Megan Carney

Associate Professor, Anthropology

Megan Carney

About Megan Carney

Megan Carney is a sociocultural and critical medical feminist anthropologist with specializations in global human displacement, dispossesion, and migration; the intersections of food, migration, and health; social reproduction and the politics of (collective) care; critical food studies; and the affective dimensions of state-sanctioned violence and economic restructuring. Her fieldwork is focused in the western United States and in Italy, specifically Sicily.

Dr. Carney situates her research within several subfields of anthropology and the critical social sciences. Her projects are framed by a shared set of theoretical and ethnographic questions: What are the political, economic, environmental, and social dynamics of dispossession, displacement, and migration? What are the lived experiences and embodied aspects of dispossession, displacement, and migration? In what ways do differential experiences across lines of race, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, immigration status as well as perspectives held by health practitioners and other key social service providers affect the health status of, access to, and utilization of health and social services by structurally vulnerable populations? What are the broader effects of restrictive immigration policies (i.e., surveillance of immigrant communities, detention, deportation) for psychosocial well-being, and of inequality for society at large? In what ways does the state attempt to prevent, manage, or control the displaced and dispossessed, as well as other structurally vulnerable populations? In answering these or similar questions, Dr. Carney draws from transnational feminist epistemologies for informing more reflexive, collaborative, and socially transformative research methodologies. 

Dr. Carney's first book The Unending Hunger: Tracing Women and Food Insecurity Across Borders (University of California, 2015) is based on fieldwork that she conducted from 2009 to 2011 on the lived experiences of migration and food insecurity among Mexican and Central American women in the United States. Examining how constraints on eating and feeding translate to the uneven distribution of life chances across borders, how neoliberal economic policies render hunger and displacement, and how the framework of “food security” continues to dominate national policy in the United States, she argued for understanding women’s relationship to these processes as inherently biopolitical. Inspired by Chicanx and transnational feminist theory as well as critical perspectives on economic restructuring, Carney approached these issues through the lens of gender – in addition to race, class, and citizenship – arguing that “food security” as a biopolitical project rests primarily on the shoulders of low-income women whose caring labors in the realm of social reproduction are generally devalued by society. She concluded that women find scarce opportunities to escape these biopolitical modes, as they also struggle to reconcile with the pervasive conditions of food insecurity. Methods of data collection included key informant interviews, life history interviews, focus groups, dietary surveys, and participant observation. Several funding agencies supported this research, including the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, the Chicano Studies Institute, and the Institute for Labor and Employment. The book received the 2015 CHOICE award for Outstanding Academic Title, was named in 2018 by Healthline as one of the Best Books on Food Insecurity, and was selected in 2019 for the California Books to Action program.

Dr. Carney's second book (University of California Press, 2021), Island of Hope: Migration and Solidarity in the Mediterranean is an ethnography of the politics of economic austerity and migrant reception in southern Europe -- specifically Sicily -- and the emergent forms of "solidarity work" being performed by citizens and noncitizens on the frontlines of migrant-receiving communities. She continues to collaborate closely with a number of grassroots migrant solidarity initiatives, including a participatory film and storytelling lab with migrant youth for which she and her collaborators received an Engaged Research Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Some of Dr. Carney's past research includes investigating the effects of heightened fears and anxieties about U.S. immigration enforcement for the psychosocial wellbeing and care-seeking behaviors of migrant communities. She studied the lived experience of heightened mental distress and malnutrition among migrant women in particular, as well as the social life of mental health practice along the immigration spectrum, including at community clinics, social service agencies, hospitals, and detention centers. From early 2013 to late 2015, she conducted semi-structured interviews with im/migrant women through community-based mental health organizations and participant observation with social services and immigrant rights activists, as well as informal interviews with attorneys, clinicians, and other service providers working in the field of migrant mental and behavioral health in the Greater Seattle region of Washington state. 

Some of her most recent US-based research has examined whiteness and settler colonial logics in the Pacific Northwest hops and craft beer industries and critical (microbiopolitical) perspectives on the microbiome. In addition, she is engaged in a long-term, community-based collaboration around health equity with Tucson's Dunbar Pavilion. Foregrounding theory from Black Geographies and Black feminist medical anthropology, the collaboration centers the experience of African diasporic populations in the American Southwest with a particular focus on the role of place and belonging in countering chronic illness and premature death

From 2021-22, Dr. Carney was a Fulbright Scholar with the Fulbright Schuman European Union Affairs Program. From 2019-20, she was a Udall Public Policy Fellow, and from 2018-2019 she was a Public Voices Fellow with The Op-Ed Project. Dr. Carney also serves as Director of the UA Center for Regional Food Studies and is affiliated faculty in Africana Studies, Latin American Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Food Studies, and Human Rights Practice. She is a co-founding member of the feminist collective Nutrire CoLab and participates as a member of the interdisciplinary Microbes and Social Equity working group.

Selected Publications


Carney, M.A. 2021. Island of Hope: Migration and Solidarity in the Mediterranean. Oakland: University of California Press.

Carney, M.A. 2015 The Unending Hunger: Tracing Women and Food Insecurity Across Borders. Oakland: University of California Press. (Winner of the 2015 CHOICE award)

Selected peer-reviewed articles:

Carney, M.A. 2022. “Whiteness and Settler Colonial Logics in the Pacific Northwest Craft Beer and Hops Industries.” Food, Culture, and Society

Hardin, J., Saldaña-Tejeda, A., Gálvez, A., Yates-Doerr, E., Garth, H., Dickinson, M., Carney, M.A., and N. Valdez. Forthcoming. “Short take: Duo-ethnographic Methods: A Feminist Take on Collaborative Research.” Field Methods.

N. Valdez, Carney, M.A., E. Yates-Doeer, A. Saldaña, J. Hardin, H. Garth, A. Galvéz, and M. Dickinson. 2022. “Duo-ethnography as Transformative Praxis: Nourishment and Coercive Care in the COVID-era Academy.” Feminist Anthropology 3(1): 92-105.

Sangaramoorthy, T. and Carney, M.A. 2021. “Introduction to Special Issue: Immigration, Mental Health, and Psychosocial Wellbeing.” Medical Anthropology. DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2021.1931174

Carney, M.A. 2021. “Teaching with Microbes: Pedagogical Lessons from Fermentation During a Pandemic.” mSystems 6(4): e00566-21.

Ishaq, S., Flores, F.P., Wolf, P., Bonilla, C., Carney, M.A., Benezra, A., Wissel,   E., Friedman, M., DeAngelis, K., Robinson, J., Fahimipour, A., Manus, M., Grieneisen, L., Dietz, L., Chauhan, A., Pathak, A., Kuthyar, S., Stewart, J., Dasari, M., Nonnamaker, E., Choudoir, M., Horve, P., Zimmerman, N., Kozik, A.J., Darling, K., Romero-Olivares, A., Hariharan, J., Farmer, N., Maki, K., Collier, J.L., O'Doherty, K., Letourneau, J., Kline, J., Moses, P., and N. Morar. 2021. “Introducing the Microbes and Social Equity Working Group: Considering the Microbial Components of Social, Environmental, and Health Justice.” mSystems 6(4): e00471-21.

Gálvez, A., Carney, M.A., and Yates-Doerr, E. 2020. “Vital Topics Forum: Chronic Disaster: An Introduction.” American Anthropologist.

Carney, M.A. 2020. “Critical Perspectives on the Microbiome.” American Anthropologist.

Carney, M.A. and Krause, K. 2020. “Immigration/migration and healthy publics: The threat of food insecurity.” Special issue on “Healthy Publics” with Palgrave Communications, an open-access journal of Nature

Vannini, S., Gomez, R., Carney, M.A., Mitchell, K. 2018. “Interdisciplinary approaches to refugee and migration studies: Lessons from collaborative research on sanctuary in the changing times of Trump.” Migration and Society: Advances in Research 1(1): 164-174.

Carney, M.A., Gomez, R., Mitchell, K., and Vannini, S. 2017. “Sanctuary Planet: A Global Sanctuary Movement for the Time of Trump.” Society and Space

Basu, S., Carney, M.A., and Kenworthy, N. 2017. “Ten years after the financial crisis: The long reach of austerity and its global impacts on health.” Social Science and Medicine, DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.06.026

Carney, M.A. 2017. “‘Sharing One’s Destiny’: Effects of Austerity on Migrant Health Provisioning in the Mediterranean Borderlands.” Social Science and Medicine, DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.02.041

Carney, M.A. 2017. “‘Back There We Had Nothing to Eat’: Mexican and Central American Households in the U.S. and Transnational Food Security.” International Migration. DOI 10.1111/imig.12293

Yates-Doerr, E. and Carney, M.A. 2016. “De-medicalizing Health: Reflections on the Kitchen as a Site of Care.” Medical Anthropology 35(4):305-21.

Minkoff-Zern, L.A. and Carney, M.A. 2015. “Latino Im/migrants, Dietary Health, and Social Exclusion: A Critical Examination of Nutrition Interventions in California.” Food, Culture, and Society 18(3):463-480.

Carney, M.A. 2015. “Eating and Feeding at the Margins of the State: Barriers to Healthcare for Undocumented Migrant Women and the ‘Clinical’ Aspects of Food Assistance.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 29(2):196-215.

Greenhalgh, S. and Carney, M.A. 2014. “‘Bad Biocitizens?: Latinos and the U.S. ‘Obesity Epidemic’.” Human Organization 73(3):267-276.

Carney, M.A. 2014. “The Biopolitics of ‘Food Insecurity’: Towards a Critical Political Ecology of the Body in Studies of Women’s Transnational Migration.” Journal of Political Ecology 21:1-18.

Carney, M.A. 2013. “Border Meals: Detention Center Feeding Practices, Migrant Subjectivities, and Questions on Trauma.” GastronomicaThe Journal of Critical Food Studies 13(4):32-46.

Carney, M.A. 2011. “‘Food Security’ and ‘Food Sovereignty’: What Frameworks are Best Suited for Social Equity in Food Systems?” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development, 2(2):71-87.

Chapters in edited volumes:

Carney, M.A. 2017. “Sickness in the Detention System: Syndemics of Mental Distress, Malnutrition, and Immigration Stigma in the United States.” Stigma Syndemics: New Directions in Biosocial Health, Lerman, S., Ostrach, B, and Singer, M. (eds.). Landham: Lexington Press.

Carney, M.A. 2014. “La Lucha Diaria”: Migrant Women in the Fight for Healthy Food. In Women Redefining Food Insecurity: Life Off the Edge of the Table, Janet Page-Reeves (ed.). Landham: Lexington Press.

Op-eds and commentaries (last 2 years): 

Carney, M.A. 2022. “Street-level reception in Europe at a time of war.” Fulbright Schuman blog:

Carney, M.A. 2022. “Deciphering the links between food crises and migration.” Migration Policy Centre

Carney, M.A. and Vannini, S. 2021. “Italy’s citizenship debate: how a country of emigrants is learning to live with immigrants.” The Conversation

Carney, M.A. 2021. “Migrant Solidarity Work.” Anthropology News

Carney, M.A. 2021. “The Time for Migrant Solidarity is Now”. Arizona Daily Star

Carney, M.A. 2021. "Another system of migration is possible." The Hill

Carney, M.A. 2021. “How Migrant Filmmakers Practice Archival Activism.” Sapiens

Carney, M.A. 2021. “Centering Black Food Cultures in Anthropology and Beyond: Book review of H. Garth and A. Reese Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice.” Current Anthropology 62(2).

Carney, M.A. and T. Mares. 2021. “How the Pandemic Made It Harder for Immigrants to Access Food.” Civil Eats

Carney, M.A. 2021. “‘Unaccompanied Minors’ increasing around the world.” Arizona Daily Star

Carney, M.A. 2021. "The End of Women as Buffers." Latino Rebels 

Ostrach, B. and M.A. Carney. 2020. “Lessons from European Austerity Facilitate Grassroots Collective Responses amid COVID-19.” Anthropology Now

Carney, M.A. 2020. “No Crisis Is An Island: On Migration, Pandemic, and Everyday Struggles in Sicily.” American Ethnologist Online

Ostrach, B., K. Lynch, A. Houston, and M. Carney. 2020. “Conditions of Immigration Detention Increase Risks for COVID-19 Disease Interactions.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly Blog

Carney, M.A. 2020. "Amid COVID-19, US should embrace the right to food." The Hill

Carney, M.A. and Ostrach, B. 2020. “Austerity, Not COVID-19, Strains National Healthcare Systems.” Somatosphere

Carney, M.A. 2020. “Vital Lessons from Italy’s Battle with COVID-19.” Arizona Daily Star

Carney, M.A. 2020. “When politicians turn immigration into a ‘crisis,’ they hurt their own people.” The Conversation


2019-20 State of the Tucson Food System Report

2018-19 State of the Tucson Food System Report


Courses Taught

ANTH 580: Food and Migration

ANTH 610: Mediterranean Migrations

ANTH 353: Anthropology of Food

ANTH 395: Health and Migration

ANTH 325: Bodies in Medicine

ANTH 602B: Qualitative Research Methods

Areas of Study

Western US


Research Interests

Transnational and gendered im/migration; dispossession and displacement; critical perspectives on food and im/migration; migrant health (structural dimensions); food systems and food insecurity; biopolitics and microbiopolitics; social organization of care, caring labor, and social reproduction; affective dimensions of neoliberalism and psychosocial wellbeing; anthropology of crisis; transnational feminism.