Catherine Mathers

Catherine Mathers

Associate Professor of the Practice of Cultural Anthropology

External address: 
Ics Program, 210-B East Duke Building, Durham, NC 27708-0405
Internal office address: 
Ics Program, Box 90405, Durham, NC 27708-0405
(919) 660-4374


I am a socio-cultural anthropologist with interdisciplinary training in sociology and the natural sciences. My work is propelled by the examination of how representational practices, through writing and other forms of creative expression construct and mediate the world. I pay close attention to these practices in my own diverse and cross-disciplinary writing projects as well as when I teach. By taking the idea of America seriously, as well as putting Africa and media about Africa center stage, through a study of travel and tourism between these two spaces, my book, Travel, Humanitarianism and Becoming American in Africa  shows the global connections and disconnections on which contemporary identities are formed. My second project builds on and develops my work on transnational encounters and mobilities, imperial relationships and identity construction to explore what it means to be South African twenty years and more post-apartheid.  How are South Africans navigating the consistent racialized economic divides alongside a changing set of discourses about belonging, nationality and race? What happens when these conversations about race and identity, Africanness and whiteness meet in the contested racialized institutions of Europe and America especially in the spheres of theatre, art and education?

Degrees & Credentials

  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley 2003

Mathers, Kathryn. Travel, Humanitarianism, and Becoming American in Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Mathers, K., and N. Kruger. “The past is another country: Archaeology in the Limpopo Province, South Africa.” Landscapes of Clearance, edited by Angele Smith and Amy Gazin-Schwartz, Left Coast Press, 2008, pp. 71–86.

Mathers, K., and N. Kruger. “Doing Africa: Travelers, Adventurers and American conquest of Africa.” Tarzan Was an Eco-Tourist…and Other Tales in the Anthropology of Adventure, edited by Luis Antonio Vivanco and Robert J. Gordon, Berghahn Books, 2006, pp. 197–213.

Mathers, K. “The Reverse Gaze: The Impact of the South African Gaze on American Travellers.” Visual Culture/Explorations, Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria, 2005.

Mathers, K. Leisure Choices: Can Museums Compete? Edited by M. Moolman, National Cultural History Museum.

Mathers, Harold G. “Mr. Kristof, I Presume?Transition, no. 107, Indiana University Press, 2012, pp. 15–15. Crossref, doi:10.2979/transition.107.15. Full Text

Mathers, K. “‘An interplay at specific points’: Traveling between California and Cape Town.” Tourist Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, Jan. 2008, pp. 61–75. Scopus, doi:10.1177/1468797608094930. Full Text

Mathers, K., and L. Landau. “Natives, tourists, and makwerekwere: Ethical concerns with 'Proudly South African' tourism.” Development Southern Africa, vol. 24, no. 3, Sept. 2007, pp. 523–37. Scopus, doi:10.1080/03768350701445632. Full Text

Hubbard, L., and K. Mathers. “Surviving American empire in Africa: The anthropology of reality television.” International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 7, no. 4, Dec. 2004, pp. 441–59. Manual, doi:10.1177/1367877904047863. Full Text

Mathers, K. “'South Africa is not Africa’: What American students learn about South Africa.” Tourism Review International, vol. 8, no. 2, Jan. 2004, pp. 127–41. Manual, doi:10.3727/1544272042782200. Full Text

Henneberg, M., et al. “Human adaptations to meat eating.” Human Evolution, vol. 13, no. 3–4, Springer Science and Business Media LLC, July 1998, pp. 229–34. Crossref, doi:10.1007/bf02436507. Full Text

Mathers, K. “SAMA Beyond 2000: A survey of the role played by the Southern African Museums Association in the 1990s.” South African Museums Association Bulletin, vol. 20, 1994, pp. 44–51.

Mathers, K., and M. Henneberg. “Were we ever that big? Gradual increase in hominid body size over time.” Homo, vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 141–43.

Mathers, K., and M. Hennerberg. “Reconstruction of body heights, age and sex from handprints.” South African Journal of Science, vol. 90, no. 8/9, Academy of Science of South Africa, pp. 493–96.


Mathers, K. “Framed: representations of the western imagination of Africa.” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, Henry Stewart Publications, 2016, pp. 20–26.

Framed. Producer. (2015)


F R A M E D: a story about the image of Africa follows a Kenyan photographer who reclaims the power of the image to jumpstart a ballot revolution. Moving between new stories and old myths, and between activists in Kenya and America, FRAMED shows what’s possible when we re-imagine the plot that cast a continent as a victim.