Lauren Coyle Rosen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. She trained as a cultural anthropologist and as a lawyer. She received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersections of legal and political anthropology, comparative religion and spirituality, aesthetics and consciousness, subjectivity and epistemology, and critical theory. Her geographical focuses are on Ghana and on Africa and the diaspora, more broadly, as well as the US. She is a faculty affiliate at the Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA), the Program in African Studies, and the Brazil LAB. She is also an external faculty member at the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at the University of Chicago.
Coyle Rosen's first book, Fires of Gold: Law, Spirit, and Sacrificial Labor in Ghana, appeared in April 2020 with University of California Press, as part of its series, "Atelier: Ethnographic Inquiry in the Twenty-First Century." Fires of Gold is an ethnography of the often shrouded cultural, legal, political, and spiritual forces governing the gold mining industry in Ghana, one of Africa’s most celebrated democracies. The book argues that significant sources of power that lie outside of the formal legal system have arisen to police, adjudicate, and navigate conflict in this theater of violence, destruction, and rebirth. These authorities, or shadow sovereigns, include the transnational mining company, collectivized artisanal miners, civil society advocacy groups, and significant religious figures and spiritual forces from African, Islamic, and Christian traditions. Often more salient than official bodies of government, the shadow sovereigns reveal a reconstitution of sovereign power – one that, in many ways, is generated by hidden dimensions of the legal system. The book also argues that spiritual forces are central in anchoring and animating shadow sovereigns as well as key forms of legal authority, economic value, and political contestation. The study illuminates how the crucible of gold, itself governed by spirits, serves as a critical site for embodied struggles over the realignment of the classical philosophical triad: the city, the soul, and the sacred.
Coyle Rosen recently completed a second book, Law in Light: Priestesses, Priests, and the Revitalization of Akan Spirituality in the United States (under review for University of California Press). Law in Light is an ethnography of the multisensorial worlds of the recent revitalization and proliferation of Akan path priestesses and priests in the US, as well as their ongoing vital connections with high spiritual authorites in Ghana. Akan spirituality has been practiced in the Americas since slavery. However, this path is now gaining new vitality and momentum across the US, as high spiritual authorities are expanding shrines in major metropolitan areas and are joining forces with other African-derived spiritual traditions. Through inquiry into the intricate spiritual paths and social organizations of a collection of leading priestesses and priests, the work engages comparative questions regarding the experiential and philosophical dimensions of ritual subjectivity, co-presence, knowledge, revelation, veracity, temporality, spatiality, and consciousness.
She is also at work on a third book project, an ethnography of the spirituality, creativity, liberation arts, and musical journeys of a pathbreaking composer and artist, Hannibal Lokumbe: Spiritual Soundscapes of Music, Healing, and Liberation. Her essays have appeared in various journals and edited volumes. Her research has been supported by awards and fellowships from several sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Social Science Research Council, American Council of Learned Societies, American Philosophical Society, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Lincoln Institute, Some Institutes for Advanced Study (SIAS), Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law, and Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard. Through Princeton, Coyle Rosen's resarch has been supported by grants from the University Center for Human Values, the Humanities Council, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Program in African Studies, and the University Committee on Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
In 2022, Coyle Rosen received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton. In 2018-2019, she was awarded a David A. Gardner '69 Magic Innovation Grant through the Humanities Council at Princeton, to support an assemblage of events for academic years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. In 2019, she received a grant from UCHV for comparative studies of spirituality, perception, values, and epistemology, under the title, "Corridors of Consciousness." In 2016, she was awarded a 250th Anniversary Fund Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education at Princeton.
Coyle Rosen previously served as Departmental Representative (for undergraduate studies) for Anthropology and as a Faculty Fellow for the Fung Global Fellows Program at Princeton. Prior to serving as Assistant Professor at Princeton, she was a fellow at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies. Before this, she was a postdoctoral lecturer on law and social studies at Harvard, as well as a research fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute in the Hutchins Center at Harvard.