Aaron Ansell (Ph.D. in Anthropology from The University of Chicago, 2007) is a cultural anthropologist with topical interests that include democracy, capitalism, patronage, social policy, poverty, kinship, ritual and social theory. His research focuses on rural communities in Northeast Brazil, and explores the way people use talk and other signs to navigate and transform the material features of their lives.
Ansell’s current interests pertain to democracy’s culturally specific manifestations in small-scale societies that have not internalized the ideals of liberal individualism. His recent scholarship explores how people living in Northeast Brazil (and elsewhere) modify received notions of democracy, interpreting representative institutions through alternative ideas about justice and power. He examines the way this marginal rural populations assimilates liberal democracy’s transcendent ideals (e.g. human rights, individual freedom, rational deliberation) into local kinship hierarchies, factional feuding, patron-client exchange, religious affiliation, and occult spirituality.