Rebecca Witter, Ph.D.

Rebecca Witter is an Associate Professor of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University. She positions her research, teaching, and service at the intersections between culture, power, environment, and development and prioritizes collaboration, connection, and curiosity in her work. Over the past two decades, Witter conducted ethnographic and archival research in the Limpopo Borderlands region of southern Africa, inclusive of Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park and South Africa’s Kruger National Park. She worked with now former residents of the Limpopo Park and with her long-term partner in research, Divy Mavasa, to understand more than a century of conservation-related dispossession and its relations to settler colonialism, labor, land, and hunting.

In 2021 Witter co-founded the Eastern North Carolina Environmental Justice Collaborative (“EJ Co-Lab”) with collaborators, Dana Powell, Donna Chavis, Jefferson Currie, Mac Legerton, Danielle Koonce, and Sherri White-Williamson. The EJ Co-Lab is a university-community research partnership that aims to strengthen existing capacities and nurture new capabilities for social resilience and environmental justice in rural eastern North Carolina, especially with Black, Indigenous, and multiracial communities facing extractive industries. She also co-developed a transdisciplinary, community-engaged Water Quality Testing initiative in Sampson County, NC with White-Williamson and Koonce as well as additional collaborators, Carol Babyak, Shea Tuberty, and Courtney Woods. The project includes voluntary water quality testing, survey and interview research, and community-engaged processes for mitigation and results returning.

Witter received the College of Fine and Applied Arts Outstanding Teaching Award in 2020 and the College’s Outstanding Scholarship Award in 2023. That same year she joined Governor Cooper’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Before joining the faculty at App State, Witter held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Institute of Resources Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia where she worked under the mentorship of Dr. Terre Satterfield. She received her PhD in Environmental Anthropology at the University of Georgia under the mentorship of Dr. Pete Brosius. 

- Ph.D. 2010, Environmental Anthropology, University of Georgia, Athens GA, USA
- B.A.  1998, International Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill NC, USA

Research & Teaching Interests
The dynamic intersections (material, political, and symbolic) between society, economy, and environment; environmental justice and environmental conservation; tenure relations, settler colonialism, labor/work, and dispossession; wildlife hunting, industrialized meat production, and other human-animal relations; industrialized bioenergy development; transdisciplinary, ethnographic, and collaborative methodologies; indigenous rights; feminist theory; and critical development studies.

Teaching and Mentorship
Witter has contributed to the teaching and development of the following courses:  Principles of Sustainable Development (SD 2400);  Development Theory and Practice (SD 2700); Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development (SD 2800); Conservation and Development (SD 3365); Gender, Inequality, and Sustainable Development (SD 3475); Sustainability and Creative Practice (SD 3536); Environment and Development in the Global South (SD 3700); and Applications in Environmental Justice (SD 4402). She also taught independent studies related to Human-Elephant Relations and Global Environmental Justice.

In addition to her teaching, Witter served as Mentor and Advisor for several outstanding Undergraduate Research Assistants who received training and first-hand experience in collaborative and community-engaged research related:  Taylor Ouellette, Ben Pluska, Bekah Nielsen, Mollie Donovan, Hazel Pardington, Isabella King, Josie Patch, Edgar Villeda, and Kira Plummer.

She also chaired the following undergraduate Honors Theses: 

  • Pluska, Ben. Sensing Environmental Injustice Amidst Late Industrialism in Eastern North Carolina, December 2023.
  • Huber, Abbey. “We’re All Going to Die:” Discourses of Planetary Crisis and the Formation of Collective Imaginaries, May 2020.
  • Burrows, Lauren. “A Spiritual Heritage”:  Change and Continuity in Ancestrally Based Authority over Land in Northern Ghana. Appalachian State University. August 2019.
  • Milburn, Clare. “¡La soja mata!”: The Slow Violence of Soy in Paraguay. Appalachian State University, May 2019.

Representative Publications

Witter, R. and D. Powell. 2022. Phantoms within and beyond the frame:  Stirrings of justice amidst specters of rural capitalism. Engagement: A blog published by the Anthropology and Environment Society.

Witter, R. 2021Rhinos as “the mine” and the fugitive meanings of illegal wildlife hunting. Conservation and Society.

Witter, R. 2021. Why Militarized Conservation may be Counter-productive: Illegal Wildlife Hunting as Defiance. Journal of Political Ecology 28(1): 175–192.

Witter, R. and T. Satterfield. 2019. Rhino poaching and the “slow violence” of conservation-related resettlement in Mozambique’s Limpopo National ParkGeoforum 101: 275–284.

England, L. J. Carlisle, R. Witter, D. Davidson, L. Holman, and D. Powell. 2019. Storying Climate Change at Appalachian State UniversityPracticing Anthropology 41 (3): 21–26.

Witter, R. and T. Satterfield. 2018. The Ebb and Flow of Indigenous Rights Recognitions in Conservation PolicyDevelopment and Change 50 (4): 1083–1108.

Ekblom, A., M. Notelid, and R. Witter. 2017. Negotiating identity and heritage through authorised vernacular history, Limpopo National ParkJournal of Social Archaeology. 17(1): 49–68.

Witter, R., K. Marion-Suiseeya, R. Gruby, S. Hitchner, E. Maclin, M. Bourque, J. Brosius. 2015. Moments of Influence in Global Environmental GovernanceEnvironmental Politics.

Witter, R. and T. Satterfield. 2014. Invisible Losses and the Logics of Resettlement CompensationConservation Biology 28(5): 1394-1402.

Corson, C., R. Gruby, R. Witter, S. Hagerman, D. Suarez, S. Greenburg, M. Bourque, N. Gray, and L. Campbell. 2014. Everyone’s solution? Defining and re-defining protected areas through the Convention on Biological DiversityConservation & Society 12: 190-202.

Witter, R. 2013. Elephant-induced displacement and the power of choice: Moral narratives and conservation related resettlement in Mozambique’s Limpopo National ParkConservation & Society 11: 406-419.

Hagerman, S., R. Witter, C. Corson, D. Suarez, E. Maclin, M. Bourque, L. Campbell. 2012.  On the coattails of climate? Opportunities and threats of a warming Earth for biodiversity conservationGlobal Environmental Change 22:724-735.

Russell, D., R. Ashley, J. P. Brosius, R. Witter, M. Welch-Devine, K. Spainhower, and R. Barr. 2010. People, Trees and Parks: Is Agroforestry In or Out? Journal of Sustainable Forestry 29:451-476.

Title: Associate Professor
Department: Sustainable Development

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-3008

Office address
216 Living Learning Academic