Kathryn Mariner

Kathryn Mariner

  • Associate Professor of Anthropology

PhD, University of Chicago, 2015

Office Location
444 Lattimore Hall
(585) 275-8734
(585) 273-5331

Office Hours: By Appointment

Research Overview

Professor Mariner's research examines the relationship between social inequality and intimacy in the United States. As a cultural anthropologist additionally trained and licensed in clinical social work, she investigates how historical and contemporary structures of power, such as race and racism, shape how people construct notions of family and community in their everyday lives.

Her first book, Contingent Kinship (University of California Press, 2019), is based on research at a private adoption agency specializing in the transracial placement of Black and biracial children in Chicago. In developing the theoretical concept of “intimate speculation,” the book explores the speculative logics of domestic transracial adoption, by attending to how raced and classed exchanges of power, money, and knowledge produce notions of the Black child as a highly contingent imagined future. The conditions of possibility for this adoptive future often include historical legacies of dispossession and the devaluation of Black motherhood. Witnessing this process unfold within Chicago's landscape of stark race and class segregation has informed Professor Mariner's current interest in the relationship between social inequality and physical space.

Professor Mariner's current research project, fertileground, investigates the relationship between race and placemaking in Rochester, New York. In order to understand how individuals from marginalized groups build physical spaces of community within the context of hypersegregation, the project utilizes community-based and participatory approaches to fieldwork, and employs the methods of observant participation, interviews, mapping, photography, and artistic production to capture the many ways residents are creating and sustaining lifeworlds in a city sometimes described as “dying,” and where certain racialized spaces in particular have been problematically termed “fatal.” This project sprouts from three existing intellectual traditions: theories of space and place, urban ethnography and history, and feminist and Black geographies. Learn more about the project at fertilegroundroc.org.

Research Interests

  • intimacy and social inequality
  • politics of race, class and gender
  • temporality
  • kinship and adoption
  • care
  • social work
  • space and place
  • visual anthropology
  • United States

Selected Publications


Journal Articles

  • Mariner, Kathryn A. 2022. “'Where Are All the Black People At?': Landscapes of Erasure in the Flower City." Transforming Anthropology. https://doi.org/10.1111/traa.12226
  • Mariner, Kathryn A. 2022. "Citation." Feminist Anthropology.https://doi.org/10.1002/fea2.12074
  • Mariner, Kathryn A. 2021. "American Elegy, Reflux: American Aspiration." Public Culture 33(3): 289-303. doi: 10.1215/08992363-9262821
  • Shannon, Jerry, Hannah Torres, Kathryn A. Mariner, and Timothy Hawthorne. 2021. "Practicing Community Geography in Times of Crisis."GeoJournal. doi: 10.1007/s10708-021-10529-9
  • Mariner, Kathryn A. 2020. "On Needing Black Studies."  InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal of Visual Culture 31.
  • Mariner, Kathryn A. 2020. "American Elegy: A Triptych." Public Culture 32(1): 5-23. doi: 10.1215/08992363-7816269
  • Mariner, Kathryn A. 2019. "White Parents, Black Care: Entanglements of Race and Kinship in American Transracial Adoption." American Anthropologist 121(4): 845-56. doi: 10.1111/aman.13312
  • Mariner, Kathryn A. 2019. "'Who You Are in These Pieces of Paper': Imagining Kinship through Auto/Biographical Adoption Documents in the United States." Cultural Anthropology 34(4): 529-45. doi: 10.14506/ca34.4.03
  • Mariner, Kathryn A. 2018. "The Specular Un/Making of Kinship: American Adoption's Penetrating Gaze." Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 83(5): 968-85. doi: 10.1080/00141844.2017.1377744


  • ANTH 101: Cultural Anthropology
  • ANTH 104: Contemporary Issues: Reproduction
  • ANTH 200: Anthropological Research and Methods
  • ANTH 204: Ethnographic Themes: American Kinship(s)
  • ANT 235: The Black Body: Intersecting Intimacies
  • ANTH 261/2: Local Ethnography and Archiving Seminar
  • ANT 288: The Social Construction of Whiteness
  • ANT 307: Race and Space in the City


  • Undergraduate Social Sciences Professor of the Year, University of Rochester Students' Association, 2022
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2021-2026
  • Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship, Institute for Citizens and Scholars, 2019
  • University Research Award, University of Rochester, 2018
  • W.E.B. DuBois Award for Educational Excellence, University of Rochester Black Students' Union, 2018
  • Internal Junior Fellow, Humanities Center, University of Rochester, Fall 2018
  • Lichtstern Distinguished Dissertation Prize, University of Chicago Department of Anthropology, 2016
  • Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2014-2015
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2008-2011
  • Mellon Mays Fellowship, 2006