Light in Dark Times is an exquisite work of art and anthropology that confronts critical issues facing the world today.

Now available to buy.



In a time when many yearn for a new future, Light in Dark Times calls on us to envision and create an alternative world from the one in which we now live.

It is a powerful story of encounters with writers, philosophers, activists, and anthropologists whose words are as meaningful today as they were during the times in which they were written. 

It invites readers to explore the political catastrophes and moral disasters of the past and present, revealing issues that beg to be studied, understood and confronted.

 It is a lament over the darkness of our times… 

…and offers ideas about the plights and possibilities for humankind.


An astonishing work of art and anthropology: beautiful, moving, and profound.

—Anand Pandian, Professor and Chair of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

author of A Possible Anthropology: Methods for Uneasy Times


In the tradition of ground-breaking graphic narratives like Logicomix and Unflattening, Light in Dark Times informs, educates, and inspires all at once. Beautifully illustrated in a mixed media style, the book is an epic ‘walk-and-talk.’ It effectively uses the comics form to take the reader on a flowing journey through the key question of our time: how to understand and resist an overwhelming world. Spritely avatars of Waterston and Corden, often accompanied by notable thinkers like Virginia Woolf, Hannah Arendt, and Bertolt Brecht, provide illumination and hope in the darkness. They make a powerful case for the field of anthropology as a tool in the struggle.

—Josh Neufeld, University of Waterloo

author of the New York Times bestseller A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge and illustrator of

The Influencing Machine


How do we want to be human? Light in Dark Times takes readers on an expansive journey to find ways to answer that question for themselves. Alisse Waterston’s thoughtful investigation accompanied by Charlotte Corden’s lively illustrations, together weave a primer on how anthropology can serve as a critical tool to reveal great understanding – particularly necessary in this dark moment when truth is obscured on all sides.” 

—Nick Sousanis, San Francisco State University

award-winning author of Unflattening 


Waterston and Corden create a beautiful, meaningful, and powerful experience in Light in Dark Times. Simultaneously a lament and a beacon of hope, this visually stunning and intellectually vibrant narrative invites the reader to immerse in ideas, imaginings, realities, and possibilities. Through flowing imagery and concise lyrical text, the book offers a fundamental anthropological and philosophical toolkit against despair. Weaving deep but accessible content with dreamlike illustrations and imaginings, Waterston and Corden have created a book for, and about, all of us.

—Agustín Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

author of The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional



How do we want to be human? How can we create a more just, humane world for all? These questions shine forth from Light in Dark Times, a book gorgeous in both ideas and images from anthropologist Alisse Waterston and artist Charlotte Corden. Together with guiding spirit Hannah Arendt, they invite us to think in politically relevant ways. Drawing on anthropology’s unique way of knowing, Light in Dark Times illuminates the dark corners of human experience so that we may imagine and build a better world. A potent, hopeful, and inspiring call-to-action for these times.

—Carole McGranahan, Professor of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder

author of Writing Anthropology: Essays on Craft and Commitment


With Light in Dark Times, Alisse Waterston reasserts her status as one of anthropology’s most brilliant writers, able to draw us into the lives of scholars and activists from different ways of life, with compelling and empathetic prose. Addressing some of the most vexing philosophical questions of our time, she and artist Charlotte Corden weave ethics, social science, and art together, all the while encouraging their audience to experience the world anew, through child-like eyes. Emotionally staggering in its ability to compel us to forge an alliance around fairness and human dignity, this is an essential book for anyone committed to imagining new ways of creating a more just society.

—Laurence Ralph, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

author of The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence


Light in Dark Times injects hopefulness and possibility into a world that seems to be hopelessly possessed by madness, evil, and suffering. It brings intellectual illumination and anthropological insight to bear in a world beset by anti-intellectualism, political obfuscation, and abject human suffering. And it ignites genuine possibility of transformation. It is marvelous, beautiful, inspiring.

—Tricia Redeker Hepner, Director, Social Justice & Human Rights, Arizona State University

author of Soldiers, Martyrs, Traitors, and Exiles


Through foresight or synchronicity, a number of pandemic-applicable titles appear in the new catalogs. Information and preparation have their limits -- beyond which the mind looks for something else: consolation. Light in Dark Times: The Human Search for Meaning (University of Toronto Press, October) written by Alisse Waterston and illustrated by Charlotte Hollands…reveals “issues that beg to be studied, understood, confronted, and resisted.” For while [the pandemic] too will pass, something else will come along to keep the book relevant.

—Scott McLemee

Intellectual Affairs columnist for Inside Higher Ed in “Roundup of fall 2020 books pertinent to Covid-19”

(June 26, 2020)

© 2020 Alisse Waterston and Charlotte Corden

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