Of Sociology

Dr. Cynthia “Cissy” Fowler is Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department and a Professor at Wofford College. Fowler is a devoted anthropologist who is committed to academic and engaged scholarship, which for her involves teaching undergraduate anthropology courses; performing service for the College; engaging with the community through participation in local and professional organizations; reviewing and editing academic publications; and conducting research and writing.  Ecological anthropology is her main subfield, and she is interested in human interactions with more-than-humans along dimensions aligning with three specific elements: earth, fire, and water. Two areas of interest in Eastern Indonesia are water grabbing as it links to customary territorial systems and Sumbanese Islanders’ relationships with the fresh and marine water in their landscapes. In her western Carolinas home, her focus is on understandings of fire ecology in the Blue Ridge Mountains and how those influence land management, particularly in public lands.

Fowler has published her research results in articles and books, including Fire Otherwise: Ethnobiology of Burning for a Changing World (2018), Biosocial Synchrony on Sumba: Multispecies Interactions and Environmental Variations in Indonesia (2016), and Ignition Stories: Indigenous Fire Ecology in the Indo-Australian Monsoon Zone (2013). Fowler is the co-editor alongside Dr. Elizabeth Olson of the monograph series Global Change/Global Health published by the University of Arizona Press. She co-edits, together with Dr. Steve Wolverton, the Contributions in Ethnobiology monograph series published by the Society of Ethnobiology.  Fowler is on the Reviewer Board of Forests. Fowler was co-founder and co-editor of the Society’s open access journal Ethnobiology Letters.

Fowler has been an active member of the Society of Ethnobiology since 1999, serving as the President of the Board from 2017 to 2019. Fowler serves on Wofford’s Post-Graduate Scholarships Committee and Faculty Development Committee. She is a member of the Polk County Fire and Rescue Advisory Council and is certified as a Wildland Firefighter Type 2. She has completed ACA level 4 Swift Water Rescue training.

At Wofford College, Fowler teaches Introduction to Anthropology; Diversity; Global Health; Ecological Anthropology; Medical Anthropology; Ethnography; Ethnographic Film; and Cultures of Southeast Asia and Oceania.  In the January Interim terms, she has taught Water and Society; Fire Ecology of the Southern Appalachians; Woodworkers Workshop; Nature and Culture on Bali; Holistic Health; Ethnic and Religious Diversity of Thailand; and Land and Peoples of Peru. Wofford College presented Fowler with the Covington Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and the Humanities in August of 2020. The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry awarded Fowler with the Exemplary Teacher of the Year Award in 2018. 

As a Fulbright U.S. Scholar, Fowler conducted research on Sumba Island in 2022-23 in collaboration with the University of Nusa Cendana. Her research project linked global change with global health to better understand the ways in which ongoing change in freshwater on Sumba interacts with agropastoralists’ wellbeing.  


Pyrosociality: The Power of Fire in Transforming the Blue Ridge Mountain Ecoregion. Environment and Society 14. 2023. DOI:

Perkins, L. P. J., Coates, T. A., Hiers, J. K., Fowler, C. T., Bigelow, S. W. Prescribed Fire Use Among Black Landowners in the Red Hills Region, USAEthnobiology Letters14(1):36-48. 2023.

Bura Ura, Kendu Waiyo (Rain Falls, Water Rises): The Tyranny of Water Insecurity and an Agenda for Abolition in Kodi (Sumba Island, Indonesia). Frontiers in Human Dynamics Environment, Politics and Society 5:1149241.
doi: 10.3389/fhumd.2023.114924.

Book Review of The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh. Human Ecology. 2023.

Real-Time Mapping with GPS Devices in a Mixed Methods Toolkit for Studying Social and Environmental Change. Journal of Ethnobiology 43(1): 31-39. 2023.

Customary Rights and Freshwater Ecology in Pluralistic Societies on the Monsoonal Island of Sumba (Eastern Indonesia). Frontiers in Environmental Sciences: Conservation Biology and Restoration Ecology. Special Issue on Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. 2022.

Book Review of A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path: Animal Metaphors in an Eastern Indonesian Society by Gregory Forth. Anthrozoös 35(4). 2022.

The Goodfire Campaign: Swaying Opinions about Prescribed Burning. In Firestorm: Critical Approaches to Forest Life and Death. Society of Cultural Anthropology’s Hotspots Fieldsites. 2021. 

Wyndham, Felice, Janelle Baker, Kelly Bannister, Maria Bruno, Andrew Flachs, Cynthia Fowler, Andrew Gillreath-Brown, Elizabeth Olson, Kali Wade, and Sarah Walshaw. When is it Appropriate to Reference Identities, Relationships of Belonging, or Knowledge Lineages in Ethnobiological Scholarship? Ethnobiology Letters 12(1):73-78. DOI 10.14237/ebl.12.1.2021.1779. 2021. 

Fowler, Cynthia and Kaycia Best. State Line Burn: Collaboration Across the Border of North and South Carolina. An Interview with Brian Browning, Fire Management Officer for the Nantahala Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest. Fire Learning Network Newsletter. 2019. 

Fowler, Cynthia T. and James R. Welch, editors. Fire Otherwise: Ethnobiology of Burning for a Changing World. University of Utah Press. 2018. 

Fowler, Cynthia T. and Scott Herron, guest editors. Ethics in Ethnobiology. Special Issue. Ethnobiology Letters 9(1). 2018. 

Emerging Environmental Ethics for Novel Fire Regimes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ethnobiology Letters 9(1):90-100. 2018. 

Biosocial Synchrony on Sumba: Multispecies Relationships and Environmental Variations in Indonesia. Lexington Books. 2016.

Wayfinding Women: The Generation of Landscapes and Society through Female Entrepreneurship. Urbanities 5(1):83-94. 2015.

Fowler, Cynthia T. and James R. Welch. Introduction: Special Issue on Fire Ecology and Ethnobiology. Journal of Ethnobiology 35(1):1-3. 2015. 

An Editor’s Opinion on the Ethics of Open Access. Ethnobiology Letters 5:1-3. 2014.

Ignition Stories: Indigenous Fire Ecologies in the Indo-Australian Monsoon Zone. Carolina Academic Press, Durham. 2013.

National Public Health Initiatives that Integrate Traditional Medicine. In Human Health and Forests: A Global Overview of Issues, Practice and Policy. Carol J. Pierce Colfer, editor. Pp. 295-315. London: Earthscan. 2008. 

Fowler, Cynthia and Evelyn Konopik.  The History of Fire in the Southern United States. Human Ecology Review 14(2):165-176. 2007.

Co-editor with Deborah Kennard. The Encyclopedia of Southern Fire Science. 2004.

Why is Maize a Sacred Plant? Social History and Agrarian Change on Sumba.  Journal of Ethnobiology 25(1):39-57. 2005.

The Ecological Implications of Ancestral Religion and Reciprocal Exchange in a Sacred Forest in Karendi. World Views: Culture, Environment, Religion 7(3):303-329. 2003.

Human Health Impacts of Forest Fires in the South: A Literature Review. Journal of Ecological Anthropology 7:39-63. 2003.

Wilcox, Bruce and Cynthia Fowler. Ecosystem Health and the Political Process: Ullsten and Rapport Revisited. Journal of Ecosystem Health 7(3). 2001.