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College of Arts & Sciences
School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment

Jessica Barnes

Assistant Professor
Department of Geography &
the School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment

Phone Number: 803-777-9945
Office: Callcott 221
Research Areas: Environmental Humanities
Society, Policy & Environment
Water Resources & Hydrology
Research Summary:

Dr. Barnes received her Ph.D. in sustainable development from Columbia University in 2010 and held a postdoctoral fellowship with the Yale Climate & Energy Institute and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies from 2011 to 2013. She joined the University of South Carolina in 2013 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography with a joint appointment in the School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment .



Dr. Barnes's research examines the culture and politics of resource use and environmental change in the Middle East. Her first book, Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt (Duke University Press, 2014) is an ethnographic study of water and the politics surrounding its use. In subsequent work, she has explored the intersections of climate change, water, and agriculture, focusing in particular on how scientific understandings of climate change and its impact on the water resources of the Nile Basin are produced, interpreted, and negotiated in different knowledge communities. Related to this research interest, Dr. Barnes has co-edited a collection of anthropological essays on climate change with Michael Dove, entitled Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change (Yale University Press, 2015). Dr. Barnes's most recent project looks at food security in Egypt and the longstanding identification of security with self-sufficiency in wheat and bread. Drawing on ethnographic and archival work, she is following wheat from its site of cultivation or import, through its transformation into different breads, to its varied consumption in rural and urban households. Dr. Barnes received an ACLS Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies in 2015 to support this project.


 GEOG 347: Water as a Resource

GEOG/ANTH 569: Environment and Development

ENVR201: Environmental Science and Policy

SCHC337: Food and Politics

Representative Publications 

Barnes, J. 2016. Uncertainty in the Signal: Modeling Egypt's Water Futures. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 22(S1): 46-66.

Barnes, J. and M. Dove (eds) 2015. Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Barnes, J. 2015. Scale and Agency: Climate Change and the Future of Egypt's Water. In Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change. Jessica Barnes and Michael Dove (eds). New Haven: Yale University Press, 127-145.

Barnes, J. 2014. Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt. Durham: Duke University Press.

Barnes, J. 2014. Mixing Waters: The Reuse of Agricultural Drainage Water in Egypt. Geoforum, 57: 181-191

Barnes, J. 2014. Water, Water Everywhere but Not a Drop to Drink: The False Promise of Virtual Water. Critique of Anthropology, 33(4): 369-387.

Barnes, J., M. Dove, M. Lahsen, A. Mathews, P. McElwee, R. McIntosh, F. Moore, J. O’Reilly, B. Orlove, R. Puri, H. Weiss, and K. Yager. 2013. Anthropology’s Contribution to the Study of Climate Change. Nature Climate Change, 3:541-544.

Barnes, J. 2013. Who is a Water User? The Politics of Gender in Egypt’s Water User Associations. In Contemporary Water Governance in the Global South: Scarcity, Marketization, and Participation. Leila Harris, Jacqueline Goldin, and Christopher Sneddon (eds). London: Routledge, 185-198.

Barnes, J. 2012. Pumping Possibility: Agricultural Expansion through Desert Reclamation in Egypt. Social Studies of Science,42(4): 517-538.

Barnes, J., and S. Alatout 2012. Water Worlds: Introduction to the Special Issue of Social Studies of Science. Social Studies of Science, 42(4): 483-488.

Barnes, J. 2012. Expanding the Nile’s Watershed: The Science and Politics of Land Reclamation in Egypt. In Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East. Alan Mikhail (ed). New York: Oxford University Press, 251-272.

Barnes, J. 2009. Managing the Waters of Ba'th Country: The Power and Politics of Syria’s Water Scarcity. Geopolitics, 14(3): 510-530.