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Anthropology Department Faculty

Kathryn Mariner

Kathryn Mariner

  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Visual and Cultural Studies

PhD, University of Chicago, 2015

444 Lattimore Hall
(585) 275-8734
Fax: (585) 273-5331

Office Hours: By appointment only. Please email for a time.

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 is currently conducting fieldwork for a new research project--tentatively titled Fertile Ground--investigating 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 people are creating and sustaining lifeworlds in a city sometimes described as “dying,” and where certain racialized spaces in particular have been problematically termed “fatal.” Fertile Ground 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

Selected Publications


Journal Articles

  • 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

Relevant Work Experience

  • ANT 104: Contemporary Issues: Reproduction
  • ANT 204: Ethnographic Themes: American Kinship(s)
  • ANT 235: The Black Body: Intersecting Intimacies
  • ANT 288: The Social Construction of Whiteness
  • ANT 307: Race and Space in the City


  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2021-2026
  • Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship, 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