Genese Sodikoff

Genese Sodikoff


sodikoff [at]



Office Location

Hill Hall 601

I am a cultural anthropologist interested in the political economy of biodiversity loss, conservation, and restoration. I have about twenty-five years’ experience conducting ethnographic and historical research on labor and rain forest conservation in Madagascar.  I have also been drawn to the problem of extinction (biotic and cultural), tracing how extinction events play out in popular and political culture, and how they shape perceptions of time and being.

My book, Forest and Labor in Madagascar: From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere (Indiana University Press, 2012), is an anthropological-historical account of the role of subaltern labor in forest conservation and ecotourism efforts.  It examines the role of low-wage workers in the creation of value for rare species in Madagascar over the past century.  My edited volume, The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death (Indiana University Press 2012), places the processes of biotic and cultural extinction events into a common analytic framework and presents case studies about extinction from the angles of different anthropological subfields. 

I am now examining the problem of land degradation and zoonosis, disease that spills over from animal species to humans.  The current project is a multispecies epidemiology of the plague in villages of the Moramanga district in eastern Madagascar, where an outbreak of pneumonic plague occurred in 2015 and risks recurring. In addition, I am conducting an ethnography of rabies circulation among dogs, cats, people, and the mythical wild dog known as "little big chest" in Moramanga and surrounding hamlets.

My courses include the Politics of Extinction; Humans, Animals and Society; Environmental Anthropology; Peoples and Cultures of Africa; Medical Anthropology; and graduate courses in Environmental Conflict and Contemporary Social Theory.

Courses Taught

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Peoples and Cultures of Africa
Transcontinental Blackness: Africa, America, and the Construction of Diaspora
Environmental Anthropology
Anthropology of Development
Humans, Animals, and Society
Medical Anthropology
The Politics of Extinction

Global Environmental Issues
Environmental Conflict
Contemporary Social Theory

Research Initiatives

I am currently working on an ethnographic study of the bubonic plague and rabies in Moramanga, Madagascar.  This is a piece of a broader study of zoonosis and land degradation in Madagascar informed by epidemiology and multispecies ethnography. Moramanga is adjacent to a large industrial mine, Ambatovy, and its biodiversity offset, a protected area that shelters a variety of endangered species.  I hypothesize that climate change and deforestation, alongside the conservation of wildlife species populations within shrinking forest fragments, are intensifying the problem of zoonosis in surrounding settlements.

In the area of Newark, I will collaborate with earth and environmental scientists at Rutgers-Newark on a study of climate change, risk perception, and economic and environmental damages in communities of the Meadowlands. Risks include flooding and spillover of toxins, income and job loss, and health problems. 

With a group of interdisciplinary scholars from Canada, Australia, and the US, I am participating in a comparative study of “Indigenous Visions of Global Extinction,” focusing on Madagascar (project led by Dr. Audra Mitchell, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Canada).


Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Michigan, 2005
M.A. Anthropology, University of Michigan, 2000
M.A. Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, 1998
M.A. International Development and Social Change, Clark University, 1996
B.A. English and Cultural Anthropology, University of California at Santa Barbara, 1989




2017 "The Liminality of Lyme Disease." 3 Quarks Daily. January 23.

2016 “Airborne.” 3 Quarks Daily. November 21.

2016  “Mad and Mythical Dogs.” 3 Quarks Daily. October 17.

2016  “The Plague Underground.” 3 Quarks Daily. August 15.

2016   “ Zoonotic Tales: Living with Roaches.” 3 Quarks Daily. May 23.

2016  “American Rabies.” 3 Quarks Daily. July 18.

2016 “The Plague of Inequality.” Anthropology News, July, 2016.

2016“Zoonosis.” In “Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen: Theorizing the Contemporary,” Cultural Anthropology,  April 6, 2016.

2015       “Spillover Anthropology: Multispecies Ethnography and Epidemiology.” EnviroSociety Blog, Environment and Society. August 5, 2015.


2012   Forest and Labor in Madagascar: From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere. Indiana University Press. (Monograph)

2012  The Anthropology of Extinction:  Essays on Culture and Species Death. Indiana University Press. (Edited Volume)


2019  Zoonotic Semiotics: Plague Narratives and Vanishing Signs in Madagascar.” Special Issue on human-animal health, edited by Hannah Brown and Alex Nading. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 33(1): 1-18.

2019  Multispecies Infrastructures of Zoonosis.” In The Anthropology of Epidemics, edited by Ann Kelly, Frédéric Keck, and Christos Lynteris. Pp. 102-120. Abingdon-on-Thames, UK: Routledge.

2018  How to Protect Yourself from the Dead with Cattle. In With Animals: Humans and Other Beings Forging Coexistence. Pp. 96-106. Edited by Natalie Porter and Ilana Gershon. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

2017   “Multispecies Epidemiology and the Viral Subject.” In Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. Edited by Ursula Heise, Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann. London: Routledge Press. (Forthcoming)

2013 “Neoliberal Conservation and Worker-Peasant Autonomism in Madagascar.” In Autonomism, Syndicalism and Radical Workers’ Movements in the 21st Century: New Responses to Capital’s Offensive, edited by Immanuel Ness.  Oakland, CA: PM Press.  Forthcoming.

2013  “The Time of Living Dead Species: Extinction Debt and Futurity in Madagascar.” In Debt: Ethics, the Environment, and the Economy, edited by Peter Y. Paik and Merry Wiesner-Hanks.  Pp. 140-163. 21st Century Studies Series. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

2012  “Accumulating Absence: Cultural Productions of the Sixth Extinction.” In The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death, edited by Genese Marie Sodikoff. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

2012 “Totem and Taboo Reconsidered: Endangered Species and Moral Practice Madagascar.” In The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death, edited by Genese Marie Sodikoff.  Pp. 67-87. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

2009  “The Low-Wage Conservationist:  Biodiversity and Perversities of Value in Madagascar.”  American Anthropologist 111(4): 443-455. 

2008  “Forest Conservation and Low-Wage Labour.”  In Greening the Great Red Island: Madagascar in Nature and Culture, edited by Jeffrey C. Kaufmann.  Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa.

2007 “An Exceptional Strike: A Micro-History of ‘People versus Park’ in Madagascar.” Journal of Political Ecology 14: 10-33.

2005 “Forced and Forest Labor Regimes in Colonial Madagascar, 1926-1936." Ethnohistory, 52(2):  407-435.

2004 “Land and Languor:  Ethical Imaginations of Work and Forest in Northeast Madagascar.” History and Anthropology 15(4): 367-398.

2003 “The Case of the Lace Leaf:  Nineteenth Century Naturalism and the Containment of Malagasy Species.”  Michigan Discussions in Anthropology 14: 167-192.

2001 (with Barbara Thomas-Slayter).  “African Women and Sustainable Development:  Institutional Trends in Natural Resource Management Projects.”  Development in Practice 11(1): 45-61.

Associated Programs

Department of Anthropology, Rutgers New Brunswick
Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights
International Institute for Peace
Division of Global Affairs