Jonna Yarrington

About Jonna Yarrington

I am a Ph.D. candidate in socio-cultural and linguistic anthropology. I study human stratification and modes of differentiation. Specifically, I am interested in how socially stratifying ideologies inhere in and are reproduced by political and discursive practices.

My research interests include political economy, political ecology, modes of differentiation (viz., kinship, ethnicity, class, labor), discourse analysis, semiotics, and historical ethnography.

These interests have led me to do fieldwork in southeastern Virginia, northern Haiti, France and French Guiana, and a face-to-face island community located in the Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island.

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.

My dissertation research is on social relations and intergenerational exchange on Tangier Island, Virginia.The research is supported by a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Dissertation 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.

Selected Work and Work in Progress

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

--   “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.

Caribbean / France / French Guiana
2018   "Sucre Indigène and Sucre Colonial: Reconsidering the Splitting of the French National Sugar Market, 1800-1860." Economic Anthropology 5(1). Forthcoming.

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

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 Unpublished Master's Thesis in Anthropology, University of Arizona.

Linguistic Anthropology / North America
--   “Making America Kin Again." Article manuscript.

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

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

Book Reviews


Languages: English, French, Haitian Creole

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
University of Arizona
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