Aaron Ansell


Aaron Ansell

Associate Professor


242 Lane Hall
180 Alumni Mall
Blacksburg, VA 24061




Department Membership

Religion and Culture


  • Sociocultural anthropology
  • Northeast Brazil
  • Alternative democracy
  • Political discourse
  • anti-poverty policy

Professional Activities

  • Co-director, MA in Material Culture and Pubic Humanities
  • Co-editor, Society for Linguistic Anthropology "Section News"

Research Interests

    Awards and Honors

    Annual Book Award, Latin American Studies Association, Brazil Section, 2015

    Annual Book Award "Honorary Mention." Association for Political and Legal Anthropology, 2015

    Certificate of Teaching Excellence, Virginia Tech, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, 2015

    Selected Publications


    Zero Hunger: Political Culture and Antipoverty Policy in Northeast Brazil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014


    2015. Democracy as the Negation of Discourse: Liberalism, Clientelism, and Agency in Northeast Brazil" in American Ethnologist 42(4): 688-702

    2015. Lula's Assault on Rural Patronage: Zero Hunger, Ethnic Mobilization and the Deployment of Pilgrimage" in Journal of Peasant Studies 42(6): 1263-1283

    2010. "Auctioning Patronage in Northeast Brazil: the Political Value of Money in a Ritual Market" in American Anthropologist 112(2): 283-294

    2009. "'But the Winds Will Turn Against You': An Analysis of Wealth-forms and the Discursive Space of Development in Northeast Brazil" in American Ethnologist 36(1): 96-109 

    Sponsored Research

    "Love: An Introduction to College" 4VA Course Redesign Grant, Virginia Tech, $24,000

    "Democracy and Public Healthcare in Brazil," Grant Writing Incentive Grant, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech $8,400

    Additional Information

    Current Research: I am currently researching public healthcare and poor people's health-seeking activities in rural, Northeast Brazil. As with all of my work, this project attends to the communicative forms that Brazilians use to negotiate resources either through traditional political brokers ("patronage") or through liberal bureaucratic procedures. I examine these issues in the context of an important regime change in Brazil, the rise of the left-wing Workers' Party government (2003-present).




    Learn more about Aaron Ansell.