Jess Auerbach

I am an anthropologist working in both the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions. I also do research on critical pedagogy.

Please see my personal website for updated details, or email me at Thanks!

Book Launch 
Stellenbosch Education


Middle Class Urbanism Seminar
Copenhagen, 19-21 August 2020

Book: From Water to Wine

From Water to Wine: Becoming Middle Class in Angola

 “There are many experimental forms of ethnography, but here is one written by a digital native for digital natives. It is the first ethnography I am aware of that one inhabits the way one inhabits the Internet—fast paced, disjointed, multi-modal, jumping scales from deeply personal to meta-commentary. Few scholars today could pull this off so effortlessly, though no doubt more and more will try. This could be, and in my mind should be, an effective model for how it is done.”

- Daniel J. Hoffman, University of Washington 


“From Water to Wine demystifies social science research for twenty-first-century students by showing the ‘receipts’ that

will ‘trip us out of our eyes’ and alienate us from our stereotypes and cognitive biases. Auerbach is committed to an ethic of

revelation—insisting that the audience witness the experiences and materials that inform her work. The result is a creatively

conceived text that is about the emergent Angolan middle class, but also about the author’s journey using ethnography

to navigate the textures of race, class, color, power, and privilege across six countries and three continents.”

- Abena Ampofoa Asare, Stony Brook University


From Water to Wine explores how Angola has changed since the end of its civil war in 2002. Its focus is on the middle class -

defined as those with a house, a car, and an education—and their consumption, aspirations, and hopes for their families. It

takes as its starting point “what is working in Angola?” rather than “what is going wrong?” and makes a deliberate, political

choice to give attention to beauty and happiness in everyday life in a country that has had an unusually troubled history. 

Each chapter focuses on one of the five senses, with the introduction and conclusion provoking reflection on proprioception

(or kinesthesia) and curiosity. Various media are employed—poetry, recipes, photos, comics, and other textual experiments—

to engage readers and their senses. Written for a broad audience, this text is an excellent addition to the study of Africa,

the lusophone world, international development, sensory ethnography, and ethnographic writing. 

Buy the book directly from the press here, or from Amazon here.
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