Laurie Denyer Willis

Laurie Denyer Willis

DR

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Biography

Laurie uses a multimodal approach to ethnography to explore the relationships between the sensory lives of bodies, suburban environments, religion, and global health. Her first book project, “A Politics of Grace: Evangelicalism & Affective Politics in Rio de Janeiro’s Subúrbios”, is based on long-term engagement in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is part of the Atelier Series at the University of California Press. The book considers how Evangelical Christianity shapes ideas about urban space, bodies and feeling, and race in Brazil by thinking through sensory experience, affect, religious life and anti-Black practice. Drawing on multimodal research carried out in Rio de Janeiro’s Western suburbs, it examines changing religious landscapes and how the senses come to matter distinctively. Parts of this project are published in Cultural Anthropology (2018), analysing the entanglements of bodies, toxic pollutants, and suburban infrastructures, tracing how Pentecostalism, race, and the senses are put to work constructing new kinds of affective space amidst a political and capitalist ‘wasteland’. 

Over the past few years, Laurie has been working with anthropologists in Kampala, Uganda and Bangkok, Thailand, as part of the collective project Antimicrobials In Society (AMIS) at LSHTM. Here, her work considers antimicrobial resistance, food systems, and the politics of AMR policy (both its design and implementation), within a broader analysis of global health politics and architectures. In this research, Laurie considers the use of antibiotics in the suburbs of Kampala, where chicken farming is being transformed through the logics of stacking and scalability. These practices are then interwoven with new commercial agrarian families in the suburbs, and their concerns about zoonotic disease, climate sustainability, economic futures, and the life and death of animals, microbes, plants and humans on their suburban lands. This work attends to the logics of consumption and protein in global health, with an emphasis on how bodies - and what they consume - are racialised and made political through the policing of enmeshed life. This work approaches bodies, their consumables, and their environments as interstiched; bodies sieve foods and microbes, as much as they sieve postcolonial environments premised in surveillance and captivity. 

Laurie competed her PhD in Medical Anthropology at McGill in 2018, and her MSc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Urban Studies and Planning.

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