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

Dr. Charles Ewen interviewed for the New York Times. Is it the Roanoke Island Colony? Read more to find out!

This summer two undergraduate anthropology students at East Carolina University, Tyler Beasley and Anna Lawrence, worked as interns for the Hyde County Office of Planning and Economic Development through the State Employees' Credit Union Foundation public service internship program. Both interns worked on research projects aimed at improving economic development by better understanding the needs of the local business community.


Marina Clough, also an undergraduate anthropology student at East Carolina University, completed an internship at Wanchese Industrial Park and provided an overview of webpages and print media that write or advertise about sailing related events, helped plan the Regatta of Sail NC and conducted 40 interviews with participants.

 Dr. Holly Mathews and Dr. Laura Mazow were recognized for their outstanding teaching methods by students during the Spring 2015 semester from the College STAR.

Student response for Dr. Mathews:

"She gives feedback and forces her students to expand their mind and explore alternate theories or explanations. She wants her students to discuss topics in class instead of just listening to her talk the entire time."

Student response for Dr. Mazow:

"We have a small class which allows many opportunities for a lot of class discussion...She always provides feedback and answers to our journal entries and is always available when we need help." 

Congratulations to them both!