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About Dr. Brian Burke

It’s extremely difficult for small farmers to compete in a global economy. Their response is to form cooperatives that allow them to join forces towards common businesses goals. Coffee growers in the global economy are a great example of this practice, but they struggle and there’s not much money to go around. Their solution is to make their own currency that is valid in their community. Groups of people may know how to establish new economies, but they don’t necessarily know how to change culturally to this new economy. Appalachian’s Dr. Brian J. Burke asks, in a society largely dominated in the past by political violence and mistrust, what are the challenges of community collaboration?

Burke is an anthropologist and assistant professor in Appalachian State University’s Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development. His research aims to support movements for social justice, environmental sustainability and solidarity economies by examining the visions, strategies and challenges they face. Drawing on political economy and political ecology, he is particularly interested in the ways that material and socio-cultural dynamics work together to constrain and enable change. His work has included projects on urban environmental activism and appropriate technologies on the U.S.-Mexico border, rural cooperatives in Brazil and Paraguay, alternative economies in Colombia, and environmental knowledge production in southern Appalachia.

Areas of Expertise
Political ecology and political economy
Alternative economies, such as cooperatives and barter systems
Latin American grassroots development and social change
Western North Carolina responses to climate change, Coweeta Listening Project


Present Faculty Member, Appalachian State University College of Fine and Applied Arts
Present Assistant Professor, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Appalachian State University Department of Sustainable Development


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Honors and Awards

  • Peter K. New Graduate Student Prize, Society for Applied Anthropology, 2013
  • Eric Wolf Prize, Political Ecology Society, 2012
  • Robert McC Netting Student Paper Prize, Culture & Agriculture, 2008
  • Nash-Roseberry Student Paper Prize, Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 2008
  • William Bradford Turner Citizenship Prize, Williams College, 2002
  • James Orton Anthropology Award, Williams College, 2002


  • SD 3375 Sustainability, Economics, and Development


2012 Ph.D., University of Arizona ‐ Anthropology
2006 M.A., University of Arizona ‐ Anthropology
2002 B.A., Williams College ‐ Anthropology and Environmental Studies

Contact Information

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