Kate Sullivan


Dr. Kate Sullivan is an Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department, California State University Los Angeles. She joined the faculty of the Anthropology Department in September 2005, after completing her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California Santa Barbara in December 2004. She has conducted ethnographic field research in British Columbia, Canada, California, U.S.A., and Santiago and X Región de Los Lagos, Chile. Her research examines the intertwined roles of legal and economic social relations, public forums, technocratic governance, bureaucracies, and relations between First Nations and nation-state governments in the development, conservation, and governance of marine and coastal environments. Dr. Sullivan’s investigations into governance practices, particularly as manifested in quotidian social practices and relationships, contribute to a growing body of ethnographic studies that critically examine the constitutive relations of power in environmental politics. Dr. Sullivan was a 2013-2014 Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California Berkeley School of Law, where she conducted research on the legal frameworks for ocean and coastal habitats and resources management in California, and on the legal contestations over the now instantiated California marine protected areas network. In 2015, Dr. Sullivan was awarded a place on the First Annual California State University Los Angeles Provost Symposium on Faculty Research for her sabbatical scholarship. She won a 2010-2011 American Communities Program Fellowship at California State University Los Angeles.

Teaching Interests

Since arriving at CSULA, Professor Sullivan has rebuilt and reinvigorated the department’s focus on media anthropology by adding new curriculum, updating and expanding the digital video computer lab, and mentoring the production of award-winning student films.  Her very popular ethnographic film class engages students in original ethnographic fieldwork as they explore the politics of representation, collective memory, and identity in Los Angeles through the medium of digital video production. Professor Sullivan also teaches the traditional ethnographic methods class for undergraduate anthropology majors, in which students conduct original research related to the theme of water and social justice in Los Angeles. Dr. Sullivan teaches upper division undergraduate courses in anthropology and rights, anthropology and identity, and the anthropology of media, undergraduate introductory courses in cultural anthropology, and graduate seminars in the history and theory of anthropology, and in legal and political anthropology.  Her teaching aims to foster respectful curiosity and an open-minded approach toward the contemporary world and to help students hone their critical reading and writing skills.

Research Interests

Dr. Sullivan’s current research examines public processes, technocratic forms of governance, and knowledge-sharing practices in face-to-face and mediated venues. She finds that emerging forms of participatory marine spatial planning and management, especially those linked with digital knowledge-sharing technologies, are of particular importance in the contemporary democratic and bureaucratic processes shaping the development and conservation of marine and coastal habitats and resources. Dr. Sullivan used her 2010-2011 American Communities Program Fellowship to launch her field and archival research into the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative in California, a multi-year, multi-regional public participatory process aimed at creating a comprehensive network of marine protected areas. During her 2013-2014 stay at the Center for the Study of Law and Society, Dr. Sullivan furthered her socio-legal research on marine protected areas by undertaking related ethnographic research on emerging efforts to create a digital oceans knowledge portal for the west coast of the U.S. In early 2015, she began ethnographic research on currently emerging efforts to build networked estuaries governance in southern California.  

In 2011, Dr. Sullivan co-edited the peer-reviewed symposium, ‘Negotiating Rights Between Indigenous Peoples and States in Latin America,’ for Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, with Dr. Sandra Brunnegger. Emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach, the symposium explored various forms of contemporary relations between Indigenous Peoples and Settler states. Then in 2012, she and Dr. Brunnegger co-convened the conference, ‘Intersections of Rights and Laws: Environment, Livelihood, and Self- Determination,’ at the University of London, England, which was funded by Social & Legal Studies and the School of Advanced Study-University of London. Professor Sullivan is currently working on a book that examines extant and emerging forms of public participation, spatial planning, and marine governance for coastal and marine environments in British Columbia and California. She has also conducted extensive research on wild capture fisheries in the Pacific Northwest and Texas, and on the prodigious and controversial development of the salmon aquaculture industry in British Columbia, Canada, and southern Chile.

Selected Publications

Edited Peer-Reviewed Symposia

Sullivan, Kathleen M., and Sandra Brunnegger
2011 Symposium: Negotiating Rights between Indigenous Peoples and States in Latin America. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 55.

Sullivan, Kathleen M., with the editor of PoLAR
2006 Symposium: Environment, Globalization and Sovereignty. PoLAR, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Vol. 29, Issue 1.


Sullivan, Kathleen M.
(forthcoming) Heterotopic Oceans in Southern Chile: Heritage, fisheries, and marine conservation. Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies.

Sullivan, Kathleen M., and Sandra Brunnegger 
2011 Symposium Introduction, Negotiating Rights Between Indigenous Peoples and States in Latin America. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 55:3-17.

Sullivan, Kathleen M. 
2011 Reorganizing Indigenous-State Relations in Chile: Programa Orígenes and Participatory Governance. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 55:101-129.

2006 Negotiating Sovereignty in the Context of Global Environmental Relations. Political and Legal Anthropology Review 29(1):1-22.

2006 (Re)Landscaping Sovereignty in British Columbia, Canada. Political and Legal Anthropology Review 29(1):44-65.

2004 Mass-Mediated Transnational Public Spheres: Debating the Production of Farmed Salmon Destined for Global Markets. Dissertation. University of California Santa Barbara.

2001 Discursive Practices and Competing Discourses in the Governance of Wild North American Pacific Salmon Resources. In Joachim Blatter and Helen Ingram, eds., Reflections on Water: New Approaches to Transboundary Conflicts and Cooperation. Pp. 163-188. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Educational Background

Ph.D., Anthropology, University of California Santa Barbara

M.A., Anthropology, The University of Texas at Austin

B.A., Anthropology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

Professional Memberships

Dr. Sullivan serves as the elected Treasurer for the Association for Legal and Political Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association (November 2007 through November 2017). 

Member of the American Anthropological Association

Member of Law and Society Association 

Member of Society for Applied Anthropology

Kate Sullivan

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Office: KH C4074
Phone: (323) 343-2239
FAX: (323) 343-2446 
Email: ksulliv4@calstatela.edu