Photo of Blair Rutherford

Blair Rutherford

Chair and Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Degrees:PhD (McGill)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2601
Office:B759 Loeb Building

Areas of Interest

Politics and possibilities of international development, civil society in sub-Saharan Africa; rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa; anthropology of citizenship, gender, state and globalization; colonialism and post-colonialism; migration; public anthropology.

I am currently accepting graduate students interested in the fields of political anthropology, political economy, and engendered livelihoods and welcome inquiries about specific areas of supervision.


My ethnographic research has been predominantly in Zimbabwe and South Africa, particularly on commercial farm workers. I have been examining the economic strategies, institutional arrangements and the constitutive cultural politics shaping current and former farm worker strategies to access resources, particularly land, during the on-going land redistribution exercises in Zimbabwe and deepening political and economic crises in this southern African nation, including those that involve working on South African farms.

More recently, I am engaged with two research projects examining gender and artisanal and small-scale mining in Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, which has entailed my carrying out ethnographic research in Sierra Leone and Mozambique.

For more information on my current interdisciplinary research see Women and ASM in sub-Saharan Africa.

Recent Courses Taught

Graduate: Theory and Methods I and II; Land, Labour & Community: The Cultural Politics of Rural Development; International Development & Institutions: Anthropological Approaches; The Anthropology of Rural Development: Resources, Institutions and Cultural Politics; Anthropology of Natural Resources in the Global South

Undergraduate: Studies in Contemporary sub-Saharan Africa; Contemporary Anthropological Theory; Introduction to Anthropology; Development & Underdevelopment; Ethnographic Engagements with the State; Anthropology of Natural Resources in the Global South

Recent Graduate Supervisions (since 2006)


Logan Cochrane, “The Wogagoda Language Policy: Citizen Engagement and Responsive Government.” Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2017-2019.

Léa Kalaora, “Évaluation anthropologique d’un programme d’aide alimentaire à Masvingo, Zimbabwe.” Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture Québec, 2011-2013.

Erin Jessee, “To Know Their Fates: The Journey to Identify and Repatriate the Victims of Genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia-Hercegovina,” Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture Québec, 2011.PhD


Sheila Rao (Anthropology), Women’s Sweet Success? Interrogating Nutritionism in Biofortified Sweet Potato Promotion in Mwasonga, Tanzania, December 2018 (co-supervisor).

Ying-Ying Tiffany Liu (Anthropology), Intra-Migrant Economy: Chinse Restaurant Entrepreneurship and Zimbabwean Migrant Workers in South Africa, September 2018.

Chris Huggins (Geography & Environmental Studies), Seeing like a Neoliberal State? Authoritarian High Modernism, Commercialization and Governmentality in Rwanda’s Agricultural Reform, January 2013 (co-supervisor).

Léa Kalaora (Anthropology, Université de Montréal), Les occupations de fermes commerciales au Zimbabwe: récits, expériences et devenirs des fermiers blancs, November, 2011 (co-supervisor/ codirecteur).


Emma Bider (Anthropology with a specialization in African Studies, Thesis), The Sound of Home: Tuareg Women’s Tendé Drumming in France and Belgium, May 2018 (co-supervisor).

Tyler Paziuk (Political Economy, Thesis), Trade Unions and Noncitizens in South Africa: Towards an Organizational Norm of Differentiated Universalism. September 2017.

Mahdi Nazemroaya (Sociology, Research Essay), The Whitening of Russia, April, 2016.

Christine Stenton (Political Economy, Thesis), Struggling for the ‘right to the city’: In situ informal settlement upgrading in Kibera, Nairobi, September, 2015 (co-supervised).

Juhli Lyncaster (Anthropology, Thesis), Connecting Bodies: Re-examining Ritual Murder in Venda, December, 2014.

Glennys Egan (Political Economy, Thesis), ‘Actually-existing’ Neoliberalism in Nairobi, Kenya: Examining Informal Traders’ Negotiations over Access to the Entrepreneurial City, September, 2014 (co-supervised).

Amanda Cox (Industrial Design, Thesis), Income-Generating Products for People with Disabilities in the Majority World: Understanding the Complexities of Participatory Design in Rural Uganda, May 2014 (co-supervisor).

Graham Fox (Anthropology, Thesis), Belonging Behind Walls: Race, Security, and Citizenship amongst Euro-Kenyans in Nairobi, August 2012.

Nadiya Ali (International Affairs, Research Essay), Development Identity and Citizenship: The Ugandan Muslim Youth Experience, July 2012.

Will Nham (Anthropology, Thesis), Digging Up Zimbabwean Gold Miners: An Anthropological Study of Artisanal Miners in Central Mozambique, May 2012.

Chi Tran (Anthropology, Thesis), An Ethnographic Analysis of the Current Whistleblowing Landscape in the Canadian Public Service, December 2011.

Tiffany Liu (Anthropology, Thesis), Falun Gon, the Diaspora and Chinese Identity: Fieldwork among the Practitioners in Ottawa, December 2011 (co-supervised).

Alana Conway (Anthropology, Thesis), Examining the “illegitimate” refugee label: A case study of Roma refugee claimants in Canada, 2008-2009, September 2011.

Brendan Harrison (Anthropology, Thesis), Kiva: An analysis of microfinance, NGOs, and development discourses, September 2010 (co-supervised).

Matthew Morgan (Anthropology, Thesis), “The One That Cuts the Path Doesn’t Know it is Crooked”: Ghanaian NGO Workers’ Perspectives of Development in the Multi Donor Budget Support Era, May 2010 (co-supervised).

Christine Spetz (Journalism, Thesis), /Media Development in Post-Genocide Rwanda: How Professionalism and Press Freedom are Affected by Socioeconomic Pressures Internal and External to the Media Sector/, December 2008 (co-supervised with Allan Thompson).

Jennifer Clarke (Geography & Environmental Studies, Thesis), Operation Murambatsvina: Urban Governance in Post-Colonial Zimbabwe, May 2008 (co-supervised with Simon Dalby).

Khairunnisa Mohamedali (International Affairs, Research Paper), Becoming and Being: Stateness, Ethnic Identification and Conflict in Uganda, April 2008.

Laurie Blanchette (Anthropology, Thesis), The Link Between Gendered Violence and HIV/AIDS: Black Women in South Africa, December 2006.

Lincoln Addison (Political Economy, Thesis), Frontier Farm Labour: A Study of Neoliberal Restructuring and Zimbabwean migrant Farm Workers in Limpopo Province, South Africa, August 2006.

Manivillie Kanagasabapathy (Anthropology, Thesis), Post-War Identity Re-Construction in Sri Lanka: Negotiation of Gendered Identity Between the Local and Diaspora Community, April 2006 (co-supervised with Jared Keil).

Kazi Ahmed (Anthropology, Thesis), Identity Formation of Bangladeshi Immigrants in Ottawa, January 2006 (co-supervised with Brian Given).

Recent Publications (since 2004)

2019 (first author with Doris Buss) “Gendered Governance and Socio-economic Differentiation among Women Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners in Central and East Africa” Third World Thematics doi: 10.1080/23802014.2019.1646614

2019 “(Dis-)Graceful Leadership: On familial logics and politics in Zimbabwe.” Cahiers d’Études Africaines LIX (2), 234: 625-654.

2018 Commentary: “Mugabe’s Shadow: Limning the penumbrae of post-coup Zimbabwe.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 52(1): 53-68.

2017 (third author with Chris Huggins and Doris Buss) “A ‘cartography of concern’: place-making practices and gender in the artisanal mining sector in Africa.” Geoforum 83: 142-152.

2017 (second author with Doris Buss) “‘Dangerous Desires’: Illegality, Sexuality, and the Global Governance of Artisanal Mining.” In Di Otto (ed.) Queering International Law. London: Routledge. pp. 35-52.

2017   Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe: The Ground of Politics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

2014   (3rd editor, with Doris Buss, Joanne Lebert, Donna Sharkey, and Obi Aginam), Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies: International Agendas and African Contexts (London: Routledge).

2014      “Organization and (de)mobilization of farm workers in Zimbabwe: Reflections on
Trade Unions, NGOs, and Political Parties.” Journal of Agrarian Change 14(2):214-239.

2013  “Electoral politics and a farm workers’ struggle in Zimbabwe (1999-2000).”  Journal of Southern African Studies 39(4):845-863.

2012       “Shifting the Debate on Land Reform, Poverty and Inequality in Zimbabwe: An Engagement with Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths & Realities,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 30(1): 147-157.

2011       “Stabilizing Boundaries: The shifting terrain of belonging for Zimbabweans in a South African border-zone,” African Diaspora 4 (2): 207-229.

2011       “The Uneasy ties of Working and Belonging: The Changing Situation for Undocumented Zimbabwean Migrants in northern South Africa.” Ethnic and Racial Studies  34(8): 1303-19.

2011       “On the Promise and Perils of Citizenship: Heuristic Concepts, Zimbabwean Example.” Citizenship Studies 15 (3-4): 499-512.

2010       “The Livelihoods of Zimbabwean Farm Workers in northern South Africa,” in Jonathan Crush and Daniel Tevera, eds., Zimbabwe’s Exodus: Crisis, Migration, Survival.   Kingston, ON: Southern African Migration Program, Queen’s University and Ottawa: IDRC. Pp. 244-266.

2010       “Dependent Livelihoods in the Borderlands: Zimbabwean Farm Workers in Northern South Africa,” in JoAnn McGregor and Ranka Primorac, eds., Zimbabwe’s New Diaspora: Displacement and the Cultural Politics of Survival. Oxford: Berghahn Books. pp. 59-76.

2009  “‘We wanted change yesterday!’ The Promise and Perils of ‘Poritikisi’: Zimbabwean Farm Workers, Party Politics, and Critical Social Science.” Anthropologica 51(2):381-394.

2008    “Zimbabwean Land Redistribution! Globalization and Neo-liberalism Narratives and Transnational Connections,” in Joseph Mensah, ed., Neoliberalism and Globalization in Africa: Contestations from the Embattled Continent. New York: Palgrave, pp. 203-220.

2008. “An Unsettled Belonging: Zimbabwean Farm Workers in northern South Africa,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 26(4):401-415.

2008 “Conditional Belonging: Farm Workers and the Cultural Politics of Recognition in Zimbabwe.” Development and Change 39(1):73-99.

2007      (first author with Lincoln Addison) “Zimbabwean Farm Workers in northern South Africa: Transnational Strategies of Survival in an Ambivalent Border-Zone.” Review of African Political Economy34(114):619-635.

2007      “Shifting Grounds in Zimbabwe: Citizenship and Farm Workers in the New Politics of Land,” in Sara Dorman, Dan Hammett, and Paul Nugent, eds., Making Nations, Creating Strangers: States and Citizenship in Africa. Leiden: Brill, pp. 105-122.

2005      “Públicos Blancos, Nación Negra: Granjeros, Trababajadores Agrícolas y Sociedad Civil en Zimbabwe,” in Steffan Igor Ayora-Diaz and Gabriela Vargas Cetina (eds.), Modernidades Locales: Hacia una Etnografía del Presente Múltiple (Local Modernities: Towards an Ethnography of the Multiple Present), Tr. Gabriela Cetina, Mérida, Mexico: Instituto de Cultura de Yucatán y Universidad Autonóma de Yucatán, pp. 59-94.

2005      “The Rough Contours of Land in Zimbabwe,” Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 29(2):103-116.

2005       (second author with Amy West) “Zimbabwe’s ‘New Clothes’: Unraveling the Fabric of Identity and Power Among Displaced Farm Workers,” Sarai Reader 05: 398-411.

2004      “Desired Publics, Domestic Government, and Entangled Fears: On the Anthropology of Civil Society, Farm Workers, and White Farmers in Zimbabwe.” Cultural Anthropology 19(1):122-153.

2004      “Settlers and Zimbabwe: Politics, Memory, and the Anthropology of Commercial Farms During a Time of Crisis.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 11(4):543-562.

2004       (Second author with Evert Waeterloos) “Land Reform in Zimbabwe: Challenges and Opportunities for Poverty Reduction Among Commercial Farm Workers.” World Development 32 (3):537-553.