Skip to main content

Lisa Cliggett

Research Interests:
Political Ecology
Sustainability and Environmental Change
Household Political Economy
Kinship-Family and Social Organization
Sub-Saharan Africa
Gwembe Tonga Research Project
Qualitative Methods
Digital Data Management
aging and life course
Migration and New Land Settlement
Politcal Economy

PhD/MA, Indiana University, Bloomington
BA, Connecticut College (Anthropology, Psychology)


Born in New York City, but growing up outside of San Francisco, CA, I oscillated between these two coastal regions, with a number of international sojourns, until coming to rest in Lexington KY in 1999.


My passion for anthropology began when I traveled to Mexico as a teenager, and managed to escape the manicured confines of tourist hotels and sites. I walked the small passageways in the local people's market and residential neighborhoods, and felt that I had slipped through a secret doorway into a more complicated and compelling world than what tour operators present to American travelers. From then on I sought to know more about how local people throughout the world experience their day-to-day lives; particularly how they manage their lives in contexts of extreme social and economic differentiation, and increasing global exchange.

My research incorporates socio-cultural change and economic frameworks by exploring the political economy of resource access, population mobility, and ecological dynamics, with ethnographic research in Southern Central Africa. With this analytical approach I examine the inter-relations of individuals, families and communities, with the environment, and the role that larger scale structures (such as regional and national politics, and international aid organizations) play in these local level relationships. Currently my research program centers on an investigation of land cover change in a national park buffer zone in Central Zambia, and how host-migrant relations influence land tenure security, ecological sustainability and social dynamics in the region. A simultaneous project takes the intersection of livelihoods and food / nutritional security as the lens for examining the migrant experience in this frontier zone. Other primary research projects have included a study of the effects of migration / mobility on agricultural labor availability and household economics and intergenerational relations. I supervise a variety of PhD students with a broad range of research interests. Among these student projects are (or have been): Sustainable Consumerism in Sweden; “Peasants” and Livelihood Change in Costa Rica; Markets and Rural Livelihood Integration in the Ecuadorian Andes; Gender, Youth and Resource Use in Zambia;  Agro-Pastoral Livelihood Diversification in Morocco; and Livelihood Resilience in Malawi.

Selected Publications:


Wilk, Richard and Lisa Cliggett 2007 Economies and Cultures: Foundations of Economic Anthropology Second Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview/Perseus Books. 2010. Korean Edition. 2010. Greek Edition.

Cliggett, Lisa 2005 Grains from Grass: aging, gender and famine in rural Africa. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Edited Books

Pedersen, Lene and Lisa Cliggett, eds 2021. SAGE Handbook of Cultural Anthropology.  London, UK: SAGE Press. 

Cliggett, Lisa & Virginia Bond, eds 2013. “Tonga Timeline: Appraising 60 years of multidisciplinary research in Zambia and Zimbabwe.”  London/Lusaka: Limbani Trust Publishers/ Africa Books Collective.

Cliggett, Lisa & Christopher Pool, eds 2008. Economies and the Transformation of Landscape. New York: Alta Mira Press.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

Pedersen, Lene and Lisa Cliggett 2021. “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: Foundations, Focal Areas, Urgent Issues, and Critical Dynamics.” In SAGE Handbook of Cultural Anthropology, Lene Pedersen and Lisa Cliggett, eds. London UK: SAGE Press.

Pedersen, Lene and Lisa Cliggett 2021. “Stretching Into The Future: Expansion toward Inclusion, Consilience, and Co-equality ” In SAGE Handbook of Cultural Anthropology, Lene Pedersen and Lisa Cliggett, eds. London UK: SAGE Press.

Bond, Virginia and Lisa Cliggett In press (2021) “Child Abuse and Engaged Anthropology: building on Colson’s Children at Risk: The Hazards of Childhood in Gwembe Valley,” Chapter 13. In Elizabeth Colson: Social Anthropologist, Mentor, and Advocate, Amanda Vinson and Raymond Apthorpe eds. London UK: RAI Occasional Papers; Sean Kingston Publishing.

Cliggett, Lisa 2020 “Thoughts on Data Lifecycle and the Lifecycle of Anthropological Thought on Data.” In Anthropological Data in the Digital Age: New Possibilities – New Challenges, Jerome W. Crowder et al.  Springer Press. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-24925-0_12. Pp. 255-265.

Cliggett, Lisa 2020   Diary as data, diary as document. Invited review for special section honoring Pamela Reynolds’ “The uncaring, intricate world” (Duke University Press 2019). Anthropology Southern Africa, 43(1):50-53.

Harnish, Allison; Lisa Cliggett and Thayer Scudder. 2019.  Rivers and Roads: A Political Ecology of Displacement, Development, and Chronic Liminality in Zambia’s Gwembe Valley. Economic Anthropology. 6(2): 250-263.

Compion, Sara and Lisa Cliggett. 2018. “The gift of volunteering: relational implications for social inequality and welfare distribution in southern Africa.” Sociology of Development. Vol. 4(4):374-393. DOI: 10.1525/sod.2018.4.4.374. 

Cliggett, Lisa. 2015  “Preservation, Sharing and Technological Challenges of Longitudinal Research in the Digital Age.” In eFieldnotes: Makings of Anthropology in a Digital World, Roger Sanjek and Susan Tratner eds, University of Pennsylvania Press. Pp. 231-250.

Cliggett, Lisa. 2014  “Chronic Liminality” and the production of vulnerability: the political ecological history of a Zambian park buffer zone. Human Organization 73(2):128-140.

Cliggett, Lisa 2013. Qualitative Data Archiving in the Digital Age. The Qualitative Report. 18(24):how-to-article-1:1-11.  (June 17, 2013) (

Cliggett, Lisa; Elizabeth Colson, Rod Hay, Thayer Scudder, Jon Unruh 2010 “Adaptive Responses to Environmental and Sociopolitical Change in Southern Zambia.” In Human Ecology: Contemporary Research and Practice.  Daniel Bates and Judith Tucker, eds. New York: Springer. Pp. 225-236

Cliggett, Lisa 2010  Aging, Agency and Gwembe Tonga Getting By. Journal of Aging, Humanities and the Arts. 4(2):98-109.

Cliggett, Lisa; Brooke Wyssmann 2009 The Costs of Diversification: Exploring Zambian Teachers’ Alternative Income Generation and Crimes Against the Future. Africa Today 55(3):25-43

Crooks, Deborah L.; Lisa Cliggett, Steve Cole 2007 Child growth as a measure of livelihood security:  The case of the Gwembe Tonga. American Journal of Human Biology. 19(5)669-675.

Cliggett, Lisa; Elizabeth Colson, Rod Hay, Thayer Scudder, Jon Unruh 2007 Chronic Uncertainty and Momentary Opportunity: A half century of adaptation among Zambia’s Gwembe Tonga. Special Issue, Eds Jane Guyer and Eric Lambin. Human Ecology February 35(1):19-31. 

Cliggett, Lisa 2003 “Gift-remitting and Alliance Building in Zambian Modernity: Old Answers to Modern Problems.” American Anthropologist.105(3):543-552.

Cliggett, Lisa 2003 "Male Wealth and Claims to Motherhood: Gendered Resource Access and Intergenerational Relations in the Gwembe Valley, Zambia." In Gender at Work in Economic Life, SEA volume 20. Gracia Clark, editor. Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press. Pp. 207-223.

Cliggett, Lisa 2002 Multi-Generations and Multi-Disciplines: Inheriting Fifty Years of Gwembe Tonga Research. In Chronicling Cultures: Long–Term Field Research in Anthropology.  Robert Van Kemper, Anya Royce, editors. Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press. Pp. 239-251