Mariane C. Ferme

Mariane C. Ferme's picture
Associate Professor
Special Interests: 
West Africa and Sierra Leone; sociocultural theory and methods; history of anthropology; the political imagination; access to justice and transitional justice institutions; materiality.

Mariane C. Ferme is a sociocultural anthropologist whose current research focuses on the political imagination, violence and conflict, and access to justice in West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone.


I received my PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, after studying Political Science at the University of Milano, Italy, and majoring in anthropology at Wellesley College.  My research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Hellman Family Faculty Fund and France-Berkeley Fund at UC-Berkeley, the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and the Carter Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia, among others.  I have held teaching appointments at the University of Cambridge, Churchill College (Cambridge), the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, and as the Jacques Leclerq Chair at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.  Visiting honorary appointments have included University College, London, and the International Chair at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium.

My research has long focused on Sierra Leone, and West Africa more generally.  It encompasses gendered approaches to everyday practices and materiality in agrarian West Africa, and work on the political imagination in times of violence, particularly in relation to the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone. I am interested in the ways in which particular figures and symbols of the political are reconfigured in times of crisis, while conveying, too, through their links with the past, a sense of continuity in the midst of conflict zones.

I also have done research on the ways in which international humanitarian legal institutions and jurisprudence shape that status in our collective imaginaries of

figures of victimhood, criminality, and witnessing in times of war.  The empirical focus of this work has been the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the developing jurisprudence in that setting about the forced conscription of child soldiers and the crime of “forced marriage.”

I am on sabbatical during the 2014-15 academic year, to carry out a National Science Foundation-supported collaborative and interdisciplinary research project on changing agrarian institutions in Sierra Leone.  The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea has made the contribution of anthropologists crucial to developing more socio-culturally sensitive and acceptable strategies for intervention, and to understanding pathways of disease transmission.  I have collaborated in scholarly research and writing on this topic, as well as in advising humanitarian agencies intervening in  EVD-affected countries.

321 Kroeber
Office Hours: 
On Sabbatical 2014-15
Representative Publications: 

“Territorializing States, Refugees, and Diasporic Publics,” in  Democratization and Human Security: Perils and Promises in Post-War Sierra Leone, eds. Marda Mustapha and Joseph Bangura, Palgrave (forthcoming).

“Consent, Custom and the Law in Debates around Forced Marriage at the Special Court for Sierra Leone,” in Something Old, Something New: Conceptualizing Forced Marriage in Africa, eds. Annie Bunting, Benjamin Lawrance, and Richard Roberts, Ohio University Press (forthcoming).

2014                “Social pathways for Ebola Virus Disease in rural Sierra Leone, and some implications for containment,” with P Richards, J Amara, E Mokuwa, P Koroma, I Shariff, R Suluku and M Voors, forthcoming at

2014                “Hospital Diaries: Experiences with Public Health in Sierra Leone,” Ebola in Perspective, eds. D Hoffman and M Moran, Cultural Anthropology, available at

2014                “Writings on the Wall: Chinese Material Traces in an African Landscape,” with Cheryl Mei-Ting Schmitz, in The Journal of Material Culture, prepublished October 6, 2014, DOI: 10.1177/0123456789123456

2014                "Forests Imaginaries in the Upper Guinea Coast," with Paul Richards, in Visions from the Forest: The Arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone, eds. Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers and Alexander Bortolot, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, pp. 33-41; 206.

2013                Localizing the State," in Anthropological Quarterly 86(4): 957-6

2013                “Archetypes of Humanitarian Discourse:" Child Soldiers, Forced Marriage, and the Framing of Communities in Post-conflict Sierra Leone, in Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 4(1): 47-69.

2004. Hunter Militias and the International Human Rights Discourse in Sierra Leone and Beyond, with Danny Hoffman. Africa Today 50(4): 72-95.

2004. Deterritorialized Citizenship and the Resonances of the Sierra Leonean State. In Anthropology in the Margins of the State, eds. Veena Das and Deborah Poole. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.

2003. Flexible Sovereignty? Paramount Chiefs, Deterritorialization and Political Mediations in Sierra Leone. Cambridge Anthhropology 23 (2):21-35.

2002. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinee: La regionalisation de la guerre. Special issue of Politique Africaine 88 (lead co-editor).

2002. Combattants Irreguliers et Discours International des Droits de l'Homme dans les Guerres Civiles Africaines: Le cas des "chasseurs" Sierra Leonais (with Danny Hoffman). Politique Africaine 88: 27-48.

2001. The Underneath of Things: Violence, History and the Everyday in Sierra Leone. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2001. La Figure du chasseur et les chasseurs-milicens dans le conflit Sierra-Leonais. Politique Africaine 82 (June).

1999. Staging Politisi: The Dialogics of Publicity and Secrecy in Sierra Leone. In Civil Society and the Political Imagination in Africa. John and Jean Comaroff, eds. Chicago.

1998. The Violence of Numbers: Consensus, Competition, and the Negotiation of Disputes in Sierra Leone. Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 150-152, xxxviii-2-4:555-80.

1994. What "Alhaji Airplane" saw in Mecca, and what happened when he came home: ritual transformation in a Mende community (Sierra Leone). In Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis. C. Stewart and R. Shaw, eds. Pp. 27-44. Routledge.