Cheleen Ann-Catherine Mahar, Ph.D.


Professor, Social Anthropology
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work

Chair, International Studies

Contact information
Office: Marsh Hall 230
Phone: 503.352.2169

Photo of Cheleen Mahar




Ph.D. in Social Anthropology, Massey University (New Zealand), Directeur D'Etudes
Associe, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, (Paris), M.A. University of Illinois
in Cultural Anthropology. B.A. in Spanish and French, University of Northern Colorado.


Why I study anthropology...


I grew up in California, in the Bay Area, in the 1950s and 1960s, deeply imbued with the idealism that swirled around the social movements surrounding resistance to the Vietnam War, President Johnson's War on Poverty, and the compelling struggle towards civil rights among African-Americans. The most important book that I read as an undergraduate was Oscar Lewis's The Children of Sanchez, (1959).


rooftops After reading it I decided to train as an anthropologist, to work with Lewis in the field with urban poor migrants (which I did in Oaxaca, Mexico), and to find a job that would allow me to focus on questions of class, ethnicity, and power - which I did in the university and in the Housing Authority offices of Santa Clara County and San Francisco. These issues have always been of central interest to me and thus form the core concepts around which I write, teach and research.


The second reason I chose anthropology is the disciplinary methodology. In our field the key research tool is participant observation. What this means is that we explore the lived experience of our informants, doing long-term research living in the field, and then, leaving the field we write ethnographies about that experience. Such information is critical when applied to health care delivery, public health issues, issues of economic equality, marketing products that are useful to consumers, and government policies, both domestic and international. Being a social anthropologist has allowed me to travel the world, and to be touched and humbled by the people I have had the good fortune to meet and live beside. If this sort of experience is attractive to you, please join us in anthropology.

Publications and Professional Work




Select Publications


book cover



An Introduction to the Work of Pierre Bourdieu: The Theory of Practice, ed. R. Harker, C. Mahar, and C. Wilkes. 1990, London: Macmillan, 1990 New York: St. Martins Press and Tokyo: Macmillan.

book cover in Japanese
book cover 




book cover


Reinventing Practice in a Disenchanted World: Bourdieu and Urban Poverty in Oaxaca, Mexico,  University of Texas Press, 2010.

Cuisine and Symbolic Capital: Food in Film and Literature, ed. Cheleen Ann-Catherine Mahar, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010

2010  “Pavlova Paradise: Arcadia in New Zealand” in Cuisine and Symbolic Capital: Food in Film and Literature.

2005 "Practice Theory" in the International Encyclopedia of Social Science, forthcoming.

2005 "The British Diaspora and the Creation of Modern New Zealand." In Landscape and Empire, 1800 – 2000. Ed. Glenn Hooper. Ashgate Press.


street scene


2004 "Pierre Bourdieu" with Christopher Wilkes. In Contemporary Critical Theorists, ed. John Simon. Edinburgh University Press.



2000 "From Rural Migrant to Urban Citizen: A Brief Social History of the Development of an Urban Poor Suburb in Mexico". In Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development. Vol. 29, #4, Winter 2000, pp. 355- 402.




Select Presentations


2005 "Paradoxes of Feminine Identity In Mexico" paper presented to Pacific Ancient and Modern Languages Conference at Pepperdine College, November.




2004 "A Narrative of Success: Moving from Migrant to Citizen in Oaxaca, Mexico." Oxford Round Table, Lincoln College, Oxford.

man on bicycle


2003 "Cuisine and the Struggle for Symbolic Capital" paper presented to Pacific Ancient and Modern Languages Conference at Scripps College co- authored with Christopher Wilkes.

2002 "Creating the New Zealand Landscape" paper presented to the Western
States Anthropological Association, Boise, Idaho.


Grants, Honors and Awards




2000 Pacific University Faculty Research Grant.

l998/9 National Science Foundation Research Grant.

l996 Pacific University Faculty Research Grant.

l990 Visiting Research Fellow, Arbetslivscentrum, Stockholm.

l990 Directeur D'Etudes, Associe, Ecole des Hautes Etudes Research Grant, College de France, Paris

Courses that I teach....

At Pacific University, all faculty teach a variety of different courses. Typically, we do not use graduate teaching assistants, which means that your classes will be taught by professors and that you will have plenty of opportunites to get to know the faculty in your discipline.

Below, I have listed some of the courses that I teach. We are always developing and trying out new classes, so the list may change now and then. You can use the links to the left to read descriptions of the courses listed below.



Anth 101 Inroduction to Anthropology
Anth 202 Film, Text and Culture
Anth 210 Mesoamerican Cultures
Anth 299 Anthropology Field Experience
Anth 301 Research Methods in Anthropology
Anth 320 South American Traditional Societies
Anth 330 Gender in Cross Cultural Perspective
Anth 340 Symbolism, Myth and Ritual
Anth 356 Culture, Class and Cuisine
Anth 494 Senior Research Seminar
Anth 495 Independent Research