Catherine Bolten

Director of Doctoral Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
Professor of Anthropology and Peace Studies
Concurrent Associate Professor of Africana Studies; Kellogg Institute Faculty Fellow; Eck Institute Faculty Fellow


PhD, Anthropology, University of Michigan (2008)
MA, Anthropology, University of Michigan (2003)
MPhil, Social Anthropology, Cambridge University (2000)
BA, Anthropology and Biology, Williams College (1998)

Research and Teaching Interests

Youth, structural violence, food insecurity, multi-species entanglements, peace and development, ethnographic methods 


Professor Bolten is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose interests range from generational friction in modes of labor, education, and agriculture, to multi-species entanglements in rapidly degrading forest-savanna mosaics. She has conducted research in Sierra Leone since 2003, and worked in Botswana from 1996 to 2002. She is currently Director of Doctoral Studies for the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, in addition to teaching and mentoring in the anthropology program. Professor Bolten is also concurrent faculty in the Africana Studies Department, a fellow in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and in the Pulte Institute, and a member of the Eck Institute for Global Health.  She is a core faculty member of the Keough School for Global Affairs, which houses the institutes.

Professor Bolten is the author of two books and over a dozen articles and book chapters.

Her first book, I Did It to Save My Life: Love and Survival in Sierra Leone (University of California Press, 2012) analyzed how personal narration of survival during Sierra Leone’s ten-year civil war illuminated a moral and social framework orientated towards care and material investment in others. Related articles appear in American Anthropologist, The Journal of Modern African Studies, The Journal of Political Ecology, Ethnologie Française, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review.

Her second book, Serious Youth in Sierra Leone: An Ethnography of Generation and Globalization was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. The book analyzes how youth orient their schooling, employment, politics, and their dress and comportment around the practices designed to be "taken seriously" by adults. Articles related to this project appear in The Journal for Anthropological Research, Anthropological Quarterly, and The Journal of Human Rights.

In 2017 Professor Bolten co-edited a special journal issue on the West African Ebola epidemic in Anthropological Quarterly, a project that was highlighted in the recent best-seller AnthroVision, by Gillian Tett.

Her current research is a collaboration with primatologist Andrew Halloran, of Save the Chimps, on the Tonkolili Chimpanzee Project. This project examines chimpanzee survival, conservation, and multi-species entanglements in light of rural food insecurity, overpopulation, climate change, elephant grass desertification, and the recent Ebola epidemic. Publications related to this project appear in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology, African Studies Review, the edited volume Living with Animals, and a forthcoming edited volume on widowhood in Africa. Dr. Bolten is working on a book from this project tentatively titled Chimpanzees Avoid Rebel Shit: Multi-Species Dwelling in a Troubled Place.

Phone: 574-631-5099
Office: 317 Hesburgh Center