Anne Ferguson

  • Professor Emerita
  • Senior Associate Dean, International Studies & Programs


Research Interests

    Women and Development Program
    International Studies and Programs
    Environment and development
    Agrarian systems
    Feminist and gender studies
    Medical anthropology; Southern Africa, Central America

Biographical Info

ANNE FERGUSON, Professor and Director of the Women and International Development Program, does research and teaching in the areas of development studies, gender, agricultural and environmental change, and medical anthropology. Her early work in El Salvador in medical anthropology focused on the impacts of multinational pharmaceutical firms’ business practices on health care provided at pharmacies, and on the integration of these companies’ products into lay and alternative medical practices.

In the mid-1980s Dr. Ferguson shifted her research focus to Southern Africa where she has studied development initiatives in the areas of agriculture, fisheries, and water sector reform. Her research in Malawi centers on the gendered social construction of agricultural technology and natural resource management programs and policies. She focuses on scientists, policy makers, and other development planners, as well as villagers and other actors in development initiatives. Dr. Ferguson has studied the social and cultural factors which underpin the maintenance of crop bio-diversity, examining how these factors shape agricultural technology improvement programs. She also has examined the social impacts of fisheries policies in Malawi. Currently, her research centers on the gender dimensions of Malawi’s new water reform policies. How are new international agreements and understandings in the water sector which promote governmental decentralization, stakeholder participation, neoliberal market reforms and environmental rights translated into national and local policies? How are these policies shaped, acted upon and implemented at the local level? Who benefits and who loses? Much of Dr. Ferguson’s research has been carried out in collaboration with colleagues at MSU and at the University of Malawi. Her research has been supported by the McArthur Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, Rockefeller Foundation, and USAID. In 2000, she received a Fulbright Hays Faculty Research Abroad Program grant to study the gender dimensions of Malawi’s and Zimbabwe’s water reforms.

Dr. Ferguson teaches gender studies courses with a focus on agriculture, environment and development.


  • Ferguson, Anne and W. O. Mulwafu. 2007. “If Government Failed, How Are We to Succeed? The Importance of History and Context in Present-day Irrigation Reform in Malawi.” Community-Based Water Law Resource Management Reform in Developing Countries. Eds. B. Van Koppen, J. Butterworth, and I. Juma. Oxfordshire, UK: CABI Publishers.
  • Ferguson, Anne. 2005. “Water Reform, Gender, and HIV/AIDS: Perspectives from Malawi.” Globalization, Water, and Health: Resource Management in Times of Scarcity. Eds. L. Whiteford and S. Whiteford. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research, pp. 45-66.
  • Ferguson, Anne and W. O. Mulwafu. 2005. “Irrigation Reform in Malawi: Exploring Critical Land-Water Intersections.” Proceedings of the International Conference on African Water Laws: Plural Legislative Frameworks for Rural Water Management in Africa. January 26-28, Gauteng, South Africa.
  • Ferguson, Anne and Bill Derman. 2004. “Whose Water? The Political Ecology of Water Reform in Zimbabwe.” Political Ecology Across Spaces, Scales and Social Groups. Eds. S. Paulson and L. Gezon. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, pp. 61-75.
  • Derman, Bill and Anne Ferguson. 2003. “The Value of Water: Political Ecology and Water Reform in Southern Africa.” Human Organization 62(3):277-288.
  • Ferguson, Anne and Bill Derman. "Writing Against Hegemony: Development Encounters in Zimbabwe and Malawi." In Pauline Peters, ed. Development Encounters: Sites of Participation and Knowledge. Harvard Institute for International Development, Harvard University.
  • Ferguson, Anne and Bill Derman. 1999. "Activism and Advocacy in the Reform of Zimbabwe’s Water Sector." Culture and Agriculture Bulletin.
  • Ferguson, Anne and Laura DeLind. 1999. "Is This a Women's Movement? The Relationship of Gender to Community Supported Agriculture in Michigan." Human Organization. 58(2):190-200.
  • Ferguson, Anne and Bill Derman. 1995. "Human Rights, Environment and Development: The Dispossession of Fishing Communities on Lake Malawi." Human Ecology. Vol 23(2):125-142
  • Ferguson, Anne. 1994. "Gendered Science: A Critique of Agricultural Development." American Anthropologist. 96(3):540-552.
  • Dept. of Anthropology