Affiliated Institutions

Elizabethtown Community and Technical College

Pem Davidson Buck is a Professor of Anthropology at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in Kentucky. Her work has focused on whiteness, on the discourses of inequality, fascism, incarceration, and most recently on the relationship between state formation and punishment. She is presently working on a book manuscript using family genealogy as a vehicle in order to construct an anthropological history of state formation and punishment in colonial Virginia and pre-Civil War Kentucky. She is the author of Worked to the Bone: Race, Class, Power, and Privilege in Kentucky (Monthly Review) and most recently of an introductory textbook, In/Equality: An Alternative Anthropology (CAT Publishing).

Areas of Research

incarceration, state formation, whiteness


Buck, Pem Davidson. In/Equality: An Alternative Anthropology, 3nd ed. Redding, CA: CAT Publishing Co, 2013

Buck, Pem Davidson. Worked to the Bone: Race, Class, Power and Privilege in Kentucky. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001.

Buck, Pem Davidson. Whither Whiteness? Empire, State, and the Re-Ordering of Whiteness. Transforming Anthropology 20(2): 105-117, 2012.

Buck, Pem Davidson. Carceral Logic: Race and Unfree Labor, Commentary, Anthropology News, May, p.4,2009.

Buck, Pem Davidson. Keeping the Collaborators on Board as the Ship Sinks: Toward a Theory of Fascism and the U.S. ‘Middle Class.’ Rethinking Marxism, 20(1):68-90, 2008.

Buck, Pem Davidson. When the White Picket Fence Needs Whitewash: Fascism and the Middle Class. Dialogue and Initiative. Summer/Fall: 9-12, 2004 .

Buck, Pem Davidson. “Arbeit Macht Frei”: Racism and Bound, Concentrated Labor in U.S. Prisons. Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development. 23(4):331-372,1994.

Maxwell, Andrew and Pem Davidson Buck, Guest Co-Editors,”Teaching as Praxis: Decolonizing Media Representations of ‘Race,’ Gender, and Ethnicity in the New World Order.” Transforming Anthropology 3(1), 1992.

Buck, Pem Davidson. Colonized Anthropology: Cargo Cult Discourse. IN Faye V. Harrison, ed., Decolonizing Anthropology. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association, pp. 24-41, 1991 .

Buck, Pem Davidson and Deborah D’Amico Samuels, Guest Co Editors, “Teaching as Praxis: `Race’ and Ideologies of Power.” Transforming Anthropology 2(1), 1991.


Kentucky, United States

Punishment, Ancestors, and the State: An Anthropologist's History

This project develops the gradual concentration of the control of punishment in several forming states and state-like entities, including colonial Virginia, the Powhatan empire, England and Scotland and Ghana of the 1600s and 1700s, early Kentucky, the Cherokee Nation. Analysis of such disparate polities is held together by the thread of my family history and the focus on the way in which state formation is predicated on gaining a monopoly on the use of force required to punish.

United States

Incarceration and the state

I have had a long term interest in the relationship, both historically and in the present, between mass incarceration, prison labor, capitalism, and the question of why states punish, looking at state's need to provide unfree and cheap labor, to legitimize whiteness, and to respond to declining US hegemony.