Kimberley Coles

Assoc Professor
Sociology & Anthropology

Kimberley Coles

Areas of Expertise

  • Practices and techniques of governance

  • International institutions

  • Modernity and epistemology

  • Democracy and democratization

  • Social engineering

  • Elite networks and circulation

  • Balkans, Europe

  • New ethnographic methodologies


  • PhD, University of California, Irvine
  • MA, The American University, Washington D.C
  • BA, University of California, San Diego

For the Media

Contact :
Media Relations


Larsen Hall
P: 909.748.8715

Professional Background

My primary interests are in political practices and technologies associated with international interventions and humanitarianism.

My ethnographic research focuses on relatively formal and technical political practices and processes involved in international democracy promotion--from the international institutional communities to the ballot papers and counting machines--in order to theorize the authority and legitimacy of democratic political structures, such as elections, particularly in situations of post-socialist and post-conflict transformations.

A current project considers the dynamics of new configurations of democratization assistance and international aid first brought together in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but now at play around the world. The large-scale codification and formalization of an international electoral assistance network and election monitoring missions has been mediated through diverse actors and allies: political expansions in the EU, advances in communication and digital technology, foreign policy agendas driven by the Democratic Peace Proposition, and labor pools open to flexible, intermittent, and mobile employment. Through these networks and institutional missions, we see the establishment of particular, globalizing, and codifying forms of democratic practice.

I am currently an Associate Editor for Political and Legal Anthropology Review.

Courses Offered

SOAN 102 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

SOAN 303 World Ethnographies

Meanings and Structures of Democracy and Democratization

Questioning Authority (Climate Science and Policy)

Questioning Authority (Remembering the Socialist Past)

Power, Politics, and Culture

War and Culture

Humanitarian Aid: The socio-politics of hope and help


  • Previous teaching experience

University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Publications and Presentations


Coles, Kimberley. (2007). Democratic Designs: International intervention and electoral practices in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Coles, Kimberley. (2008). "International Presence: The passive work in democracy promotion." Democracy: Anthropological Approaches, Edited by Julia Paley. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.

Coles, Kimberley. (2007). "Ambivalent Builders: Europeanization, the production of difference, and internationals in Bosnia-Herzegovina". The New Bosnian Mosaic: Identities, moralities and moral claims in a post-war society, Edited by Xavier Bougarel, Ger Duijzings, and Elissa Helms. Ashgate Publishing, London.

Coles, Kimberley. (2004). "Election Day: The construction of democracy through technique". Cultural Anthropology, 19(4):551-580.

Coles, Kimberley. (2002). "Ambivalent Builders: Europeanization, the production of difference, and internationals in Bosnia-Herzegovina". PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 25(1): 1-18.

Presented Papers

2009 Invited participant and discussant for The EU and Statebuilding: Lessons for and from the Balkans symposium. University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies, May 8-9.

2009 Recombinant Democracy Promotion, Invited speaker at the University of Indiana's Democracy Consortium, Bloomington, March 5-6.

2008 Invited plenary speaker for Anthropology in War Zones symposium, Anthropology Student Association at California State University Fullerton, March 12.

2008 Gloss: The thin veneer of knowledge and power of internationals in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina. Redistribution of Knowledge and Resources panel, Anthropology of International Institutions workshop, Paris, March 27-29.

2007 Democratic Knowledge: codifications and circulations. The Production of International Legal Knowledge panel, AAA meeting, Washington DC, November 28-December 2.

2006 - Invited participant for Ethnographic Failures workshop, UC Irvine. Bill Maurer and George Marcus organizers, March 31-April 1.

2006 - International Presence: The practices of passivity in post-war international aid, University College London Social Anthropology Seminar, March 8.

2005 - Negotiating Nation-ness in Post-War Bosnia-Herzegovina Among International Aid Workers. Nationalism, Humanitarianism, and Disaster Relief panel, AAA meeting, Washington DC, Nov 29-Dec 4.

2005 - Invited keynote speaker at Politics and Society 10 Years After Dayton conference, Human Rights Centre of the University of Sarajevo, November 10-13.

2005 - Election Appeals: the legitimation of democracy and the limitation of complaint. Disappearing Acts panel, Law and Society meeting, Las Vegas, June 2-5.

2004 - The Object of Elections? Democratic Practice in Post-War Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pomona College, International Relations Colloquium, February 24.

Awards, Honors, Grants

    • 2008 - Faculty Research Grant 2008-2009, University of Redlands

    • 2007 - Faculty Research Grant 2007-2008, University of Redlands

    • 2004 - National Council for Eurasian and East European Research (NCEEER) Travel Research Grant

    • 2002 - The Lauds and Laurels Outstanding Graduate Student, University of California Irvine

    • 2002 - Invited Participant, Law and Society Association's Graduate Workshop, Vancouver, Canada

    • 2001 - Society for the Anthropology of Europe Student Paper Competition Winner

    • 2001 - Association for Political and Legal Anthropology Student Paper Prize Winner

    • 2000 - Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation PhD Dissertation Fellowship, 2000-2001