CUNNINGHAM, HILARY Contact Areas of Interest

Cunningham, Hilary
Department of Anthropology
306 Larkin Building. Trinity College
Toronto, ON  M5S 3G3
t: 416-978-0472
  • Borders, Boundaries and the Politics of Enclosures in Wilderness Areas


Hilary Cunningham is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her past research has focused on the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borderlands, and she is author of numerous publications on the politics of borders and border-crossings. Her current research is based in northern Ontario on the Bruce Peninsula and explores what she terms “gated ecologies,” especially those pertaining to nature reserves and wilderness areas.

Hilary’s current research is based in northern Ontario on the Bruce Peninsula and explores what she terms “gated ecologies,” especially those pertaining nature reserves and wilderness areas. In her work, Hilary explores boundary-making itself as a multi-faceted encounter with “nature.” She is currently developing a distinctive epistemological framework within studies of environment by arguing that the “bounding” of nature remains a central problematic for contemporary debates on ecological issues. Adopting a unique interdisciplinary framework, she explores “nature” as entailing boundary-making — i.e., as entailing metaphysical, aesthetic and political act(s) that both enact and enable particular human-nature interactions.

Primary Teaching

Environment and anthropology, theories of nature, environmental politics, wilderness and society; anthropology of animals.

Selected Publications


“Urban Futures as Ecological Futures.” In The Blackwell Companion to Urban Anthropology, edited by Donald Nonini. Blackwell. 2013.

“The Ontario Sanctuary Coalition and the Politics of Sacred Space.” Sanctuary Practices in Comparative Perspective, edited by Randy Lippert and Sean Rehaag. Routledge, 2013.

Book Chapters

“Bordering on the Environmental: Permeabilities, Ecology and Geopolitical Boundaries.” In The Blackwell Companion to Border Studies, edited by Thomas M. Wilson and Hastings Donnan. Wiley Blackwell, 2012.

“Ecology, Poverty and ‘Possible Urban Worlds.’” In The Natural City: Re-envisioning the Built Environment, edited by Ingrid Stefanovic and Stephen B. Scharper. University of Toronto Press. 2012.

“Gating Ecology in a Gated Globe: Environmental Aspects of ‘Securing our Borders.’” In Borderlands: Ethnographic Approaches to Security, Power and Identity, edited by Hastings Donnan and Tom Wilson. University Press of America. 2010.

Fiction and Literature

Perdita (Simon & Schuster, April 2013) is Hilary’s first novel. Drawing upon the literary classics, this novel represents an emerging literary form—something Hilary terms the “eco-gothic.” Set on the northern Bruce Peninsula and focusing on the life of a woman who claims to be 134 years old, Perditagives human-nature relations a central role in the narrative. The novel also explores the concept of “biophilia” through several gothic motifs —wild nature, romance, and the supernatural.

Dream Dresses (Seraphim Editions, 2009) is a short-story collection about women’s dreams and the dresses connected to them. Covering the life span of women from childhood to old age, her stories explore how the fabric of women’s dreams and aspirations become so entangled with attire that the dress and the dream sometimes become one and the same.