Megan Carney

About Megan Carney

I am a sociocultural and critical medical anthropologist with specializations in transnational and gendered migration, migrant health, food and food systems, and biopolitics. My research consists of fieldwork in the western United States with Latinx, Mexican, and Central American communities and in Italy with a particular focus on migration in the Mediterranean. 

I situate my research within several subfields of anthropology and the critical social sciences. My projects are framed by a shared set of general, theoretical and ethnographic questions: For what particular reasons do people migrate across borders? What variables and circumstances shape migrants’ experiences of resettlement? In what ways do differences in race, class, gender, 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 social services? What are the broader effects of restrictive immigration policies (i.e., surveillance of immigrant communities, immigrant detention, deportation) for im/migrant psychosocial health and health behaviors, as well as social relations within households, communities, and the wider political-economic context? In what ways does the state attempt to prevent, manage, or control particular health problems among migrants and other structurally vulnerable populations? In answering these or similar questions, I draw from feminist epistemologies for designing reflexive and participatory research methodologies. 

My first book The Unending Hunger: Tracing Women and Food Insecurity Across Borders (University of California, 2015) is based on ethnographic research that I conducted from 2009 to 2011 on the lived experiences of migration and food insecurity among Mexican and Central American women in the United States. I situated my fieldwork in Santa Barbara County, California, a region with a deep history of seasonal labor migration and some of the highest rates of food insecurity and poverty in the nation. Examining how constraints on eating and feeding translate to the uneven distribution of life chances across borders, how neoliberal economic policies translate to hunger and displacement, and how “food security” continues to dominate national policy in the United States, I argued for understanding women’s relations to these processes as inherently biopolitical. I approached these issues from 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. I 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 granting 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 and was named in 2018 by Healthline as one of the Best Books on Food Insecurity.

My second book (in progress), Island of Hope: Migration and Solidarity in the Mediterranean is an ethnography of local responses to the "migration crisis" in Sicily and migrant solidarity efforts. I have created an archive of migrant solidarity projects around the world using @IOHmedandbeyond to serve as an interactive online companion to the ethnographic text. I am also coordinating with Palermo-based organizations and scholars to develop an ethnographic field school for undergraduate students around the themes of food and migration in Sicily that will build on the work of migrant solidarity efforts long term. 

Some of my 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. I 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, I  conducted semi-structured interviews with immigrant 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. 

From 2018-2019, I am a Tucson Public Voices Fellow as part of the national OpEd Project. I also serve as Director of the UA Center for Regional Food Studies and I am affiliated faculty in Latin American Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and Food Studies.

Selected Publications

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

Carney, M.A. In progress. Island of Hope: Migration and Solidarity in the Mediterranean.

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., 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. 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. Forthcoming. “‘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.

Courses Taught

Food and Migration

Mediterranean Borderlands

Anthropology of Food

Areas of Study

Western US


Research Interests

Transnational im/migration; women’s im/migration; migrant health; food systems, food security/insecurity, and climate change; borderlands; biopolitics; social movements; social organization of care and caring labor; mental health, distress, and social suffering; immigrant detention.

Megan Carney's picture

Contact Information

Assistant Professor
Telephone: 520.621.5078
Fax: 520.621.2088
Office: Emil W. Haury Building, Room 318


Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara

M.A., UC Santa Barbara


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