Costanzo, Cari - lecturer


Cari Costanzo is a cultural anthropologist whose teaching and research examine historical memory; discourses of identity; race, class, and gender; social networks; transnationalism; and contemporary urbanism. She has conducted fieldwork in Hawaii and India.

Employing both historical and ethnographic research methods, Cari’s dissertation looked at the effects of American “colonialism” on contemporary politics in Hawaii, including the ways in which native Hawaiians have joined a global network of “Fourth World” indigenous activists to fight for local land restitution. She argues that shifting social networks and the legal classification of racialized identities have re-shaped narratives of “belonging” among not only native Hawaiians, but also local ethnic groups in Hawaii who migrated to the Islands over a century ago as plantation laborers. Cari’s research demonstrates linkages between the recent rise of contemporary urban taro farming throughout the state and historical memories that “root” distinct ethnic groups in the land.

Cari’s post-doctoral work examines social transformations occurring around a growing globalized high-tech labor force in India. Based on fieldwork conducted at two call centers in Hyderabad, she explores the ways in which call center employees in India—some 60 percent of whom are women—negotiate their sense of identity in a transnational labor force. Her research addresses the ways in which call center employment forces women to navigate new social terrain—such as working shoulder to shoulder throughout the night with men in a society that discourages both mixed-gender socializing before marriage, and the movement of women through public spaces after dark. She also examines emerging global workspaces as sites for “virtual journeys” into new cultural realms. Through daily conversations and transactions over telephones and computers, Indian call center employees journey into the cultural terrain of their overseas customers—learning their social and political preferences and prejudices—without ever physically crossing their own national boundaries. Women working in call centers in India inhabit both the transnational labor networks where they work, and the contemporary urban spaces where they live, resulting in the complex and sometimes contradictory intersection of gender and culture.

Cari is currently conducting an ethnographic study of life in a freshman dormitory, looking at how technology is used to mediate not only social networks, but also narratives of success and failure.

She is also team-teaching the Thinking Matters course “Reading the Body,” which explores the way culture informs and distorts how we discern, accept, reject, and analyze our bodies. The course engages literary, medical, ethical, and ethnographic texts to ask how representations of the body affect the way we experience illness, embody gender and racial identities, and understand our rights (or lack of rights) to control our own bodies.

Selected Publications: 

2011 “Bedside Exam: Ritual and Reason.” Verghese, Abraham; Brady, Erika; Costanzo (Kapur), Cari; Horwitz, Ralph. In Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol 155, No. 8, pp.550-553.

2010 “Rethinking Courtship, Marriage and Divorce in an Indian Call Center” in Everyday Life in South Asia, Second Edition, Diane Mines and Sarah Lamb, eds. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, pp. 50-61.

2009 “Gender and Memory in the Pacific: Contemporary Hawaiian Nationalism and the Memorialization of Plantation Workers at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i” In Amerasia Journal, Vol 35, No. 2., pp. 168-190.

2004 “Native Hawaiians” in the Blackwell Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians. Tom Biolsi, ed., pp. 412-431. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.