Dr. David Syring

Image of David Syring
Professional Title
Professor of Anthropology


  • 1997 Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Rice University (Houston, TX)
  • 1989 B.A. in History and English from Cornell College (Mount Vernon, IA) 

Professional Roles

Courses I Teach

  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Ethnobotany
  • Digital and Participatory Research Methods
  • Anthropology and Environment
  • Latin American Cultures
  • Cultural Theory for Wicked Problems
  • Anthropology Senior Seminar
  • Exploring Sustainability in Ecuador (short-term study abroad course)
  • Graduate courses: Theories, Methods and Applications of Graduate Study; Community Engagement

Research and Teaching Interests

My research and teaching agenda focuses on humanistic approaches to resilient food systems, human-environment relationships, globalization and craftwork, sustainability as a theoretical framework and practical approach to addressing contemporary issues of social inequality, and participatory media creation with community groups. This agenda emerges from my early work on human perceptions of the landscape, and from the work I did for some years in the environmental nonprofit sector. I pursue this interest in a number of directions, including research within the United States and in Ecuador. I have conducted major community scholarship research projects revolving around sustainable regional food systems in the Western Great Lakes. I regularly conduct fieldwork in Saraguro, Ecuador, and am completing a series of participatory media pieces (films and digital stories) with the indigenous community I work with there. In addition, I have worked with multiple nonprofits in the Great Lakes region to teach participatory media making, specifically digital storytelling, to community groups.

The Participatory Media Lab@UMD

I co-founded (with Dr. Mitra Emad) the Participatory Media Lab@UMD. The Participatory Media Lab (PML) serves as a collaborative space for faculty and students exploring the techniques of critically informed, digitally enhanced social research. Faculty empower students to bring critical thinking and technology skills to the larger community by creating integrated experiences on such topics as regional food systems, ethnic identity in urban environments, water resource issues, interpreting the final statements of death row inmates and more. Find examples of student-created media on the PML’s YouTube channel

If you are an individual or organizational leader who would like to talk about how the PML might support your community work, please contact me.

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Articles, Book Chapters, Reviews & Reports