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Rahul OkaRahul Oka

Ford Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology
(PhD, University of Illinois Chicago and Field Museum, 2008)
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Geographic focus: East Africa (coastal and northern Kenya, Sudan, Uganda); West Coast of India

Thematic interests: Economic anthropology; ethnography of traders and trade; disaster commerce; development economies; trade and urbanism; cultural ecology and political economy; social network analysis, agent-based simulation and modeling of economic behavior; complex adaptive systems; African anthropology; African Diaspora in Asia; South Asian Anthropology.

Current research: Trading systems and networks in the disaster economies of western and northern Kenya and southern Sudan and relationship to development issues; violence and scapegoating of merchant and other transient groups; relationships between commercial groups and political regulatory institutions.

Selected publications:

  • “Unlikely Cities in the Desert: The Informal Economy as Causal Agent for Permanent ‘Urban’ Sustainability in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya,” Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 40, 3–4 (2011)

  • Coauthor, “Where Others Fear to Trade:  Modeling Adaptive Resilience in Ethnic Trading Networks to Famines, Maritime Warfare and Imperial Stability in the Growing Indian Ocean economy, ca. 1500–1700 CE,” in The Political Economy of Hazards and Disasters, Arthur Murphy and Eric Jones, eds. (Altamira Press, 2009)

  • Coauthor, “The Archaeology of Trading Systems, Part 1: Towards a New Trade Synthesis,” Journal of Archaeological Research 16, 4 (2008)

  • Coauthor, “Domesticated Landscapes: The Subsistence Ecology of Plant and Animal Domestication,” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 10, 4 (2003)




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