Jennifer Hamilton



Jennifer Hamilton, assistant professor of legal studies and anthropology, received her BA in Anthropology and English Literature (McGill University) and her PhD in Anthropology (Rice University). She is a cultural anthropologist who is centrally interested in how ideas of difference shape institutional forms, and how they influence individual and social subjectivities. In particular, her work centers on the question why and how, and to what effect, human difference—including understandings of race, gender, ethnicity, ancestry, genetic variation, and population—has come to occupy a central place in our current understandings of law, ethics, and biomedicine. She is the author of Indigeneity in the Courtroom: Law, Culture, and the Production of Difference in North American Courts (Routledge 2009) and is currently writing a series of articles based on her post-doctoral research project, The Vitality of Difference: Post-HapMap Ethics and Genomics. Her next book project, tentatively titled A Place to Stand: Law and Science in a Post-Genomic Age, explores the dynamic tension between science and law through an investigation of legal standing claims in US courts.

Her teaching and research interests center around the social studies of law, science, and biomedicine; critical bioethics; the politics of indigeneity; theories of culture and identity; and critical race and gender studies.

  • Hamilton CV (pdf)
  • Hamilton CV (wiki)


Rice University
Ph.D., Anthropology, May 2004; M.A., Anthropology, January 2001

McGill University
B.A., First Class Joint Honors, Anthropology and English Literature, June 1995

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Talks

Professor Hamilton will be a discussant during Marilyn Strathern’s visit on Wednesday, October 24th in Gamble Auditorium at Mount Holyoke College at 5:30 pm. The title of Strathern’s talk is “Gifts That Money Cannot Buy: Anthropological Perspectives on Money and Organ Donation.”

Recent Talks/Events

  • Discussant, Marilyn Stathern: “Gifts that Money Cannot Buy: Anthropological Perspectives on Money and Organ Donation,” Department of Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, October.
  • “Connective Tissues: Some Thoughts on Gender, Genomics, and the Multispecies Turn,” Five College Feminist Science and Technology Studies Initiative, Amherst, MA
  • “Food, Health and Law,” Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, May 2011.
  • “Human Genetics and the Gendering of Biological Materials,” Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, South Hadley, MA, February 2011
  • “The Case of the Genetic Ancestor,” Paper selected for Junior Scholar Session, Sally Engle Merry and David Delaney, Commentators, Northeast Law & Society Conference, Amherst, MA, October 2010
  • “Of Caucasoids and Kin: Kennewick Man, Race, and Genetic Indigeneity,” Five College Native American Indian Studies Program, Amherst, MA, October 2010
  • “Gender and the Human Genome: Collaborative Research in Feminist Science Studies,” Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, South Hadley, MA, October 2010

Past Events

Office Hour Sign-up Sheet (Online)

Click here to sign up for office hours


Current Courses

Law and Society (CSI-0192)

Feminist Science Studies (CSI-0205)

Previously Taught Hampshire Courses:

  • Science in the Courtroom (tutorial for first year Hampshire students only)
  • Bioethics in a Post-Genomic Age
  • SS 201: Ethnography of Law, Science, and Medicine: A Division II Seminar
  • Critical Bioethics
  • Gendered Bodies: Race, Sex, and the Cultures of Biology
  • Food, Health & Law
  • Landscapes of Indigeneity: Indigenous Peoples and Law in North America
  • Biopower, Biopolitics, and Bare Life
  • Genetic Ancestry Tracing and the Science of Race
  • Bioexchange: Property, Gifts, and Value (pdf)
  • Law and Society (pdf)
  • Gender, Law, and Technoscience (pdf)
  • Injury (pdf)
  • Law, Identity and Bioscience (pdf)

Previously Taught Courses:

  • The Fourth World: Issues of Indigenous Peoples
  • Medicine, Food, and Health
  • Gender and Symbolism
  • Anthropology of Law
  • Medical Ethics
  • Gendered Perspectives on the Law
  • Cultural Studies of Law
  • Contemporary Cultural Anthropology
  • Cross-Cultural Perspectives on the Family
  • History and Ethnography of the Yanomami and the Kaliai
  • Modern Ethnography and the Ethnography of Modernity



Book Cover


Indigeneity in the Courtroom: Law, Culture, and the Production of Difference in North American Courts. New York: Routledge.

The central question of this book is when and how does indigeneity in its various iterations –cultural, social, political, economic, even genetic –matter in a legal sense? Indigeneity in the Courtroom focuses on the legal deployment of indigenous difference in US and Canadian courts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Through ethnographic and historical research, Hamilton traces dimensions of indigeneity through close readings of four legal cases, each of which raises important questions about law, culture, and the production of difference. She looks at the realm of law, seeking to understand how indigeneity is legally produced and to apprehend its broader political and economic implications.


“This collection of four essays, each of which probes and details the ways in which indigeneity is produced in court and in the discursive domains surrounding court, is theoretically very sophisticated, provocative, and stimulating. Readers will be rewarded for their close reading of Jennifer Hamilton’s fine scholarship.” (Political and Legal Anthropology Review)

“…Indigeneity in the Courtroom is a welcome and useful contribution to this particular area of law and society scholarship.” (Canadian Journal of Law and Society)

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: Tracking Indigeneity in the Courtroom
  2. Banishment: Indigenous Justice and Indigenous Difference in Washington v. Roberts and Guthrie
  3. Healing the Bishop: Consent and the Legal Erasure of Colonial History in R. v. O’Connor
  4. Resettling Musqueam Park: Property, Culture, and Difference in Glass v. Musqueam Indian Band
  5. Of Caucasoids and Kin: Kennewick Man, Race, and Genetic Indigeneity in Bonnichsen v. United States Visual Aid
  • Review of Indigeneity in the Courtroom by Larry Nesper in Political and Legal Anthropology Review
  • Indigeneity in the Courtroom Flyer (pdf)

Peer-Reviewed Articles & Chapters 

n.d. “The Mating Life of Geeks: Love, Science and the New Autistic Subject,” with J. Couperus, B. Subramanium, and A. Willey. Under review at Signs.

2012 “The Case of the Genetic Ancestor,” in Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race and History, eds. Keith Wailoo, Alondra Nelson, and Catherine Lee, 266-278. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

2011 “The Case of the Genetic Ancestor: DNA Ancestry Tracing, Legal Subjectivity, and Race in America.” In Genetics and the Unsettled PastThe Collision of DNA, Race, and History, edited by Keith Wailoo, Mia Bay, Alondra Nelson, and Catherine Lee. Rutgers University Press (forthcoming).

2011 “Anthropology Becoming…? The 2010 Sociocultural Anthropology Year in Review,” with Aimee J. Placas, American Anthropologist, 113(2): 246-261.

Book Cover

2009 “On the Ethics of Unusable Data.” In Fieldwork Is Not What It Used To Be: Learning Anthropology’s Method in a Time of Transition, eds. J. D. Faubion and G. E. Marcus, 73-88. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

2008 “Revitalizing Difference in the HapMap: Race, Biomedicine, and Contemporary Human Genetic Variation Research,” Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 36(3): 471-477.

2008 “DNA Data Sharing: Research Participants’ Perspectives’, with Amy L. McGuire et al., Genetics in Medicine, 10(1): 46-53.

2007 “Sumptuary Kinship,” with James D. Faubion, Anthropological Quarterly, 80(3): 533-559.

2006 “Resettling Musqueam Park: Property, Landscape, and ‘Indian Land’ in British Columbia,” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 29 (1): 88-109.

Works in Progress

“From Practice to Substance: The Emergence of ‘Ethical Provenance’ in Contemporary Human Genetic Variation Research,” manuscript in preparation.

“‘Frozen Moments’ in the HapMap: Some Ethnographic Speculations on Race, Human Genetic Variation Research, and Biomedicine,” manuscript in preparation.

“HapMap Stories: Anthropology and Ethics After the Genome,” book manuscript in preparation.

Research Interests

Political and legal anthropology; law and society; anthropology of biomedicine and bioethics; new kinship; theories of culture and identity; critical race and gender studies; the politics of indigeneity; ethnography of Canada, the United States, and Native North America.

Current Research

Individual Projects

I have been developing two distinct but interrelated research projects, both of which are generally oriented around the role of genomics in society, and in particular, explore relationships among law, medicine, and the life sciences. The first, The Vitality of Difference: Post-HapMap Genomics and Ethics seeks to understand the current state of human genetic variation research and its broader social and political implications. The second, The Case of the Genetic Ancestor: Genomics, Legal Subjectivity, and Race in America, explores the shaping of legal identity in relation to new consumer genetics technologies. In support of these projects, I have received faculty development funding from Hampshire and, in the case of the latter, a fellowship from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation.

I am currently developing a book manuscript, tentatively titled A Place to Stand: Law and Science in a Post-Genomic Age, which explores the dynamic tension between science and law through an investigation of legal standing claims in US courts.

Collaborative Projects

Gender and the Human Genome

Students I Advise

Graduated Students

Division III

Division II

Community Involvement

Hampshire College

Director, Law Program

Steering Committee Member (2008-2010), Culture, Brain, and Development Program

Five College Affiliations

Five College Native American Studies Program

Five College Program in Culture, Health, and Science

Five College Women’s Studies Research Center