I’m Dr. Ashanté M. Reese, writer, anthropologist, and associate professor of African and African Diaspora at The University of Texas at Austin.
I earned a bachelors in History with a minor in African American studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. After undergrad, I taught middle school at Coretta Scott King Leadership Academy in Atlanta, Georgia before deciding to attend American University for graduate school where I earned a PhD in Anthropology. Broadly speaking, I’m interested in Black geographies – the ways Black people imagine, produce, and navigate the spaces we occupy. Specifically, the majority of my work has focused on Black food culture and justice. While I am interested in and committed to documenting the ways anti-Blackness constrains Black life, I am constantly brought back to the question, what and who survives? This question is animated by my recurring interest in community and vulnerability in both my research and personal life and the human experience more broadly. I marvel at the ways we make lives, even when constantly surveilled and threatened by state and corporate violence and neglect.
My first book, Black Food Geographies: Race, Food Access, and Self-Reliance in Washington, D.C. was published by UNC Press in April 2019. Black Food Geographies won the 2020 Best Monograph Prize from the Association for the Study of Food and Society and the 2020 Margaret Mead Award jointly awarded by the Association of American Anthropologists and the Society for Applied Anthropology. My second, Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice, is a volume co-edited with Hanna Garth published by University of Minnesota Press in 2020. Black Food Matters received honorable mention recognition for the Eduardo Bonilla-Silva outstanding book award presented by the Division of Racial and Ethnic Minorities of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.
Currently, I’m working on two big projects. The first, tentatively titled, The Carceral Life of Sugar, is a cultural history of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Imperial Sugar Company, and Sugar Land, Texas. In it, I explore the entanglements of violence and care, sugar as a product of racial capitalism, and the role of sweetness in Black life. The second is a multimodal project titled Gather. It explores the ways Black people gather in the midst of anti-Black violence to nourish ourselves and each other. Central to this exploration are the spaces that we imagine, create, and inhabit to mark our resilience and love for each other—often with food in towYou can read more about Gather here.
My work has been supported by the National Science Foundations, The Institute for Citizens and Scholars (formerly known as the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation), UNCF-Mellon, The American Council for Learned Society, and others.
Use the button on the right to learn more about my research and where to find my work.
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”