Carolyn Barnes

Carolyn Barnes

Lecturer in Sociocultural Anthropology
PHD, Washington University in St. Louis

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1114
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis MO 63130

Carolyn Barnes is a medical anthropologist whose work spans health and medicine, environmental/animal studies, science and technology studies (STS), and violence and inequality—particularly at the intersections of gender, race, and class in rural America.

Barnes' scholarship broadly probes how medicine becomes harnessed by commercial endeavors in ways that differentially undermine entangled human-animal lives. She primarily examines this through the lens of the hyper-medicalized, starkly hierarchized, and ethically fraught world of American Thoroughbred horseracing in central Kentucky, where she was born and raised.

Drawing on long-term ethnographic research in training barns and tracks in rural Kentucky, Barnes' current book project, Horse Power: The Merry-go-round of Kentucky’s Thoroughbred Racing World, details how personalized, medicalized, and highly-valued Thoroughbreds are trained and raced in Kentucky. The book foregrounds the lives of middling horse trainers, poor migrant barn laborers, and racehorses, all of whom are most impacted by economic constriction and encroaching regulations. This offers a unique perspective into how the decline and problematization of horseracing is reshaping human-animal life and health, labor roles and social inequalities, and the present and future of a rural American landscape and culture.

At WashU, Barnes teaches an array of classes in Global Health and Environment that draw diverse students into critical dialogues, engaged research, and collective knowledge-building.


Peer-Reviewed Articles

2022. Fine, L., C. Barnes, A. Niedbalski, and S.L. Deem.  "Staff perceptions of COVID‐19 impacts on wildlife conservation at a zoological institution." Zoo Biology: 1-10.

2021. “‘Puttin’ Eyes on a Horse’: Horsemanship Attunements and the Merry-go-round of Thoroughbred Racing in Kentucky.” Anthropological Quarterly 94(2): 225-254.

2021. "Kentucky Kindling: Stoking Swidden Anthropology with Fire-play on the Family Farm." Anthropology & Humanism 46 (2): 279-299.

Book Review

With Peter Benson. 2020. “Larger than Life, with Promises and Dangers Looming. On Alex Blanchette’s Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and The Factory Farm...”  Anthropological Quarterly 93 (4): 777-788.


Anthro 138: First Year Seminar: Anthropological Perspectives on COVID-19

Anthro 160: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Anthro 3869: Sports, Health, and Society

Anthro 3875: Pharmaceutical Personhood

Anthro 3880: Multispecies Worlds: Animals, Global Health, and Environment

Anthro 3100: Defense Against the Dark Arts: An Anthropological Approach to the Study of Religion and Health

Anthro 3101: Cyborg Anthropology: Science, Technology, and Enhanced Life

Anthro 3602: Environmental Inequality: Toxicity, Health, & Justice

Anthro 4104: Critical Medical and Environmental Anthropology