Brooke Bocast

Visiting Assistant Professor


Dr. Brooke Schwartz Bocast is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Western Washington University and an Assistant Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Montana State University.

Brooke’s research investigates entanglements of policies and bodies through comparative ethnography in East Africa and the United States. Her first book, If Books Fail, Try Beauty: Educated Womanhood in the New East Africa (Oxford University Press 2023) examines sexual economic exchange at East Africa’s most prestigious university, Makerere University. Based on thirty-six months of ethnographic research, the book reveals that young women exchange sexual favors with older businessmen to pursue social advancement in a newly privatized higher education sector. Tracing the passage and effects of Uganda’s national education reform from 2004 onwards, the book argues that these reforms – in opposition to the government’s gender equality aims – undermine female students’ life chances by reshaping the meaning of “educated woman.” If Books Fail, Try Beauty brings together formerly disparate conversations about education, sexuality, and state policy to offer a theorization of emerging modes of personhood in urban East Africa.

While at Western Washington, Brooke will be developing her next book project about the politics of sentiment and semiotics of resistance among diaspora activists in Uganda’s National Unity Platform/People Power Freedom Movement. Through research and organizing with the NUP/PPFM Seattle Chapter, the project asks: How do diaspora activists experience and embody “solidarity” in relation to national, and international collectivities? How does their investment in Black liberation articulate with the history of pan-African movements across the continent? To the extent that Ugandan dynamics resonate throughout and beyond East Africa, what might these shifts portend for opposition political praxis in relation to globally escalating authoritarianism?

Brooke’s research has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Institute for International Education. Her writing appears in City & Society, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Anthropology & Humanism, and other scholarly, literary, and public venues.