and the college’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gwendolen Carter Chair Emeritus in African Studies and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
Contact & Office Hours
Wright Hall 204
Ph.D., Catholic University of America
M.Phil., University of London
B.A., University of Pennsylvania
Elliot Fratkin received his bachelor's from the University of Pennsylvania, master's from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and doctorate from the Catholic University of America, all in cultural anthropology. His research focuses on life and social change among nomadic pastoralists—people who live and move with their domestic livestock and who are found largely in the arid regions of the world. Much of Fratkin's work focuses on Ariaal pastoralists of northern Kenya. The Ariaal people are a cultural mix of two larger groups, cattle-keeping Samburu and camel-keeping Rendille, and are related to the larger cluster of Maasai peoples of East Africa. Fratkin's initial research focused on Ariaal social organization, cultural ecology and ritual life.
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In 2002 and 2003, Fratkin served as a consultant with the World Bank Inspection Panel, which was investigating complaints about the building of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline. In 2003, he was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar teaching at the University of Asmara, Eritrea, and in 2011–12, he served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar teaching anthropology at Hawassa University, Ethiopia. As the chair of the Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences from 2013–2018, he has visited pastoral polulations in Mongolia, Botswana, Ethiopia and Mali. He is currently co-editor of the African Studies Review, the journal of the African Studies Association.
Fratkin serves on the steering committee of Smith's Environmental Science and Policy Program, African Studies Program and the Global South Development Program. He is a faculty adviser for the Five Colleges Certificate in African Studies and the Culture, Health, and Science Program.
Read Fratkin's blog about teaching and doing research in Ethiopia.
Gwendolyn M. Carter Endowed Lecture in African Studies
"East African Pastoralism in Transition: Maasai, Boran, and Rendille," African Studies Review, 2001.
"The Laibon Diviner and Healer Among Samburu Pastoralists of Kenya," in
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"Sustainability and Pastoral Livelihoods: Lessons from East African Maasai and Mongolia," Human Organization, 2003.
"Traditional Medicine and Concepts of Healing Among Samburu Pastoralists of Kenya," Journal of Ethnobiology, 1996.
"Ethiopia’s Pastoralist Policies: Development, Displacement, and Resettlement." Nomadic Peoples, 2014.
"The Samburu laibon’s sorcery and the death of Theodore Powys in colonial Kenya," Journal of Eastern African Studies, 2015.
Laibon: An Anthropologist's Journey with Samburu Diviners in Kenya, AltaMira Press, 2012.
As Pastoralists Settle: Social, Health, and Economic Consequences of the Pastoral Sedentarization in Marsabit District, Kenya, Elliot Fratkin and Eric Abella Roth (editors), Springer, 2005.