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Dan Mains

Daniel Mains

Professor of Anthropology and African Studies

Associate Professor Dan Mains

Location: Boren Hall 153


Phone: 405-325-3615


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, Emory University
  • M.A., Anthropology, Emory University 
  • B.S., Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

I teach courses that help students think critically about their place in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Students explore how processes associated with globalization, economic development, and capitalism play out within specific cultural contexts. Regardless of whether students are majoring in civil engineering, biochemistry, or theater, I want them to consider the cultural, economic, and political connections that bind humans together, and use this understanding to work towards creating a better and more just world. 

Daniel Mains' research and writing explore the intersection between culture and economics in urban Africa and the United States. He is the author of Hope is Cut: Youth, Unemployment, and the Future in Urban Ethiopia (2012). Hope is Cut explores how young men in urban Ethiopia negotiate the gap between their desires for the future and economic realities. His second book, Under Construction: Technologies of Development in Urban Ethiopia (2019) examines the relationship between development and governance through an exploration of conflicts surrounding the construction of roads, hydroelectric dams, and other forms of infrastructure. Dr. Mains' is currently completing a book about the politics of water infrastructure and battles over urban growth in Norman, Oklahoma. Dr. Mains was a Fullbright Fellow in Hawassa, Ethiopia (2013-2014) and a Humboldt Fellow in Berlin, Germany (2017-2018). 

Research Interests

  • Ethiopia 
  • Urban Infrastructure
  • Youth Cultures
  • Capitalism
  • International Development

Courses Taught

  • HON 2970 Globalizing Africa
  • HON 2970 Culture, Power, and International Development 
  • HON 3993 Cultures and Capitalisms 
  • HON 3993 Global Youth Cultures 
  • HON 3993 Consumer Cultures and the Ethics of Shopping 
  • HON 3993 African Migrations
  • HON 3993 Cultures of Modernity


Under Construction: Technologies of Development in Urban Ethiopia. Duke University Press. 2019

Hope is Cut: Youth, Unemployment, and the Future in Urban Ethiopia. Temple University Press. 2012

Friends and Money: Balancing Affection and Reciprocity among Young Men in Urban Ethiopia. American Ethnologist. 2012

Neoliberal Times: Progress, Boredom, and Shame among Young Men in Urban Ethiopia. American Ethnologist. 2012

The Ethiopian Developmental State and Struggles Over the Reproduction of Young Migrant Women's Labor at the Hawassa Industrial Park, Co-Authored with Robel Mulat. Journal of East African Studies. 2021

Governing Three-Wheeled Motorcycle Taxis in Urban Ethiopia: States, Markets, and Moral Discourses of Infrastructure. Co-Authored with Eshetayehu Kinfu. American Ethnologist. 2017

Making the City of Nations and Nationalities: The Politics of Ethnicity and Roads in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Co-Authored with Eshetayehu Kinfu. Journal of Modern African Studies. 2016

Blackouts and Progress: Privatization, Infrastructure, and a Developmentalist State in Jimma, Ethiopia. Cultural Anthropology. 2012