Sociology
 
Women Church  

Kate Browne’s research in the French Caribbean asked how people’s social identities and moral frameworks influence their economic values and practices. Toward this end, she completed two major projects:

 

  • a study of Martinique’s thriving informal economy which Browne documents as a strongly male, thoroughly cross-class phenomenon. The quest for economic autonomy that often inspires this activity is explained in part by the island’s social history and its ongoing tensions between local cultural identity and French nationalism. This work is elaborated in her 2004 book, Creole Economics as well as other publications.

  • a study of gender and entrepreneurship among Afro-Creole people who represent the demographic majority in Martinique, but who remain an economic minority. Browne learned that black men and women entrepreneurs tend to approach business ownership and employee management differently. For many reasons, women’s strategies are helping unknot tightly bound hostilities of workers toward bosses, problems that have plagued workplace environments since abolition. The story revealed by this research is now portrayed in a new documentary film, Au Tournant de l’Histoire (original French version) and Lifting the Weight of History (English subtitled version). Au Tournant de l’Histoire was broadcast internationally on French TV in summer 2008 and was released in English with subtitles in 2009. Browne’s documentary is a collaborative project with filmmaker Ginny Martin and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

Katherine E. Browne, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1783

SUBFIELD: Cultural Anthropology

RESEARCH INTERESTS: how cultural practice and values interact with gendered identities, economic life, disaster recovery, and social well-being.

GEOGRAPHIC AREAS OF STUDY: French Polynesia, French Caribbean, New Orleans

Browne’s interest in the relationship between moral and social identities on the one hand, and economic values and practices on the other, took form as an edited volume with colleague Lynne Milgram. Their book, Economics and Morality: Anthropological Approaches includes 11 chapters by an international group of scholars and an extensive Introduction by Browne. Economics and Morality was released in hardcover in January 2009 by AltaMira Press, a division of Rowman & Littlefield. 

The unnecessary devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast and the urgency of public anthropology to speak to large-scale social ills inspired Browne to shift her research and geographic focus to New Orleans. In an effort to reach the broadest possible audience, Browne initiated a documentary film project with Ginny Martin, Emmy-winning filmmaker (with whom she created the Caribbean film about women entrepreneurs). Ethnographic work with a large, extended Afro-Creole family from the French Caribbean area of New Orleans presented a natural extension of Browne’s longterm fieldwork in Martinique. The two-year collaboration with Martin resulted in Still Waiting: Life After Katrina, a one-hour documentary that aired on PBS stations in the US and Canada in 2007 and continues to be broadcast in selected markets today.

Browne’s work with the African American family of Still Waitingcontinued after the film was released. For more than eight years, she documented the uneven tracks of recovery and the trouble created by an outsider system of recovery that did not match its work to local needs. The cultural gap between them and the wounded communities brought about added suffering. Her new book, Standing in the Need: Culture, Comfort, and Coming Home After Katrina, speaks to these concerns and offers hope.