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, Christine B. (2014). Humans Are Part of Nature Too. Anthropology News 55 (4)  

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.

Kenyon C. Lindeman, Lauren E. Dame, Christine B. Avenarius, Benjamin P. Horton, Jeffrey P. Donnelly, D. Reide Corbett, Andrew C. Kemp, Phil Lane, Michael E. Mann&W. Richard Peltier (2015) Science Needs for Sea-Level Adaptation Planning: Comparisons among Three U.S. Atlantic Coastal Regions, Coastal Management, 43:5, 555-574

Hursh, David and Christine B. Avenarius (2013). What Do Patrons Really Do in Music Libraries? An Ethnographic Approach to Improving Library Services. Music Reference Service Quarterly, 16 (2): 84-108.  

Avenarius, Christine B. and Zhao Xudong (2012). To Bribe Or Not To Bribe: Comparing Perceptions About Justice, Morality, And Inequality Among Rural And Urban Chinese. Urban Anthropology 41 (2,3,4): 247-291.    

Johnson, Jeffrey C., Avenarius, Christine B. and Jack Weatherford (2006). The Active Participant Observer: Applying Social Role Analysis to Participant Observation. Field Methods, 18 (2), 111-134.

Refereed Book chapters:

Avenarius, Christine B. and Jeffrey C. Johnson (2014). "Adaptation to Legal Structures in Rural China: Integrating Survey and Ethnographic Data." In Hollstein, Betina and Silvia Dominguez (Eds.) Mixed-Methods in Studying Social Networks, (pp. 177-202). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Mark Granovetter, ed.).

Avenarius, Christine B. (2013). "Does Urban Sprawl Promote Interdiasporic Relations? The Case of Affluent Immigrants from Taiwan in Southern California." In Kokot, Waltraud (Ed.) Diaspora As Resource: A Cross-cultural Comparison, (pp. 245-271). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin Germany.

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.

Student Publications:

Avenarius, Christine B. and Jessica R. Handloff (2014). Engaging Local Community Members to Improve Residential Storm Water Management in Nags Head, North Carolina. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 18 (3) 155-158.  

Johnson, Rachel A. and Christine B. Avenarius. (2014). The Role of Religious Values: Young Christian's Opinions towards Tattoos. Explorations, the Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities for the State of North Carolina, IX: 138-148.

Avenarius, Christine B. and Jessica R. Handloff (2013). Evaluations and Suggestions about Storm Water and Septic Tank Management Among Residents of Nags Head Acres, Nags Head, NC. Weissbuch.   

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, Bailey's article, "A New Online Strategy in Teaching Racial and Ethnic Health and Health Disparities to Public Health Professionals" was accepted by the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. It will appear in the 2016 issue of the Journal.

Excavations in the Western Negev Highlands: Results of the Negev Emergency Survey 1978-89  by Dr. Benjamin Saidel and co-author M. Haimon was published December 2014 by British Archaeological Reports. See here for more.


Haley Drabek translated the Tyrrell Water Management Study finalized in 2014 into 9 separate brochures, one for each proposed water management district. She spent six weeks visiting property owners in each district to explain the benefits of participating in the localized water management district and asking for signatures of intent to join.

Anna Claire researched existing oral history booklets at the Tyrrell Visitor Center and then interviewed elderly Tyrrell County residents who grew up in the county. She taped these interviews for safe keeping at the Visitor Center and is currently writing narrative reports of the collected information, one for each conversation partner. These reports will be bound and held at the Tyrrell County Visitor Center for interested readers. Anna Claire has also been involved with a group of children in the county with a diverse ethnic background. Under Anna Claire's direction the children are currently writing a newsletter that will report on the children's experiences of growing up in Tyrrell County, exploring their favorite places, activities, and hopes for their future.  

 Click here to see Anthropology's latest Newsletter

East Carolina ranks number one for the second consecutive year as the provider of graduate degrees for the Register of Professional Archaeologists registrants! Read more here

 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!

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