Amiel Bize

Assistant Professor


I am an economic anthropologist whose research focuses on social and economic transformations at capitalist margins. My current book project considers how people make value, in material and meaningful ways, in a “post-agrarian” rural world. Focusing on western Kenya, where decades of rural abandonment have produced new configurations of extraction and accumulation, the book tracks former farmers as they renegotiate relationships with worth, kin, labor, and nature in Kenya’s liberalized economy. At the heart of the book is a close attention to the bodies, materials, and meanings through which capitalist value takes shape and circulates, and through which it also becomes entangled with—and occasionally diverted by—other-than-capitalist relations.  

Two new projects extend these themes in different directions. First, an investigation of gleaning—an ancient form of redistribution, organized around harvest leftovers—considers the ongoing significance of the concept of remainder in moral-economic life. Looking at remainders in a range of contexts, I ask what is made possible when we construct resources as ‘left over’ rather than as capitalist ‘surplus’: what kinds of access are permitted, what kinds of property relations are made visible, what moral structures emerge? Taking the remainder as a particularly compelling variant of what Marx calls ‘indeterminate property’, the research will explore whether indeterminacy might offer both practical and theoretical avenues for moving beyond late capitalism’s contradictory combination of enclosure and waste.  

Second, research on climate-sensitive insurance (“index-based insurance”) examines the ways that financial technologies seek to incorporate populations at capitalist frontiers. Based in East Africa and in the more diffuse space of global risk finance, this project considers how finance tackles an old problem: how to translate the complexities of both pastoralists and ‘the environment,’ objects of knowledge and governance that have historically been difficult to apprehend within national-territorial and economic frames.  

My research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Institute, and the Department of Education (FLAS). I received my PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University in 2018 and before coming to Cornell I was employed at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. 


Peer-Reviewed Articles and Chapters: 

2022 "On Fallen Wood." Etnofoor 34(2): 33-48.

2022 with Sophie Schramm. "Planning by Exception: The Regulation of Nairobi’s Margins." Planning Theory online first.

2020 “The Right to the Remainder: Gleaning and Fuel Economies along Kenya’s Northern Corridor.” Cultural Anthropology 35(3).  

2019 with Basil Ibrahim. “Waiting Together: The Motorcycle Taxi Stand as Nairobi Infrastructure.” Africa Today 65(2): 72-91. 

2017 “Jam-Space and Jam-Time: Traffic in Nairobi.” The Making of the African Road (K. Beck, G. Klaeger, M. Stasik, eds.), Leiden: Brill, 58-85.  

2017 “Rhythm, Disruption and the Experience of African Roads,” review article, Mobility in History Vol. 8: 28-34. 

Public Scholarship: 

2019 with Basil Ibrahim. “Les « shimo », lieux de toutes les attentes des taxis-motos de Nairobi” [“Shimo: Where Motorcycle Taxis Wait.”], Le Monde Afrique website, May 7.   

2019 “On Ethnographic Desire: A Response to Phantom Africa,” Syndicate website, April 1. 

2019 “Gleaning,” Part of series on Temporary Possession. Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, March 29. 

2018 with Soo-Young Kim. “Beyond Precarity.” Member Voices, Fieldsights, Cultural Anthropology website, March 21.  

2016 with Wendell Marsh, Elliot Ross, Safia Aidid, Natasha Shivji, and Basil Ibrahim. “Reflections on #CadaanStudies.” CSAAME Borderlines, February 13. 

2009-2011 Regular contributor to “Findings,” column in Anthropology Now Magazine.