Skip to Content

Department of Anthropology


Monica Barra

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Department of Anthropology and School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment and College of Arts and Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803 576-8340
Office: Gambrell 423
Resources: Critical Ecologies Lab
Personal Website
Monica Barra


Monica Patrice Barra is a cultural anthropologist with an interdisciplinary background in cultural geography and American Studies. She joined the University of South Carolina in 2019 as an Assistant Professor of Race and Environment with a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology and the School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment. She is also a faculty affiliate in the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Geography. She earned her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. 

Research Areas: 

Environmental Racism and Justice, Critical Race Studies, Anthropology and Ethnography of North America, Black and Indigenous Ecologies, Political Ecology, Science Studies, Public Arts and Humanities


Dr. Barra’s research and collaborative projects are driven by questions of racial and environmental justice in the American South. Her long-term ethnographic work with Black coastal communities and coastal restoration engineers and field scientists in southeast Louisiana examines how unprecedented wetland loss, climate change, and environmental restoration projects intersect with racial and geographic inequalities. It also explores how frontline communities view environmental restoration as a project for social transformation. This research forms the basis of her first book, Good Sediment: Restorative Science and the Racial Politics of Coastal Restoration in Louisiana (under review). Her interests in the intersection of housing, coastal environmental change, and Black geographies inform her current research, which examines the everyday aspects of living on and protecting family land (heirs property) in the coastal American South. 

Dr. Barra’s interdisciplinary interests have led to collaborations with various groups, including: engineers, geologists, fishermen, farmers, coastal communities, visual and performing artists, and arts and cultural institutions. Notable examples include her roles as an environmental anthropologist with the Water Institute of the Gulf (2015-2018), an ethnographer with the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (2022-2024), and a collaborator on a multi-institutional study on climate change and adaptive resilience in the Yazoo - Mississippi Delta (2023-2027).


  • ANTH 342 | ENVR 342: Environmental Anthropology
  • AFAM 348 | ENVR 348: Environmental Racism and Justice
  • ANTH 540 | ENVR 540: Decolonizing the Environment
  • ANTH 730: Contemporary Anthropological Theory Through Ethnography

Representative Publications

Barra, M.P. (2024). Restoration otherwise: Towards alternative coastal ecologies. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 42(1): 147-165.

Barra, M.P. (2024) Restoration and Reparations: Imagining Coastal Repair. Theorizing the Contemporary, Fieldsights, January 25. 

Barra, M.P.  (2023) Plotting a geography of paradise at the end of the world: Black ecologies, productive nostalgia, and the possibilities of life on sinking ground. Transforming Anthropology, 31(1): 15-28.

Barra, M.P. (2021). Good Sediment: Race and Restoration in Coastal Louisiana. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(1): 266–282.

Barra, M.P.; Scott Hemmerling; Melissa Baustian. (2020). A model controversy: Using environmental competency groups to inform coastal restoration planning in Louisiana. Professional Geographer, 72(4): 511-520.

Hemmerling, S.; Monica Patrice Barra; Rebecca Costa. (2020) Planning for a smaller coast: Restoration, protection, and social justice in coastal Louisiana." In, Louisiana’s Response to Extreme Weather: A Test Case for Coastal Resilience, Shirley Laska, Ed. Springer Publishing Company. (pg.113-144).

Barra, M.P. (2018). Memory and Land Loss in South Louisiana. In, Gender: Space. Aimee Meredith Cox, ed. Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Gender series. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA. (pg. 97-111).

Recent Acomplishments

McCausland Faculty Fellowship (2024). College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Carolina

Breakthrough Star Award (2023). Office of the Vice President for Research, University of South Carolina

Arts Research with Communities of Color Fellowship (2022-2024). Social Science Research Council and Wallace Foundation for the Arts. Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture.

Hunt Postdoctoral Writing Fellowship (2021). Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Early Career Fellowship (2020-2022). National Academies of Sciences Gulf Research Program. 

Innovators Fellowship (2019-2021). National Center for Atmospheric Research and National Science Foundation.

Rebirth Grant (2017). Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

Monroe Fellowship (2016). New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, Tulane University.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.