Lauren Coyle Rosen

Assistant Professor
(609) 258-8856
Office Location: 
121 Aaron Burr Hall
Office Hours: 
11:30 am-12:30 pm

By appointment through WASE.

Teaching (Fall 2019)
History of Anthropological Theory (ANT 390A & 309B)
Rituals of Governing (ANT 453)


Ph.D. University of Chicago, Anthro. (2014)
J.D., Harvard Law School (2008)

Coyle Rosen’s research and teaching interests lie at the intersections of legal and political anthropology, comparative religion and spirituality, subjectivity and consciousness, culture and epistemology, and critical theory. Her geographical focuses are on Ghana and on Africa and the diaspora, more broadly, as well as the US.

short bio

Coyle Rosen has a forthcoming book titled Fires of Gold: Law, Spirit, and Sacrificial Labor in Ghana, which will appear in spring 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 triage: the city, the soul, and the sacred.

               Coyle Rosen is currently writing a second book, Law in Light: Truth, Vision, and Transnational African Spirituality, an ethnography of the recent revitalization and proliferation of Akan path priestesses and priests in Ghana and, particularly, in the US. 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, governance, revelation, veracity, temporality, spatiality, and consciousness. 

She currently sits on the executive committee of the Program in African Studies at Princeton, and she is a faculty affiliate at the Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA). She was previously a faculty fellow for the Fung Global Fellows Program at Princeton. Prior to assuming her professorship 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.


fires of gold book cover

Selected Publications:

Fires of Gold: Law, Spirit, and Sacrificial Labor in Ghana (in press, forthcoming spring 2020, University of California Press).

Law in Light: Truth, Vision, and Transnational African Spirituality (in preparation).

“Fallen Chiefs and Sacrificial Mining in Ghana.” In The Politics of Custom: Chiefs, Capital, and Culture in Contemporary Africa, edited by Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

“Tender Is the Mine: Law, Shadow Rule, and the Public Gaze in Ghana.” In Corporate Social Responsibility? Human Rights in the New Global Economy, edited by Charlotte Walker-Said and John Kelly (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

“Resource Curse?” Transition 107 (2012): 151-159. (with Michael Ralph)

“The Spiritless Rose in the Cross of the Present: Retracing Hegel in Adorno’s Negative Dialectics and Related Lectures.” Telos 155 (2011): 39-61.