Jonna Yarrington

About Jonna Yarrington

I am an anthropologist specializing in human stratification. I study how distinctions among individuals and groups are ideologically naturalized, politically maintained, and continually reproduced.

My research focuses on the interaction of human stratification and the relationship humans have with their surrounding physical environment. I am interested in world-historical changes in material ecologies, including ongoing human adaptation to climate change.


Research Interests: modes of differentiation (namely kinship, ethnicity, class, and labor); historical ethnography and ethnographic history; political economy; political ecology; environmental anthropology.

Research Methods: ethnography of contemporary populations, discourse analysis and semiotics, historical ethnography (archival, oral-historical, and comparative).

Languages: English, French, Haitian Creole

Field Sites where I have conducted research: Tangier Island (Chesapeake Bay, USA), southeastern Virginia, Haiti, France and French Guiana (French Caribbean/South America).

Dissertation Research





My Ph.D. research is on social relations and intergenerational exchange in Tangier, Virginia, an island that is subsiding into the Chesapeake Bay.

The research is supported by a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Project Abstract: Tangier Island is a small, incorporated town, just over one square mile, of 470 inhabitants in the Chesapeake Bay, belonging to Accomack County, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA. Its residents are densely related watermen and their families--mostly white, lower income, politically conservative, Christian, and skeptical of science and climate change. Endogamous marriage is preferred, resulting in residents who are kin in multiple ways to each other, while also holding individuated roles that are defined by occupation, gender, and other modes of differentiation. Their island, a series of three sandy ridges, is sinking, with scientists predicting it will be uninhabitable in 25-50 years, due to anthropogenic sea-level rise. This project asks: What is the effect of impending displacement on concepts of property and relatedness for Tangier islanders? What happens to inheritance, role succession, and local hierarchy in the face of imminent displacement? The project is comparative. Data is being gathered on historic and contemporary relations, roles, and exchange practices, and on emic concepts of nature, time, and displacement, via archival work and ethnographic fieldwork, including interviewing, genealogical and oral history elicitation, and participant-observation. The project seeks to fill a gap in anthropology's understanding of the socio-cultural effects of climate change, including for populations that contest scientific epistemologies, and seeks to contribute to social science on recognition of interests, concomitant injuries of class, and socially stratified outcomes of imminent displacement.

--    Intergenerational Exchange on Tangier Island, 1900-Present [Working Title]. Doctoral Dissertation in Anthropology, University of Arizona. In Progress.

--   “The Science Class and the Certainty of Denial: Sea-Level Rise on a Sinking Island." Article manuscript.

2015    "Making Homes of Houses: Locating a Politics of Struggle in the 1926 Sears Roebuck Book of Modern Homes." Article manuscript.


French Caribbean Research

My master's thesis is a study of the invention and economic protection of beet sugar on the French mainland in the early 1800s, and its effects for the French sugar-producing colonies in the Caribbean.

I argue that economic protection of beet sugar (produced in northern France) led to a split in the French national sugar market and, ultimately, the revaluation of land in French Guiana, which facilitated the decision in 1851 to locate a penal colony in that territory.

2014    "Droits and Frontières: Sugar and the Edge of France, 1800-1860." Unpublished Master's Thesis in Anthropology, University of Arizona.

2018   “Producing the Periphery." In Locating Guyane, eds. Catriona MacLeod and Sarah Wood. Liverpool University Press. Forthcoming.

2018   "Sucre Indigène and Sucre Colonial: Reconsidering the Splitting of the French National Sugar Market, 1800-1860." Economic Anthropology 5(1): 20-31.


Linguistic Anthropology

--   “Making America Kin Again: Donald Trump on Blood and Law." Article manuscript.

2014   "Messages from my Father-in-Law: Indexing Membership and Proximity in Long-Distance Voicemails." Language & Communication 39:24-33.

2014  Dozier Graduate Paper Award, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona.

2009    "Religious Mouths and Religious Bodies: Speaking the Body of Christ at St. Bede Parish." College of William & Mary Undergraduate Honors Theses, Paper 457.


Work Experience

Research Assistance: Research Assistant experience on 8 projects in 5 academic departments at 3 universities, including the UA's Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology.

Teaching Experience: Experience as Teaching Assistant or Instructor of Record for courses at levels 100, 200, and 300 in sociology, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archaeology.

Jonna Yarrington's picture

Contact Information

In the Field / Dissertating
Office: Haury 124E


Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology
Socio-Cultural (major)
Linguistic (minor)

M.A., Anthropology,
University of Arizona

B.A., Anthropology, Philosophy,
Magna cum laude,
College of William & Mary

Phi Beta Kappa
Pi Gamma Mu