Janet Benson
Michael Finnegan
Tiffany Kershner
Brad Logan
Bunny McBride
Harald Prins
Lauren Ritterbush
Michael Wesch
Major Requirements
Field School
Ibn Battuta Award
Anthropology Club
Alumni Survey
Learning Outcomes
204 Waters Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
Phone: (785) 532-6865
Fax: (785) 532-6978



Janet Benson
Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology

Waters Hall 209
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506

Phone: 785-532-4979
Fax: 785-532-6978

Email: janet@ksu.edu
Personal website: http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~janet/

Janet Benson graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University , where she won the Swarthout Award for poetry and conducted her first fieldwork in a Yaqui Indian/Mexican community. She then volunteered for Peace Corps and was sent to Kenya , East Africa , as a member of the first Peace Corps group requested after the country's independence. Kenya was engaged in a massive resettlement project in which

huge farms appropriated by colonial rulers were purchased, subdivided and redistributed to land-poor African farmers. While in Kenya she worked with the African Cooperative Officer for the Rift Valley and organized women's groups. After two years in Africa , she entered Brandeis University for graduate study. Part of the training included a summer's fieldwork in Trinidad , the West Indies , where she researched a government-sponsored resettlement project attempting to create a peasantry from sophisticated urbanites. After teaching for a year at Eastern Kentucky University she returned to the field for dissertation research, this time to southern India (Andhra Pradesh). She spent 14 months in a small community on this first visit and received her PhD in 1975 for Caste and Power in a Telangana Village . Other field trips to Andhra Pradesh and Sri Lanka followed until 1987, when she became interested in immigration to the United States and specifically southwest Kansas . Between 1988 and 1990 she participated in the Ford Foundation's Changing Relations Project, a national ethnographic research project which focused on the impact of immigration (positive as well as negative) on American communities. As part of a research team, she lived in Garden City, Kansas a total of ten months, much of it with Vietnamese and Mexican American families, while her young son attended a local school. Garden City had changed radically in 1981 with the opening of the world's largest meatpacking plant, which attracted workers from many different states and several foreign countries. In subsequent research projects she has interviewed both Southeast Asian (Vietnamese and Lao) and Latin American migrants.

Dr. Benson's publications have dealt with household economic strategies among immigrant packingplant workers, how culturally different newcomers are changing Kansas communities, the reinterpretation of gender among Southeast Asian refugees, and sustainability issues on the Great Plains . During 2006 she served as consultant for the Finney County Historical Society's exhibit, "Starting Over, Staying On: Southeast Asian Citizens in Garden City, Kansas ." She is currently interested in issues of identity and the second generation.

Courses presently taught by Dr. Benson include Media and Culture (Media Anthropology); Immigrant America ; Male and Female (Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective); South Asian Civilizations (a team-taught course offered in alternate fall semesters); and Law and Culture.

Dr. Benson has received fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies and the National Endowment for the Humanities, has served as consultant to numerous offices and agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development, and is past chair of the Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (CORI) of the American Anthropological Association.