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Brett Williams

Professor
Department of Anthropology

  • Brett Williams began her work as an anthropologist working among migrant farm workers in Illinois, exploring how they coped with terrible poverty and helping them organize a lettuce boycott and raise money for a halfway house. Since coming to Washington in 1976, Williams has written about gentrification, displacement, and homelessness; urban renewal and public housing; race and poverty; environmental justice in the Anacostia Watershed; urban nature; illness and inequality; the culture of and credit and debt. She has published six books, including one on the African American hero John Henry, Upscaling Downtown, on the pain and promise of integration in an urban neighborhood and Debt for Sale, which explores the rise of the super-profitable credit industry, including credit cards, student loans, pawnshops, and other predatory lenders. Working with community ethnographers, Williams and her students have done projects for the National Park Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife. In their work they tried to join theory and practice in promoting better public policy and social justice.
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  • CAS - Anthropology
  • Hamilton - 212
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Teaching

  • Fall 2014

    • ANTH-350 Special Topics: Organizing for a New Economy
    • Description

AU Expert

Area of Expertise: credit and debt; urban life, gentrification, and displacement; homelessness; poverty; environmental justice; history and culture of Washington, D.C.

Additional Information: Brett Williams and AU alumna Marianna Blagburn were co-curators of the 2000 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held annually on the Washington Mall since 1967. Williams is the author of  Debt for Sale: A Social History of the Credit Trap (2004) and  editor of Landscapes of Inequality (2008). Williams began her work as an anthropologist working among migrant farm workers in Illinois, exploring how they coped with terrible poverty and helping them organize a lettuce boycott and raise money for a halfway house. Since coming to Washington in 1976, Williams has written about gentrification, displacement, and homelessness; urban renewal and public housing; race and poverty; environmental justice in the Anacostia Watershed; urban nature; illness and inequality; and the culture of credit and debt. Working with community ethnographers, Williams and her students have done projects for the National Park Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife. In their work they have tried to join theory and practice in promoting better public policy and social justice.
 

Media Relations
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