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Ida Susser

Distinguished Professor

I. Susser

Tel: (212) 772-5623
Fax: (212) 772-5423
Room: HN 712

Ph.D. Columbia University, 1980

Areas of Specialization
Medical anthropology, contemporary US studies, urban, political economy, gender, Southern Africa

Faculty member GSUC Anthropology 

Overview of Research
Ida Susser, professor of anthropology at Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center, has conducted ethnographic research in the U.S., Southern Africa and Puerto Rico, with respect to urban social movements and the urban commons,· gender, the global AIDS epidemic and environmental movements. 

Her recent publication: Updated· Norman Street: Poverty and Politics· in an Urban Neighborhood (Oxford University Press 2012). The original edition of this book (Oxford 1982) explores working class consciousness, racism, ethnic identities and gender in the emergence of social movements in Greenpoint- Williamsburg Brooklyn. It focuses specifically on the occupation of the People’s Firehouse sparked by the New York City fiscal crisis of 1975, the first neoliberal experiment. Claiming a Right to New York City the new section discusses the changing neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn from the original ethnography which began with the New York City fiscal to the Occupy movement of 2011.

Susser argues that we need to reconsider the role of “cultural workers” such as the artists, actors and others of Williamsburg. Clearly, as many analysts have argued, such cultural workers are the harbingers and facilitators of “revitalization” and gentrification. However, they, too, were early displaced from previous centers such as Greenwich Village and Lower East Side and recognizing the writing on the wall in the new Brooklyn neighborhoods, many joined with working class movements to preserve their living spaces in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. This book demonstrates the long-term struggles of community organizations to construct affordable living conditions with parks, decent schools and other facilities for poor and middle class people and documents both their viability over decades as well as the enormous forces they have had to contend with since 2001. 

Her book AIDS, Sex and Culture: Global Politics and Survival in Southern Africa (Wiley-Blackwell 2009) which was awarded the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize for research in women and health, by the Society for Medical Anthropology (2012), draws on medical anthropology, science studies, global studies, as well as research on class, gender and race. It discusses the ways in which women mobilized, from small group meetings to major demonstrations, to prevent and treat AIDS in Southern Africa and how these social movements could be understood in their local, national and global context. Following the methods of extended case analysis, the work considers the gendered framing of scientific research in the United States as well as at the global scale and the ways in which this affected the available funding and preventive methods in Southern Africa as well as the national and local political arenas framing AIDS prevention and treatment. In part it is a study of the historical emergence of a national movement for AIDS treatment in the context of the immediate transition from apartheid in South Africa. 

The book documents the shifts in the political arena as the deaths from AIDS multiply in the face of silences about the disease at all scales.· It outlines the interaction between denialism by political officials at the national level and the emergence of strong protest movements among men and women who began to recognize the massive numbers of people dying of AIDS and the practical implications of the denialist policy at the local level. These movements were ultimately were successful in changing AIDS policy in South Africa. Susser goes beyond the political battles in South Africa to demonstrate contrasting experiences among the San peoples of Namibia and the ways in which a history of foraging and egalitarianism shaped women’s mobilization around AIDS prevention in the modern state of Namibia. Susser’s research illuminates the role of grassroots intellectuals as the mediators of knowledge and praxis from the local to the national and the global as well as from the global to the local. 

Susser goes beyond the political battles in South Africa to demonstrate contrasting experiences among the San peoples of Namibia and the ways in which a history of foraging and egalitarianism shaped women’s mobilization around AIDS prevention in the modern state of Namibia. Susser’s research illuminates the role of grassroots intellectuals as the mediators of knowledge and praxis from the local to the national and the global as well as from the global to the local. 

Susser received an award for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America from the Society for the Anthropology of North America, and is past President of the American Ethnological Society and founding President of the Society for the Anthropology of North America. Her recent research has been funded by a MacArthur Foundation Research and Writing Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation, among other sources. 

She was co-chair of the Social Science Track for the 2008 Mexico City International AIDS Society Conference,· co-chair of the AAA Commission of World Anthropologies and is a founding member of the steering committee of Athena: Advancing Gender Equity and Human Rights in the Global Response to HIV/AIDS. 

Selected Publications

  2014  “Austerity: New York City (1975) and Detroit (2013)”, for Special Issue of Anthropology Now in preparation

 2014 in press  “Gender in the City” in Don Nonini ed. Urban Anthropology Reader, Blackwell

 2014 in press   “Bio-Insecurity, Gender and HIV/AIDS in South Africa” in  The Anthropology of Bio-Insecurity  eds L.Sharp, N. Chen, Santa Fe: School of Advanced Research Press

*2013  “Transformative Cities” with Stephane Tonnelat in Focaal:Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology (a European Journal based in the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary) essay published as an international forum with responses by Susana Narotzky (University of Barcelona), Jane Collins (University of Wisconsin), Alain Bertho (University of Paris) vol. 2013,  66, Summer pp. 105-132

*2011  Organic intellectuals, crossing scales, and the emergence of social movements with respect to AIDS in South Africa” (Presidential Address) American Ethnologist, Volume 38, Issue 4 November, pp.733-742

*2011 Can further placebo-controlled trials of antiretroviral drugs to prevent sexual transmission of HIV be justified?” Louise Kuhn, Ida Susser, Zena Stein, Lancet 2011; 378: 285–87

2011 Foreword to Megacities and Global Health  eds.  Omar A. Khan and Gregory Pappas American Public Health Association, p. v-xiii

2011 “Gavin Smith’s Selective Hegemonies”  Identities, Jan/Feb2011, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p54-62,

2011  “A Comment on Friedman and Rossi’s Dialectics of HIV: Agency, Resistance and Gender” Dialectical anthropology, vol 35, no.4, pp 435-441

2010  “Microbicide Success: New Opportunities for Women” Z.Stein and I.Susser  published with responses from specialists in the field, Special Issue of AIDS Legal Quarterly pp.38-56, October

2010  “Microbicide Success: Feminism is Essential to Good Science” published online, Open Democracy July,  selected as one of the top ten articles for 2010 and reprinted online December 2010

2010  “The Anthropologist as Social Critic: Working Toward a More Engaged Anthropology” In current Anthropology volume 51, S2, April 2010

2008  “Women in the Time of AIDS: Barriers, Bargains and Benefits” in AIDS Education and Prevention, 20 (2) pp. 91-106 (with J. Mantell and Z. Stein)

2007  “Women and AIDS in the Second Millenium” in Women Studies Quarterly 35 (1,2). Pp. 336-344

2007  “Confounding Conventional Wisdom: The Ju’/hoansi and HIV/AIDS” (with Richard Lee) in Updating the San: Image and Reality of an African People in the 21st Century. Eds, R. Hitchcock, et al., Senri Ethnological Series no. 70, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan. Pp.45-61

2006  “Working Class Struggles in New York City: from the neighborhood to the homeless shelter” in Rome and New York City: Comparative Urban Problems at the End of the 20th Century. Eds. Victor Goldsmith and Eugenio Sonnino, Casa Editrice Universita, La Sapienza. Pp.151-171

2006  “Castells: The City and the Grassroots: an anthropological perspective,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Planning, 30(1). Pp. 212-218

2004  “From the Cosmopolitan to the Personal: women’s mobilization with respect to HIV/AIDS” in Social Movements, Ed. June Nash. Blackwell Publishers. Pp.272-284

2003  Ju/’hoansi Survival in the face of HIV: questions of poverty and gender” in Anthropologica  45. Pp.121-128

2002  “Losing Ground: Advancing Capitalism and the Relocation of Working Class Communities” in Locating Capitalism in Time and Space: Global Restructurings, Politics, and Identity, David Nugent (Ed.). Stanford University Press. Pp. 274- 289

2002    The Health Rights of Women in the Age of AIDS” in the International, Journal of Epidemiology, 31. Pp. 45-48

2001  “Sexual Negotiations in relation to Political Mobilization: the prevention of HIV in comparative context” in The Journal of AIDS and Behavior.June 5(2). Pp. 163-172

2000  “Culture,Sexuality and Women’s Agencyin the Prevention of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa” with Zena Stein, in American Journal of Public Health, July 90(7) Pp. 1042-1049

1999  “Inequality, Violence and Gender Relations in a Global City: New York, 1986- 96            in special issue on "Gendered Violence," Mary Anglin (ed.). Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 5 (2). Pp. 219-248

1997  "The Flexible Woman: Regendering Labor in the Informational Society," Critique of Anthropology 17(4). Pp. 389-402

1996  "The Construction of Poverty and Homelessness in U.S. Cities," Annual Reviews in Anthropology  25. Pp. 411-435

1993  "Creating Family Forms: The exclusion of men and teenage boys from families in the New York City shelter system, 1987-91," Critique of Anthropology 13(3). Pp. 267-283

1991  "The Separation of Mothers and Children" in John Mollenkopf and Manuel Castells. The Dual City . New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

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