University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Kasey Jernigan

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, Anthropology & American Studies


“Mapping Indigenous/UVA Relations”

Mapping Indigenous/UVA Relations: Stories of Space, Place, and Histories is a participatory action methodological project that focuses on sparsely documented Indigenous relations with the University of Virginia. This project combines archival materials related to Indigenous histories and presences in and around UVA with Virginia tribal citizens’ personal digital stories that articulate Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, and stories of space, place, and histories. Digital stories are powerful and brief visual narratives that have the potential to uncover histories layered into the fabric of UVA, Charlottesville, and the surrounding areas. Centering tribal citizens not as research participants, but as research partners, shifts power dynamics inherent in traditional research methods, allowing for new knowledge to emerge that is mediated by Indigenous perspectives and returns this knowledge to communities as Indigenously-informed. This project seeks to offer an alternative to mainstream mapping techniques that, when created by Indigenous peoples, serve as a localized counter-mapping project using multi-sensorial techniques to imbue meaning and ways of knowing spaces and places. As a new modality for “sensing” Indigenous research, digital stories combined with archived materials enable us to conceptualize place not just cognitively, but through the many sensory channels of experience, revealing unspoken insights and embodied or visually-articulated life-worlds not easily captured through traditional means. Taking seriously digital stories as sense-making intimate objects, Indigenous-produced digital stories have the capacity to serve as transformative artifacts of understanding, pushing the production of knowledge – and just what constitutes this knowledge – in new directions to inform our understandings of Indigenous/UVA relations.  


As a critical medical anthropologist, my research focuses on obesity (and related chronic conditions) at the intersections of issues related to structural violence, historical trauma, heritage narratives, and meaning-making among Indigenous communities in Oklahoma. Using collaborative and participatory methods, my research examines the socio-cultural, economic, political, and historical influences of health, while centering tribal citizens’ personal stories and meaning-making in these processes. In my current book project, Embodied Heritage: Commod Bods and Indian Identities, I examine the ways shifting patterns of participation in food and nutrition assistance programs (commodity foods in particular) have shaped Indigenous foodways; how these foodways are linked to Indigenous bodies and health; and how foodways and bodies are intertwined with structural violence, identity, and heritage.

I received my PhD in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a Graduate Certificate in Native American and Indigenous Studies. I also hold an MPH in epidemiology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. I come to UVA from Wesleyan University where I was the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Native American Studies.

I am a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and grew up in Tulsa, OK.