Dillon Mahoney


Assistant Professor


Office: SOC 117

Teaching and Advising

I have extensive experience teaching introductory and upper-level undergraduate anthropology courses as well as graduate seminars (Contemporary Applied Anthropology; Anthropology of Development; Anthropology of Media; Teaching Anthropology). The courses I teach are grounded in and reflect my research interests and teaching philosophy: that students learn best when course material and abstract theory connect directly to issues in their lives.

I would like to give special recognition to my three MA advisees who completed their theses during the pandemic, Nadege Nau, Michaela Inks, and Michala Head. Their work was all impacted by lockdowns and changes to traditional methodologies, and I am very proud of their flexibility, tenacity, and work ethic. I congratulate them on their important work:

  • Nadege Nau, “Civic Engagement and Civil Unrest: Haitian Social Scientists Working at Home.” (Aug 2020).
  • Michaela Inks, “Educational Experiences of Congolese Refugee in West-Central Florida High Schools.” (May 2021).
  • Michala Head, “How Culture and Storytelling Can Influence Urban Development: An Ethnographic Look at the Community-driven Revitalization of Newtown in Sarasota, Florida.” (Aug 2021).

I have extensive experience designing and running field schools in coastal Kenya as well as organizing large student-based service-learning projects in the United States. In the fall of 2020, a colleague of mine and I worked with our students to qualitatively evaluate the impacts of pandemic policies among a large sample of USF students (n=178).

Since 2015 I have worked with USF’s Swahili-speaking students to advise the university’s Swahili Students Organization (SSO). From 2016-2017 we taught informal Swahili classes open to the university community and have been involved in holding social events as well as aiding in research and volunteer work with recently resettled Swahili-speaking refugees here in Tampa.

My ongoing research in Kenya is a collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and is based in Makueni County in an area surrounded on three sides by national park. Working collaboratively with government and community based organizations, we are exploring environmental threats such as deforestation and drought to find means of resolving conflict between humans and wildlife and among conservation stakeholders.

Beginning summer 2020, a new program had been developed collaboratively with colleagues at the NMK to direct a field school in eastern Kenya to train students in methods including biodiversity surveys and ethnographic techniques to help us better identify and address certain issues and misunderstandings, particularly involving the history of human-environmental interaction in the region. This field school is unfortunately on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19.


Since 2001, my research has focused on urban informal economies, the tourism industry, and socio-economic change in Kenya. My 2017 book, The Art of Connection (California), provides a history of Kenya’s coastal tourism and crafts industries and culminates in a discussion of the impact of new digital technologies on small business in the coastal city of Mombasa. Bringing together the studies of globalization, development, art, and communication, the book illuminates the lived experiences of informal economies and shows how traders and small enterprises balance new risks with the mobility afforded by digital technologies. I wished to capture an African ‘grass-roots’ that, to paraphrase James Ferguson, would be not local and communal but globally connected and opportunistic. These strategies often involve the use of Fair Trade stickers and clever branding to balance revelation with obfuscation – or what is revealed and what is not – so that traders can make their own roles as potentially exploitative intermediaries invisible. I have contributed two recent chapters based upon research in Kenya to 2017’s Global Africa (Hodgson and Byfield, eds., California) and 2020’s The Oxford Handbook of Kenya Politics (Cheeseman, Kanyinga, and Lynch, eds., Oxford). 

As an applied anthropologist, I use anthropological insights and methods to address important social problems of today. Since 2016, I have been working with Swahili-speaking refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) here in Hillsborough and in neighboring Pinellas Counties. Beginning as a project on diet and nutrition, our team of faculty and students (including many East African students) have now spent several years conducting research and working on volunteer projects via Hillsborough County Schools, the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force, and several community-based organizations and churches. I received a “Welcomer Award” from the Florida Department of Children and Families in 2017 for my work helping refugees. I have spoken about our work and research at several conferences and in several media formats including podcasts, and I was quoted in a front page 2017 Tampa Bay Times article on the topic of resettlement of refugees from the DRC. Here is me featured on Will Lucas’s anthropology podcast in May 2020 talking about my research.

Since early 2018, I have partnered with a local youth group to help produce Swahili-language educational (and fun) videos to both teach young people technical skills and to help them empower themselves by toying with the technology and the representations of themselves and life in America they can produce. Our YouTube channel is called Umoja wa Afrika – Tampa (Africa United – Tampa).

Community Outreach

Community Outreach2

More recently, I have worked closely with colleagues at USF and community partners to investigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic policies on populations of recently resettled refugees in the Tampa Bay Area. Our first report on Congolese household heads was completed in July 2020 and additional reports have been completed on Arabic and Spanish speaking refugee populations in collaboration with faculty and students at Morsani Medical School. I am also currently Co-PI on a project titled, Pandemic Fallout for Black Refugee Youth: Issues of Health, Education, Race, and Identity, in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, Florida. For more information on these projects (methods, instruments, findings), see here, or please contact me directly by email.

Through early 2021, I have worked with a team translating public health resources into Swahili. Please contact me for more on Swahili language translation or for our most recent informational flyer on COVID-19 vaccines. There has been recent media coverage of our work with translation and vaccine outreach.

Here is our recent report on Understandings of State and Federal Pandemic Policies Among University Students in Tampa, Florida

See my most recent peer-reviewed articles (and stay tuned because much is in the pipeline): 

  • Billingsley, Krista, and Dillon Mahoney. 2021. “Engaged Research in a Hurry: The Case for and Complications of Immediate Anthropology.” Human Organization, 80(2): 117-127.
  • Mahoney, Dillon, Renice Obure, Krista Billingsley, Michaela Inks, Eugenie Umurutasate, and Roberta D. Baer. 2020. “Evaluating Understandings of State and Federal Pandemic Policies: The Situation of Refugees from the Congo Wars in Tampa, Florida.” Human Organization, 79(4): 271-280. 
  • Mahoney, Dillon, Roberta Baer, Oline Wani, Eka Anthony, and Carolyn Behrman.  2020. “Unique Issues for Resettling Refugees from the Congo Wars.” Annals of Anthropological Practice, 44(1): 77-90.   

Graduate Students

Nadege Nau, Danee Ruszczyk, and Shaye Soifoine.