Cynthia Isenhour

Cynthia Kline Isenhour

Anthropology Doctorate Student


Cynthia Kline Isenhour grew up in Germantown, Ohio, where she graduated from Valley View High School. She was raised one of two daughters primarily by her mother, who, though earning a modest salary, did everything in her power to provide more than just life’s necessities for her children.

“I suspect that my mother’s occasional conflation of love and material goods influenced my decision to study marketing in college (at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio),” Isenhour said.

Isenhour’s education at Miami U. and from her mother gave Isenhour an understanding of how buying and giving could be productive, “helping to create and foster social relations of love and mutual support.”

As a result of this newfound realization, Isenhour studied anthropology at the graduate level at Colorado State University. After receiving her master’s degree and working with an environmental non-profit, she entered the applied anthropology doctoral program at the University of Kentucky to study economic anthropology, the cultural construction of high consumption and sustainability in the industrialized North.

What attracted Isenhour most to UK and the College of Arts and Sciences Anthropology Department was its faculty, who possessed a specialty in human economic interactions with the environment. And once here, she has been impressed with the department and A&S’s support.

“My experience has been excellent,” Isenhour said. “New hires recently authorized by the college have reinvigorated the department and created an exciting atmosphere. As a department, we’ve had an incredible year with several graduate students receiving major external funding. In addition, our outgoing Chair received a Guggenheim Fellowship and several other faculty members have external funding and exciting research programs.”

While Isenhour is quick to point out the successes of her fellow students and faculty, she, too, has attracted interest in her research. Her work, influenced by her childhood just as her previous education had been, “examines the recent proliferation of ‘sustainable’ forms of consumerism through an ethnographic study of Swedish consumers who have actively modified their consumer behavior in response to perceptions of environmental risk and in an attempt to protect the environment.”

Isenhour’s work was so attractive that she received a Fulbright Fellowship to help fund the research, as well as an American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship and a Wenner-Gren Foundation Fellowship for Anthropological Research. This research also was recommended for funding by the National Science Foundation and the Swedish Institute.

However, the most important considerations for her work have come from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Anthropology Department, which is getting better and better.

“The quality of the department is completely dependent on the college’s support,” Isenhour said. “That being said, I have been extremely happy with the Anthropology Department. Recent new hires and the retention of some of our best faculty have certainly created an atmosphere conducive to building an even better department.”

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