Wheaton logo 2020 color version also for mobile

Christine Jeske

Christine Jeske Faculty Headshot

Christine Jeske, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anthropology

On Faculty since 2015

View CV

  • Economic Development
  • Race and social inequities
  • Africa
  • Labor
  • Theories of the good life
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Diversity in United States agriculture

Christine Jeske loves thinking about the moral and cultural questions behind economic development and about what North Americans have to learn from the global South regarding finance and wellbeing. Her current research in South Africa considers how people define and imagine achieving a “good life,” especially when unemployed or working in low-wage jobs. Prior to coming to Wheaton, Christine worked in microfinance, refugee resettlement, community development, and teaching while living in Nicaragua, Northwest China, and South Africa.

Christine aims to notice and live out a good life within her own work, which is a mix of research, teaching, hospitality, parenting, and farming. She is the author of two books and has been a frequent contributor to Relevant magazine and a newspaper columnist. She lives in an old Wisconsin farmhouse named the Sanctuary, complete with a dozen chickens, several pigs, innumerable weeds, two children, and one wonderful husband.

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ph.D., Cultural Anthropology, 2016

University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A., Cultural Anthropology, 2013

University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.A., English & Piano 1999

Eastern University, PA
M.B.A., Economic Development, 2004

Pay Doesn't Matter: Work-Readiness Training Messages in South Africa
University of Wisconsin-Madison Colloquium Series, Jan. 2017

Hustling: Moral Economies of a Good Life Among South African Young Men
American Anthropological Association, Nov. 2016

South African narratives of a good life: insights into work, church, and prejudice "On Knowing Humanity"
Conference Eastern University, 2015

Conflicting messages in church and culture on how work makes a good life
Theology Roundtable Seminar University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2015

Is Laziness the Problem?: Unemployment and the Good Life Among Zulu South Africans
University of KwaZulu-Natal South Africa, 2014

Pentecostalism as a Door into the World of Work
American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, 2013

Social conceptualizations of work, unemployment, and blame in KwaZulu-Natal
University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society Seminar South Africa, 2013

“Take me home in your suitcase”: Examining the boundaries of truth and intervention in anthropological subjects’ imaginary futures
Anthropology Graduate Conference, Reclaiming Truth: Obligations, Methodologies, and Implications Johns Hopkins University, 2013

  • Introduction to Anthropology
  • Biculturalism
  • Culture, Economy, and Morality
  • Anthropological Writing
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Culture Theory
  • Food, Farms, and Culture
  • What is Money Good For?

Why Work? Do We Understand What Motivates Work-Related Decisions in South Africa?

Journal of Southern African Studies

Why do people work? In South Africa, where over 50 per cent of working age adults do not have jobs, this question drives to the heart of efforts to encourage employers to create jobs and workers to persist in costly job searches. This article offers new ways of thinking about employment by identifying non-monetary motivating factors that are too often ignored.

view more


Are Cars the New Cows?  Changing Wealth Goods and Moral Economies in South Africa 

American Anthropologist

2016 In much of sub-Saharan Africa, cattle have played a central role in maintaining social cohesion by binding people of various means into mutual obligations.  Today, among South African Zulu communities, as in much of the world, the social obligations attached to wealth are fiercely contested.  To trace conflicts in emerging moral economies, I compare in this article the social roles of cows versus those of another wealth good: cars...

view more


The Myth of the Christian Nut Job

Christianity Today

Several months into graduate school at my secular university, a classmate startled me with a gutsy questions: "Is it hard to talk about Jesus in class?" With flushing cheeks that proved my answer, I told her and out colleagues, "Yes, I suppose it is." The group responded with a wave of support.  "I can't believe you feel that way! We want you to be honest about what you believe." You want me to what?

view more