Christine Jeske

Christine Jeske Headshot

Christine Jeske, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anthropology

On Faculty since 2015
View CV

  • Work and vocation
  • Race and social inequities
  • Economic Development
  • Africa
  • Theories of the good life
  • Medical Anthropology
  • United States farming systems

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 considers how people 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 is the author of three books and many articles for popular and academic audiences. Her most recent book, The Laziness Myth, considers what makes work desirable, how racism shapes work, and how people find hope in undesirable working conditions.

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 lives in an old Wisconsin farmhouse named the Sanctuary, complete with a dozen chickens, several pigs, innumerable weeds, two children, and one wonderful husband.

Christine Jeske's Website


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

Where is Privilege in the Vocation Conversation?
Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, Feb. 2020.

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

“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?

This Pandemic Hits Americans Where We're Spiritually Weak
Christianity Today
COVID-19 slammed North Americans up against some of our deepest lies and idols. Identifying how our culture has left us poorly prepared for this can move us toward the kind of sorrow that produces repentance and justice.
view this CT article

Are We Underthinking Underemployment?: Toward a More Inclusive Theology of Vocation 
Christian Scholars Review
We often assume that everyone just chooses a career path that fulfils their deepest dreams. But what about when work doesn’t turn out that way?
view this CSR article

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 this JoSAS article

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 this article on the AA site