A political and legal anthropologist, she was president of the American Anthropological Association from late 2009 to late 2011, editor of American Ethnologist from 2002 to 2007, and president of the AAA’s Society for Cultural Anthropology from 1999 to 2001.
In 2013 she helped establish the Brazil-based Antropologos sem fronteiras (Anthropologists without Borders). She has held prior positions at Harvard University, Duke University, the U of California-Santa Cruz, and the U of Iowa.
Author, co-author, editor, and co-editor of multiple books, she is perhaps best known for her work on the Caribbean (especially in “The Caribbean and Its Implications for the United States,” published by the Foreign Policy Association in 1981), her work on the United States (especially in White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana [Rutgers University Press, 1986]) and her work on Israel (especially in People as Subject, People as Object: Selfhood and Peoplehood in Contemporary Israel [University of Wisconsin Press, 1989]).
Her most recent books are America Observed: On an International Anthropology of the United States, coedited with Jasmin Habib (Berghahn Books, 2017) and Global Perspectives on the U.S., coedited with Jane Desmond (U of Illinois Press, 2017). She also Guest-Edited a 2018 issue of RIAS (the International American Studies Association’s journal) on Walls, Material and Rhetorical: Past and Present, and she has a forthcoming book, Anthropological Lives, coauthored with Brigittine French (Rutgers University Press, 2020).