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Photograph of Orisanmi Burton

Orisanmi Burton Assistant Professor Anthropology

PhD The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Anthropology
MLIS Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Archival Studies
BA Hampshire College, Interdisciplinary Studies

As a social anthropologist working in the United States, my research examines the imbrication of grassroots resistance and state repression. Within this broad area of inquiry, my present work explores the collision of Black-led movements for social, political, and economic transformation with state infrastructures of militarized policing, surveillance, and imprisonment. I analyze the productivity of this collision; how it gives rise to new formations of knowledge, subjectivity, intimacy, gender, organization, and statecraft across time and space. I ask: how do Black radical demands generated within and against US prisons presage alternative futures for people and places on both sides of prison walls? In what ways have state-organized responses to these demands - via diverse configurations of repression, reform, and incorporation – been key drivers of US historical development and state formation? Through what bureaucratic, ideological, and material processes is this dynamic political struggle transformed into an administrative problem of “criminal justice”? How can conceptualizing the US prison as a domain of war open new analytical, theoretical, and methodological terrain?

My first book Tip of the Spear: Black Radicalism, Prison Repression, and the Long Attica Revolt was published in October 2023 by The University of California Press.
For the Media
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Spring 2024

  • ANTH-210 Race and Racism

  • ANTH-640 Current Issues in Anthropology: Knowledge/Secrecy/Conspiracy

Fall 2024

  • ANTH-150 Anthropology of Life in U.S.

  • ANTH-210 Race and Racism

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

2021 Freedom Scholar, Marguerite Casey Foundation

2020-2021 Evelyn Green Davis Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

Research Interests

United States, race & racialization, prisons, policing, security, war, social movements, Black studies, mascullinity, ethnographic methods, archives