Kathleen Millar

Associate Professor of Anthropology, Undergraduate Curriculum Chair
Sociology & Anthropology


Dr. Kathleen Millar received her MA and PhD degrees from the Department of Anthropology at Brown University. Her work explores relationships between labour, economy, and urban life. Her award-winning book, Reclaiming the Discarded: Life and Labour on Rio’s Garbage Dump, published by Duke University Press, traces the life projects of thousands of urban poor who earn a living by collecting recyclables on a garbage dump in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dr. Millar’s current project examines Brazil’s largest consumer debt crisis in its history through an ethnographic study of the lived experience of default.

Dr. Millar teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on research methods, social theory, contemporary ethnography, labour and capitalism, and Latin American studies.  She is also an Associate Member of the School for International Studies. Prior to joining the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at SFU, she taught courses on ethnographic writing and the politics of representation in the Thompson Writing Program at Duke University. Dr. Millar currently serves as co-Editor of the journal Anthropology of Work Review.


PhD (Anthropology), Brown University
MA (Anthropology), Brown University
BA (Theology and Spanish, Anthropology minor), University of Notre Dame

Select Publications


  • 2018 Reclaiming the Discarded: Life and Labor on Rio’s Garbage DumpDurham, NC: Duke University Press.

    Co-winner of the 2020 Society for Economic Anthropology Book Prize (
    Winner of the 2019 Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Book Prize.
    2019 American Ethnological Society Sharon Stephens Prize Honorable Mention
    2019 Latin American Studies Brazil Section Best Book in the Social Sciences (Sérgio Buarque de Holanda Prize) Honorable Mention
    2018 Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Prize Finalist

Peer-Reviewed Articles

  • 2023 Recycling as Refusing the End of the World: Thoughts on Climate Change from Rio's Garbage Dump. The Drama Review (TDR) 67(1): 91-95.
  • 2022 (with Michele Fanini). Saia do Brasil Agora: Emigração Brasileira como Ação Antecipatória. Tempo Social (Revista de Sociologia da USP) 34(3): 315-339.
  • 2020 Garbage as Racialization. Anthropology and Humanism 45(1). Early view publication at
  • 2020 Decentering Wage Labor as a New Class Politics. Dialectical Anthropology 44(1): 83-85.
  • 2017 Toward a Critical Politics of Precarity. Sociology Compass 11(6): e12483.
  • 2016 Book review of Living with Insecurity in a Brazilian Favela: Urban Violence and Daily Life by R. Ben Penglase. American Anthropologist 118(2): 446.
  • 2015 Introduction: Reading Twenty-first-century Capitalism through the Lens of E. P. Thompson. Focaal--Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 73(2015): 3-11.
  • 2015 The Tempo of Wageless Work: E. P. Thompson's Time-sense at the Edges of Rio de Janeiro. Focaal--Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 73(2015): 28-40.
  • 2014 The Precarious Present: Wageless Labor and Disrupted Life in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Cultural Anthropology 29(1): 32-53.
  • 2012 The Transformation that Waste Land Missed. Anthropology News 53(8): s52-s53.
  • 2012 (Co-authored with Catherine Lutz), War. In, A Companion to Moral Anthropology. Didier Fassin, ed. Pp. 482-499. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 
  • 2012 Trash Ties: Urban Politics, Economic Crisis and Rio de Janeiro’s Garbage Dump. In, Economies of Recycling: The Global Transformation of Materials, Values and Social Relations. Catherine Alexander and Joshua Reno, eds. London: Zed Books.
  • 2010 Cooperation in the Informal Economy: The Case of Recyclers at a Brazilian Garbage Dump. In, Cooperation in Economy and Society. Robert C. Marshall, ed. Society for Economic Anthropology. Pp. 175-194. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.

Currently Teaching

Future courses may be subject to change.