Caroline Melly

Associate Professor of Anthropology; Department Chair of Anthropology

Caroline Melly

Contact & Office Hours

By appointment only.

Tyler Annex 203



Ph.D., M.A., University of California, Irvine

B.A., University of Pittsburgh


Caroline Melly is a sociocultural anthropologist with a keen interest in the politics of citizenship and governance in an era of transnationalism. Her research and writing have focused on the emergent modes of belonging and governance that take shape amidst neoliberal economic reform, shifts in international migration policy, urban expansion and development, and rapid scientific and technological change in Africa and the United States.

Melly has conducted research in Dakar, Senegal, with the support of the National Science Foundation and the Fulbright-Hays program. Her first book, Bottleneck: Moving, Building, and Belonging in an African City, is forthcoming in 2017 with the University of Chicago Press. This book introduces the embouteillage—the traffic bottleneck—as an ethnographic point of departure and as a theoretical lens for making sense of everyday life and policy-making in Dakar. Her ethnographic itinerary involved an internship at the national investment promotion agency, which was looking to create a program for migrants to invest; mobile interviews with cab drivers navigating the city; and extensive work with return migrants, investors and residents who considered themselves excluded from transnational networks. Her work has also been published in academic journals such as American EthnologistComparative Studies in Society and History and Africa, and in media outlets such as

Melly’s newer research projects are situated at the intersection of the anthropology of citizenship and governance and science and technology studies (STS). “The Nation as Startup: Innovation and Entrepreneurialism in Tech-Savvy Senegal” examines the role that technological tinkering and entrepreneurial risk-taking play in reshaping economies, publics and subjectivities in Senegal, West Africa. Concurrent with this Africa-focused research, Melly is beginning research on the highly charged politics of medical marijuana in the United States. Focusing on the technological, political and cultural metamorphoses of the cannabis plant—in scientific laboratories, home kitchens, entrepreneurial start-ups, social media platforms and courtrooms—offers us insight into much broader transformations of state-citizen relations in the United States and beyond. Melly has also conducted preliminary research on everyday engagements with corn (or maize), a ubiquitous and increasingly controversial component of the American food and fuel supply, but also of scores of everyday household products and packaging.

At Smith College, Melly teaches courses on topics such as globalization and transnationalism, belonging and citizenship, visual culture and representation, anthropological methods, urban space and cities, digital life, science and technology, and Africa and its diaspora. She was a 2014 recipient of the Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching.