Paulla A. Ebron is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford. During her year as a Faculty Research Fellow at the Michelle R. Clayman Institute, she continued work on a book length project entitled, "Making Tropical Africa in the Georgia Sea Islands." As a cultural anthropologist, Ebron's prior research was centered in the Gambia. She is the author of Performing Africa, (Princeton University Press) as well as numerous articles on Africa and the African diaspora. Her current project explores the dynamic transcontinental exchange involving West Africa, The British Empire, and the Caribbean, as well as the U.S. South. The Sea Islands, a region off the southeastern coast of the United States, is known as a site of New World African Culture. Ebron’s project studies how Sea Island culture is simultaneously a distinctive local creation and an important site of transnational process. Her project is organized by tropes of landscape, memory, and uplift. These tropes illuminate the concerns that stirred the imaginations of social science researchers, humanists, polity makers, and social justice advocates throughout the twentieth century, helping to give the region a distinctive character.
Regions at once appear parochial but upon further examination can be found to be far more cosmopolitan that the localness of regionalism might imply. For example, the project’s focus on landscape reveals that the naturalization of crops is both a local process of respecting the distinctive conditions of a place and an element of global plant transfers. Ebron’s exploration of the early history of the region shows how colonial plantation projects helped carve out a distinctive landscape sculpted for the production of rice, indigo, and cotton. These crops made the Sea Island region famous through its ability to sustain the U.S. economy up through the nineteen century. Sea Island cotton is named after this region, but its development was a global and well as a local project.
During her 2008-09 fellowship year at the Clayman Institute for Gender Researc, Ebron worked on the third section of her project, which follows the trope of “uplift.” This section of the project explores the notion of ethical citizenship and traces the gendered ways political alliances have formed among women across multiple social identities. This focus allow for an appreciation of the dynamic coalitions that have advanced projects around citizenship and civil rights in the U.S. south.