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Megan Carney

About Megan Carney

Megan Carney is a sociocultural and critical medical anthropologist with specializations in global human displacement and migration, the intersections of food and migration, migrant health, reproductive labor and the politics of care, 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 dispossesion, displacement, and migration? For what particular reasons do people migrate across borders? What are the lived experiences 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 migrant health status, access to, and utilization of health and social services? What are the broader effects of restrictive immigration policies (i.e., surveillance of immigrant communities, detention, deportation) for im/migrant psychosocial wellbeing and health behaviors, and of inequality for society at large? In what ways does the state attempt to prevent, manage, or control migrants and other structurally vulnerable populations? In answering these or similar questions, Dr. Carney draws from transnational feminist and decolonial epistemologies for designing reflexive and participatory 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 “food security” continues to dominate national policy in the United States, she argued for understanding women’s relationship to these processes as inherently biopolitical. She 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 austerity and migrant reception in southern Europe -- specifically Sicily -- and the emerging forms of "solidarity work" being performed by citizens and noncitizens. She has started a collective digital archive of migrant solidarity projects around the world (@IOHmedandbeyond) that will serve as an online companion to the ethnographic text. She is also coordinating with Palermo-based organizations and scholars to launch an ethnographic field school for undergraduate students focused on migration and community-based collaborative research approaches. 

Some of Dr. Carney's past research includes investigating the effects of heightened fears and anxieties about U.S. immigration enforcement for psychosocial wellbeing and care-seeking behaviors in 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. 

Her most recent US-based research examines settler colonial legacies and whiteness within the Pacific Northwest hops and craft beer industries, critical (microbiopolitical) perspectives on the microbiome, and racial and health inequities in the American Southwest with a particular focus on the role of place and belonging in countering chronic illness and premature death among Black Tucsonans. She is a member of the interdisciplinary Microbes and Social Equity working group.

For the 2021-22 academic year, Dr. Carney will be 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.

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)

Peer-reviewed articles:

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

Carney, M.A. and Kenworthy, N. 2017. Guest Editors for Special Issue of Social Science and Medicine, “Austerity, health and wellbeing: Transnational Perspectives.”

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.

Carney, M.A. 2014. “‘You Want to Feed Your Family, Don’t You?’ Exploring the Consequences of Economic Crisis for Everyday Food Practices in Immigrant Communities.” Gender, Sexuality, and Feminism 1(2):5-23.

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.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies 13(4):32-46.

Carney, M.A. 2012. “Compounding Crises of Economic Recession and Food Insecurity: A Comparison of Three Low-Income Communities in Santa Barbara County.” Mini-symposium on Food Sovereignty for the Journal of Agriculture and Human Values, 29(2):185-201.

Carney, M.A. 2011. “The Food Sovereignty Prize: Implications for Discourse and Practice.” Food and Foodways, 19(3):169-180.

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: 

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

Carney, M.A. and Dickinson, M. 2019. “SNAP cuts link to deeper history of discrimination, policing of citizenship.” Arizona Daily Star

Dickinson, M. and Carney, M.A. 2019. “Owning up to the failures of welfare reform.” The Hill

Carney, M.A. 2019. “Don’t blame lax gun laws or mental illness for mass shootings: The real culprit resides beneath.” Latino Rebels.

Carney, M.A. 2019. “US must end hunger in immigrant detention.” The Hill

Gálvez, A. and Carney, M.A. 2019. “The Illusion and Peril of Food ‘Choice.’” Sapiens

Yates-Doerr, E. and Carney, M.A. 2019. “For People Fleeing Central America, Hunger May Not Look Like Hunger.” Latino Rebels

Carney, M.A. 2019. “Io Sono Qui, a film that upends narratives of ‘crisis’ through the voices of migrant youth.” (“Io Sono Qui, un film che capovolge le narrative di ‘crisi’ con le voci di giovani migranti.”) Youth Circulations

Carney, M.A. 2019. “A child’s chronic illness should prompt your support, not pity.” Arizona Daily Star

Carney, M.A. and Gálvez, A. 2019. “The International Politics of Gut Health.” Scientific American

Carney, M.A. and Krause, K.C. 2019. “Cultivating a network of citizen-scientists to track change in the Sonora-Arizona foodshed.” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. DOI:

Carney, M.A. 2019. “Food Insecurity is a Legitimate Basis for Seeking Asylum.” The Hill.

Carney, M.A. 2019. “Toddler Tantrums, the National Parks, and Shutdown Woes: Why We Must Begin Shutdown Recovery Efforts Now, Beginning with Our Parks.” Thrive Global.

Carney, M.A. 2018. “Countries that welcome immigrants and refugees are happier.” The Hill.

Carney, M.A., Sterling, F.G., and Gonzalez, R. 2018. “Challenges to health equality go beyond having insurance.” Arizona Daily Star.

Carney, M.A. 2018. “Making School Lunches Free for All Should Be a National Priority.” Civil Eats.

Carney, M.A. 2018. “A Holiday Card to the Fallen (Brown) Soldier.” Latino Rebels.

Carney, M.A. 2018. “At Thanksgiving, Trump’s public charge policy threatens food security.” The Hill.

Carney, M.A. 2017. A “Hoppy” Bubble? Linking Labor and Capital in Washington State’s Beer and Cannabis Industries. FoodAnthropology, Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.

Carney, M.A. 2015. “Women’s Migration through the Lens of Food Insecurity.” Association of Feminist Anthropology Column of Anthropology News.

Carney, M.A. 2014. “Bodies on the Line: Fighting Inhuman Treatment with Hunger in Immigrant Detention.” Access Denied: A Conversation on Unauthorized Im/migration and Health,

Carney, M.A. 2012. “Women’s Migration Narratives and Reconciling Memories of Violence.” Anthropology News.



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 310: World Ethnographies

Areas of Study

Western US


Research Interests

Transnational and gendered im/migration; 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.

Megan Carney's picture

Contact Information

Associate Professor
Office: Emil W. Haury Building, Room 318


Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara

M.A., UC Santa Barbara


Catalog Courses by Faculty