Christine Avenarius

(PhD, Cologne, 2003)
Office: 213 Flanagan Building
Telephone: 252-328-9446
Website: Perceptions of Environmental and Economic Change

About Me

I am a sociocultural anthropologist interested in the processes of social and cultural change. My research combines the tools of social network analysis with the study of human cognition to understand the interrelations between cultural models that influence network structures and network positions that impact the development of attitudes and perceptions. I apply this approach to all my research interests in the subfields of economic anthropology, legal anthropology, linguistic anthropology, ethnicity and migration studies, and local responses to environmental hazards. My geographic expertise is East Asia, in particular mainland China.

An earlier research project studied the effects of social networks and cognition on the likelihood of immigrant integration, specifically for affluent migrants from Taiwan to Southern California. NSF funded field work in China’s Hebei province allowed me to compare the effects of the reformed Chinese legal system on the changing nature of social relationships and cultural perceptions of fairness and justice among rural and urban populations. Recently I extended my research program to Africa studying the influence of increasing interactions between Chinese migrants and Namibian traders on local cultural practices and material culture in Namibia. In addition, I developed research proposals that apply the study of social networks in combination with social cognition to local issues of sea level rise and climate change awareness among residents of Eastern North Carolina. Funding permitted, I will direct a field school for social science students collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data on local perceptions of sea level rise and the networks of informal opinion leaders in the local discussions of climate change evaluation.

The courses I teach on a regular basis include seminars on the Peoples of Asia, the interrelation between Language and Culture, and Ethnographic Research Methods with a focus on mixed method research design.

On a more personal note, I grew up in Germany and have traveled in most countries of Western Europe. I worked several years in China and visited Taiwan, Vietnam, South Africa and Namibia to conduct short term research projects.

Selected Publications

Avenarius, C. B. (2009). Immigrant Networks in New Urban Spaces: Gender and Social Integration. International Migration, 47 (3).

Avenarius, C. B. (2008). The Role of Information Technology in Reducing Social Obligations Among Immigrants from Taiwan. Journal of International Communication, 14 (1), 104- 120.

Avenarius, C. B. (2007). Conflict, Cooperation, and Integration among Subethnic Immigrant Groups from Taiwan. Population, Space and Place, 13 (2), 95-112.

Avenarius, C. (2002). Work and Social Network Composition among Immigrants from Taiwan to Southern California. Anthropology of Work Review, 23 (3-4), 3-15.

Refereed Book chapters:

Avenarius, C. B. & Johnson, J. C. (2012). "Adaptation to Legal Structures in Rural China: Integrating Survey and Ethnographic Data", In Press, In Betina Hollstein and Silvia Dominguez (Eds.) Mixed-Methods in Studying Social Networks, (pp. 40). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Mark Granovetter, ed.).

Avenarius, C. B. (2009). "Social Networks, Wealth Accumulation, and Dispute Resolution in Rural China.", In Greiner, Clemens and Kokot, Waltraud (Eds.) Networks, Resources and Economic Action. (pp. 17-35). Berlin, Germany: Dietrich Reimer Verlag.

Perceptions of Environmental and Economic Change on the North Carolina Coast

Between May and October 2013, associate professor Dr. Christine Avenarius and five graduate students from East Carolina University conducted a project in Dare County, NC., funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, to inquire about residents' perceptions and opinions about the state of the Outer Banks' natural and economic environment. These observations are meant to help answer questions such as how to reconcile the need to preserve the beauty of the Outer Banks landscape with the need for economic growth. Link to results is below (still under construction).

Perceptions of Environmental and Economic Change (under construction)

Department News

On February 19th, the Department celebrated National Anthropology Day by hosting a public open house. Displays were presented in the labs, and mini-lectures and anthropology films were presented. 

The North Carolina Studies program hosted Dr. Christine Avenarius for her lecture "What sea-level rise? An ethnographic account of Dare, Tyrrell and Hyde County residents' observations about environmental change".

Check out the latest Department of Anthropology Spring 2015 newsletter highlighting some of our recent activities! Download a copy here.

 Linked by live video conferencing, Internet chat software and social media, ECU students were connected with their counterparts in different countries. Anthropology 1050: Global Understanding connected with Algerian students to discuss their cultures. Read the full article at

New edited volume from the British Archaeological Reports: Excavations in the Western Negev Highlands by Dr. Benjamin Saidel and Dr. Mordechai Haiman (Israel Antiquities Authority).

Discovery is a core characteristic of pirates at ECU! See our Anthropology summer field school student, Mansi Trivedi, explain some of the discoveries in Jordan on the latest ECU Values video.

 On Tuesday January 27, Dr. Bailey and three other professors shared the ins and outs of writing and publishing. This panel of authors answered questions about why they chose to write books, how they select their publishers, and how they balance teaching, research, and writing: offering advice for would-be authors based on personal experience.