Cindy Isenhour

Cooperating Faculty, School of Policy and International Affairs
Cooperating Faculty, School of Economics

Research Interests:

  • Environmental Governance
  • Climate Mitigation, Adaptation and Policy
  • Consumption, Embodied Energy and Waste
  • Social Movements and Alternative Economies
  • Environmental Risk Perception and Decision Making

Research Projects:
Materials Management in Maine

Media Expertise:

  • Sustainable Consumption
  • Environmental Impacts of Consumption
  • Alternative Economies
  • Climate and Waste Policy


  • University of Kentucky, Ph.D. (Anthropology)
  • Colorado State University, M.A. (Anthropology)
  • Miami University, B.A. (Business Communications)


  • The Anthropological Dimensions of Environmental Policy
  • Human Dimensions of Climate Change
  • Economic Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Food


Dr. Cynthia Isenhour is an ecological and economic anthropologist. She serves as a professor in the Department of Anthropology and in the Climate Change Institute, both at the University of Maine. Her research focuses on how history, culture and power shape environmental governance and policy. Recognizing that improvements in energy and natural resource efficiencies are quickly being undone by rising levels of consumption, Isenhour’s recent work looks at environmental policies and alternative economic institutions designed to encourage more sustainable systems of production and consumption. Isenhour’s current research projects include: an examination of the potential for Maine’s second-hand economies to contribute to economic, environmental and social policy goals; an exploration of Circular Economy practice, rhetoric and policy in the US context and how these ideas are being used to advance climate mitigation goals; an examination of food waste policies that might help to reduce food waste and ensure more circular food systems in the New England region.

Isenhour is the recipient of several honors and awards, including the 2018 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Outstanding Outreach and Service Award at the University of Maine. Her research has been supported by a J. William Fulbright Fellowship, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation.

Selected Publications:

Mathai, M. V., Isenhour, C., Stevis, D., Vergragt, P., Bengtsson, M., Lorek, S., Mortensen, L.F., Coscieme, L., Scott,D., Waheed, A., Alfredsson, E. (2020). The Political Economy of (Un) Sustainable Production and Consumption: A Multidisciplinary Synthesis for Research and Action. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 105265.

McElwee, P., Turnout, E., Chiroleu-Assouline, M., Clapp, J., Isenhour, C., Jackson, T., Klemenn, E., Miller, D.C., Rusch, G., Spangenberg, J.H., Waldron, A., Baumgartner, R.J., Bleys, B., Howard, M.W., Mungatana, E., Ngo, H., Ring, I., Santos, R. (2020). Ensuring a post-COVID economic agenda tackles global biodiversity loss. One Earth.

O’Reilly, J., Isenhour, C, McElwee, P.,  and Orlove, B.  (2020). Climate Change: Expanding Anthropological Possibilities.  Annual Reviews of Anthropology 49:33-29.

Isenhour, C., & Berry, B. (2020). “Still good life”: On the value of reuse and distributive labor in “depleted” rural Maine. Economic Anthropology, 7(2), 293-308.

Berry, B., & Isenhour, C. (2019). Linking Rural and Urban Circular Economies through Reuse and Repair. Journal for the Anthropology of North America, 22(2), 112-114.

Isenhour, C. (2019). A consuming globalism: On power and the post-Paris Agreement politics of climate and consumption. Power and Politics in Sustainable Consumption Research and Practice, 21-44.

Isenhour, C., Martiskainen, M., & Middlemiss, L. (Eds.). (2019). Power and politics in sustainable consumption research and practice. Routledge.

Isenhour, C., & Reno, J. (2019). On materiality and meaning: Ethnographic engagements with reuse, repair & care. Worldwide Waste: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 2(1), 1.

Berry, B., Bonnet, J., & Isenhour, C. (2019). Rummaging through the Attic of New England. Worldwide Waste: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 2(1).

Alfredsson, E., Bengtsson, M., Brown, H. S., Isenhour, C., Lorek, S., Stevis, D., & Vergragt, P. (2018). Why achieving the Paris Agreement requires reduced overall consumption and production. Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 14(1), 1-5.

Shwom, R., Isenhour, C., Jordan, R. C., McCright, A. M., & Robinson, J. M. (2017). Integrating the social sciences to enhance climate literacy. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 15(7), 377-384.

Isenhour, C. (2017). When “gestures of change” demand policy support. Social Change and the Coming of Post-consumer Society: Theoretical Advances and Policy Implications, 127.

Isenhour, C. (2017). When “gestures of change” demand policy support: Social change and the structural underpinnings of consumer culture in the United States. In Social Change and the Coming of Post-Consumer Society (pp. 127-144). Routledge.

Isenhour, C. (2017). Maine’s Culture of Reuse and Its Potential to Advance Environmental and Economic Policy Objectives. Maine policy review, 26(1).

Isenhour, C. (2016). On Human Adaptation, Sustainable Consumption, and Environmental Governance. Routledge Handbook of Environmental Anthropology, 230.

Isenhour, Cindy (2016) Unearthing Human Progress? Ecomodernism and Contrasting Definitions of Technological Progress in the Anthropocene. Economic Anthropology 3(2)315-328.

Isenhour, Cindy, Travis Wagner, Travis Blackmer, Linda Silka, John Peckenham, David Hart & Jean McRae (2016). Moving Up the Waste Hierarchy in Maine: Learning from Best Practice State-Level Policy for Waste Reduction and Recovery.  Maine Policy Review 25(1)15-29

Thomas Love and Cindy Isenhour. (2016). Energy and Economy: Recognizing High-Energy Modernity as an Historical Period. Economic Anthropology 3(1):1-18.

Isenhour, Cindy and Kuishuang Feng. (2014). Decoupling and Displaced Emissions: On Swedish Consumers, Chinese Producers and Policy to Address the Climate Impact of Consumption. Journal of Cleaner Production. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.12.037

Isenhour, C. (2014). Trading Fat for Forests: Palm Oil, Tropical Deforestation and Environmental Governance. Conservation & Society 12, no. 3: 257-267.

Isenhour, C. (2012). The Devil in the Deal: Trade-Embedded Emissions and the Durban Platform. Ethics, Policy & Environment (Special Issue on the Durban Platform) 15, no. 3: 303-308.

Isenhour, C. (2012). On the Politics of Climate Knowledge: Sir Giddens, Sweden and the Paradox of Climate (In) Justice. Local Environment: International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 17, no. 9.

Isenhour, C. (2012). Can Consumer Demand Deliver Sustainable Food?: Recent Research in Sustainable Consumption Policy & Practice. Environment & Society 2, no. 1: 5-28.

Checker, C. Isenhour, and G. McDonough. (2011). Introduction: Sustainability in the City. City & Society (Special Issue on Urban Sustainability) 23, no. 3: 113-117.

Isenhour, C., (2011). How the Grass Became Greener in the City: Urban Imaginings and Practices of Sustainability. City & Society 23, no. 2 (2011): 118-138.