle with rapid changes in the global economy, their country, and their lives. Resources for Reform reverberates far beyond the Argentine oil fields and offers a fresh approach to the critical study of neoliberalism, kinship, citizenship, and corporations.
This study has led to Dr. Shever's continued involvement in developing the critical anthropology of corporations. She wrote a review of the scholarship on transnational and multinational corporations for the International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. She also the author of the chapter "Corporations" for The Anthropology of Resource Extraction, which is being edited by Lorenzo D’Angelo and Robert Pijpers for Routledge.
Dr. Shever is currently working on a project called Making Our Beasts: Dinosaurs, Fossils and Science in the United States. This ethnography of science-in-action uses a familiar topic—dinosaur paleontology—to examine science and its objects in new ways. Shever’s research reveals what the common notion of scientific discovery hides, that is, that fossils are not discovered. They are made. Shever shows how fossils are created through a more-than-human process in which multiple forces—both human and nonhuman—determine which pieces of rock become valuable and meaningful objects, and which disintegrate into dust.
The first publication from this project is “Becoming Stone: On the Coming-into-Being of Fossils in the American West” (Anthropology Quarterly 93(3):461-496). This article is a down-to-earth examination of a few crucial moments in the formation of Triceratops skull fossils that draws from Shever’s anthropological/paleontological fieldwork at a quarry in the Dakota Badlands and at a laboratory in Denver, Colorado. It exposes how fossils come into being through the mixing of biological and geological forces, tools and glues, and people’s somatic and intellectual labors. This article fuses insights from the anthropology of resource extraction and a post-humanist analytic of material vibrancy in order to rethink making in more-than-human terms. Yet it also draws attention to the neglected political economy of more-than-human making by demonstrating both the asymmetric collaborations among the human and nonhuman forces, and the importance of upper-class philanthropists’ capital and middle-class volunteers’ labor, in the coming-into-being of fossils.
- AB, Brown University, 1999
- MA (2001), PhD (2008), University of California at Berkeley
Resources for Reform: Oil and Neoliberalism in Argentina, Stanford University Press, 2012.
The book has been reviewed in:
- Anthropology of this Century
- American Ethnologist
- American Anthropologist
- Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
- Hispanic American Historical Review
Peer-Reviewed Articles and Chapters
“Becoming Stone: On the Coming-into-Being of Fossils in the American West,” Anthropological Quarterly 2020, 93(3):461-496. DOI: 10.1353/anq.2020.0055.
“Transnational and Multinational Corporations,” The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, Hilary Callan, Ed. Oxford, England: John Wiley and Sons, 2018.
“‘I am a Petroleum Product’: Making Kinship Work on the Patagonian Frontier,” Vital Relations: Modernity and the Persistence of Kinship, Susan McKinnon and Fenella Cannell, Eds. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press, 2013.
"Engendering the Company: Corporate Personhood and the 'Face' of an Oil Company in Metropolitan Buenos Aires," Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 2010, 33(1).
"Neoliberal Associations: Property, Company and Family in the Argentine Oil Fields," American Ethnologist, 2008, 35(4).
Review of Living with Oil: Promises, Peaks, and Declines on Mexico's Gulf Coast. Lisa Breglia. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013. American Ethnologist, 41(3):598-99, 2014.
"When the State Takes Stock," The Huffington Post, May 4, 2012.
"Adeline Cohnfelt Lust." Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Paula E. Hyman and Deborah D. Moore, eds. p. 880. New York, NY: Routledge, 1998.
- Scholar-in-Residence, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota, 2019-2020
- Fellow, Humanities Center, University of Rochester, 2016-2017
- Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Union College, 2009-2011
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, 2008-2009
- University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Study Residency, 2019-2020
- University of Rochester Humanities Center External Fellowship, 2016-2017
- Brown University Watson Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2008-2009
- David M. Schneider Paper Prize, American Anthropological Association, 2007
- Phi Beta Kappa of Northern California Dissertation Fellowship, 2006
- University of California, Berkeley Human Rights Center Fellowship, 2006
- Fulbright Fellowship for Research in Argentina, 2005
- University of California, Berkeley Dissertation Research Award, 2005
- Center for Latin American Studies Tinker Research Grant, 2002
- National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2000
- Regents of the University of California Pre-Dissertation Humanities Fellowship, 2000
- Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies (declined), 2000
See the course offerings website for current courses.
Courses Taught at Colgate University
- Culture, Diversity and Inequality (ANTH 102)
- Communities and Identities: Argentina (CORE 164)
- Investigating Contemporary Culture (ANTH 211)
- Nature, Culture, Politics (ANTH/SOCI 245)
- Science in Society (ANTH 305)
- Corporations and Power (ANTH 339)
- Globalization and Social Change in Latin America (ANTH/ALST 363)
- Individual Honors Research (ANTH 495)