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 2020 Trnka, S.H. Traversing: Embodied Lifeworlds in the Czech Republic. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 

Traversing: Embodied Lifeworlds in the Czech Republic

Traversing is about how our ways of seeing, experiencing, and moving through the world shape the kinds of people we become. This work draws on philosophical concepts developed by two phenomenological philosophers, Martin Heidegger and Jan Patočka, putting them in conversation with ethnographic analysis of the lives of contemporary Czechs, to examine how embodiment is crucial for understanding our being-in-the-world.

In particular, Traversing scrutinizes three kinds of movements we make as embodied actors in the world: how we move through time and space, be it by walking the city streets, gliding across the dance floor, or clicking our way across digital landscapes; how we move towards and away from one another, as partners, family members, or fearful, ethnic "others," and how we move towards ourselves and the earth we live upon.

Above all, Traversing focuses on tracing the ways in which the body and motion are fundamental to our lived experience of the world in order to develop a better understanding of the empirical details of Czech society and what they can reveal to us about the human condition.

2017. Trnka,  S.H. One Blue Child: Asthma, Responsibility and the Politics of Global Health. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press. 

One Blue Child: Asthma, Responsibility and the Politics of Global Health

Radical changes in our understanding of health and healthcare are reshaping twenty-first-century personhood. In the last few years, there has been a great influx of public policy and biometric technologies targeted at engaging individuals in their own health, increasing personal responsibility, and encouraging people to "self-manage" their own care.

One Blue Child examines the emergence of self-management as a global policy standard, focusing on how healthcare is reshaping our relationships with ourselves, our bodies, our families and our doctors, companies, and the government. Comparing responses to childhood asthma in New Zealand and the Czech Republic, the work traces how ideas about self-management, as well as policies inculcating self-reliance and self-responsibility more broadly, are assumed, reshaped, and ignored altogether by medical professionals, asthma sufferers and parents, environmental activists, and policymakers. By studying nations that share a commitment to the ideals of neoliberalism but approach children's health according to very different cultural, political, and economic priorities, the work illuminates how responsibility is reformulated with sometimes surprising results.

2008. Trnka, S.H. State of Suffering: Political Violence and Community Survival in Fiji. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 


How do ordinary people respond when their lives are irrevocably altered by terror and violence? I was residing in an Indo-Fijian village in the year 2000 during the Fijian nationalist coup. The overthrow of the elected multiethnic party led to six months of nationalist aggression, much of which was directed toward Indo-Fijians. In State of Suffering, I show how Indo-Fijians' lives were overturned as waves of turmoil and destruction swept across Fiji.

Describing the myriad social processes through which violence is articulated and ascribed meaning-including expressions of incredulity, circulation of rumors, narratives, and exchanges of laughter and jokes-I consider the ways in which the community engages in these practices as individuals experience, and try to understand, the consequences of the coup. 

Throughout this book, I focus on the collective social process through which violence is embodied, articulated, and silenced by those it targets. This ethnography aims to add to the global conversation about the impact of political violence on community life.

State of Suffering: Political Violence and Community Survival in Fiji


This book is about the lives of young Czech women who came of age in the aftermath of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. A collection of interviews undertaken in 1995-1996 with fourteen women of similar age and education, but varying work, marital and childbearing experiences, the
book illuminates the social and historical forces that shaped young
women's lives, most notably the legacies of communism and the economic
and social conditions characterizing the post-communist transition.

Also available in Czech: 

1998. Heitlinger, A., and S.H. Trnka. Životy Mladých Pražských Žen. (The Lives of Young Prague Women). Prague: SLON (Sociological Press of Prague). 

Young Women of Prague

1998. Heltlinger A., and S.H. Trnka. Young Women of Prague. London: Macmillan Press. 

Edited Works

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This book engages anthropologically with humor as political expression. It reveals how humour is in many instances central to human efforts to cope with political struggle and significant to understanding power dynamics in socio-political life. Chapter contributors consider humor as it is constituted in political anxiety, aggression and power, and when it becomes a tool to resist, repair, reconcile or make a moral claim. Collectively they demonstrate that humor can provide a powerful critique, a non-violent form of political protest and the space for restoration of human dignity.

The Politics of Joking: Anthropological Engagements

2019. Kopelent Rehak, J. and S.H. Trnka eds. The Politics of Joking: Anthropological Engagements. New York & London: Routledge. 

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2017. Trnka, S.H. and C.J. Trundle, eds. Competing Responsibilities: The Ethics and Politics of Contemporary Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 


Noting the pervasiveness of the adoption of "responsibility" as a core ideal of neoliberal governance, the contributors to Competing Responsibilities challenge contemporary understandings and critiques of that concept in political, social, and ethical life. They reveal that neoliberalism's reification of the responsible subject masks the myriad forms of individual and collective responsibility that people engage with in their everyday lives, from accountability, self-sufficiency, and prudence to care, obligation, and culpability.


The essays—which combine social theory with ethnographic research from Europe, North America, Africa, and New Zealand—address a wide range of topics, including critiques of corporate social responsibility practices; the relationships between public and private responsibilities in the context of state violence; the tension between calls on individuals and imperatives to groups to prevent the transmission of HIV; audit culture; and how health is cast as a citizenship issue. Competing Responsibilities allows for the examination of modes of responsibility that extend, challenge, or coexist with the neoliberal focus on the individual cultivation of the self. 

Competing Responsibilities: The Ethics and Politics of Contemporary Life

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2013. Trnka, S.H., Dureau, C. and J. PARK, eds. Senses and Citizenships: Embodying Political Life. New York & London: Routledge. 

Senses and Citizenships: Embodying Political Life

What does disgust have to do with citizenship? How might pain and pleasure, movement, taste, sound and smell be configured as aspects of national belonging? Senses and Citizenships: Embodying Political Life examines the intersections between sensory phenomena and national and supra-national forms of belonging, introducing the new concept of sensory citizenship. Expanding upon contemporary understandings of the rights and duties of citizens, the volume presents anthropological investigations of the sensory aspects of participation in collectivities such as face-to-face communities, ethnic groups, nations and transnational entities. Rethinking relationships between ideology, aesthetics, affect and bodily experience, the authors reveal the multiple political effects of the senses.


The book demonstrates how various elements of political life, including some of the most fundamental aspects of citizenship, rest not only upon our senses, but on their perceived naturalization. Vivid ethnographic examples of sensory citizenship in Europe, the United States, the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East explore themes such as sight in political constructions; smell and ethnic conflict; pain in the constitution of communities; national soundscapes; taste in national identities; movement, memory and emplacement.

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Up Close and Personal: On Peripheral Perspectives and the Production of Anthropological Knowledge

Combining rich personal accounts from twelve veteran anthropologists with reflexive analyses of the state of anthropology today, this book is a treatise on theory and method offering fresh insights into the production of anthropological knowledge, from the creation of key concepts to major paradigm shifts. Particular focus is given to how ‘peripheral perspectives’ can help re-shape the discipline and the ways that anthropologists think about contemporary culture and society. From urban Māori communities in Aotearoa/New Zealand to the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, from Arnhem Land in Australia to the villages of Yorkshire, these accounts take us to the heart of the anthropological endeavour, decentring mainstream perspectives, and revealing the intimate relationships and processes that create anthropological knowledge.

2013. Shore, C.N., and S.H. Trnka. eds. Up Close and Personal: On Peripheral Perspectives and the Production of Anthropological Knowledge. Oxford & New York: Berghahn Books.  

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1993. Trnka S.H., with L. Busheikin, eds. Bodies of Bread and Butter: Reconfiguring Women’s Lives in the Post-Communist Czech Republic. Prague: Gender Studies Centre.

Bodies of Bread and Butter: Reconfiguring Women’s Lives in the Post-Communist Czech Republic

Bodies of Bread and Butter is noteworthy for breaking new ground in scholarship on gender in eastern and central Europe. It was the first English language book to analyse the impact of the 1989 Velvet Revolution on Czech women’s lives, and has been frequently taught in gender studies courses in Europe and the US. The book has been noted for its inclusive vision, receiving strong endorsement from The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women (2000: 628-29): “Women’s studies and gender studies in eastern and central Europe have barely ventured into some areas…. Among the few gay studies dealing with sexual orientation, sexual rights, rights of self-representation, sociocultural challenges such as the pressures of coming out, rights of bodily integrity and discrimination...”​

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