Department of Anthropology
Position: Associate Professor
Office: VMMC 102C
I received a BA in Anthropology from Durham University, England, and a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. My first book, Embroidering Lives: Women’s Work and Skill in the Lucknow Embroidery Industry, was published by SUNY Press in 1999, and my second book, Fashioning Bollywood: The Making and Meaning of Costumes in the Hindi Film Industry, has recently been published by Bloomsbury Academic Press (formerly Berg Press). A third book, Critical Craft, co-edited with Alicia O. DeNicola, is under contract with Bloomsbury Academic as well.
Articles on craft, film costume and the social transformation of costume production in popular Hindi film have appeared in Ethnology, Visual Anthropology Review, Anthropological Quarterly, Ethnography, and Journal of Material Culture. My work has also appeared in Fashion Cultures Revisited, edited by Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Gibson and A World of Work (an essay co-written with Hindi film costume designer, Lovleen Bains) edited by Ilana Gershon. I have just completed a sabbatical in which I gave several talks in India at JNU, IIT Madras, and SNDT Women's University; I was also a visiting scholar at the University of Westminster.
At WSU Vancouver I regularly teach classes on the Arts and Media in Global Perspective, History of Anthropological Theory, and Speech, Thought and Culture. I also teach the graduate core course on the Fundamentals of Cultural Anthropology.
I have an abiding interest in both the sciences and the humanities, and how they contribute to anthropology. A background in performing arts has proved very helpful in my research, although I have had regrettably (or happily, depending upon your perspective) few opportunities to put it into practice. I am an Associate of the London College of Music.
My research interests are based in India and include the social processes of film production, with special focus on questions of the co-option of commodities in media industries, the cultures of workplaces, the making of film costume, fashion and performance in film, and the renegotiation of craft in the contemporary global economy. Throughout my career I have been concerned with how artists and makers in craft and media industries manage to assert their creative intelligence in less than ideal circumstances. Both the culture of production -- or the social networks and relationships that make up an art world -- and the shifts in knowledge and skill that underlie aesthetic expression are of interest to me. With Alicia DeNicola (of Oxford College of Emory University) I'm working on the theorization of craft in anthropology. In July 2012, we held a Wenner-Gren funded workshop WSU Vancouver for a group of anthropologists to compare and discuss their work on craft. The volume based on this workshop will be published by Bloomsbury Academic shortly. For my purposes, a fresh look at craft from a range of ethnographic perspectives is the key to developing a coherent comparative context for understanding media and art production. I have recently begun investigating the relationship between the materiality of costume and the immaterial "realities" they help create on screen with Anthea Mallinson of Capilano University, with particular attention being paid to the labor-intensive processes of costume aging and distressing.
For the next stage of my research I am interested in exploring the industries that have grown up around Hindi film in the period of economic liberalization, specifically talent agency companies, graphic design and branding companies, and other enterprises that are, in various ways, now involved in the cultivation and management of film stars as commercial properties. I am also expanding the scope of my research on design and "look" to include production design, set construction, location scouting and set dressing. I am particularly interested in how practitioners on the design team, from top to bottom, put a given "vision" into practice, and how the goal of "realism" is sought after in actual practice. Another project is to try to collect oral history accounts of the mid twentieth century industry from veterans in all filmmaking domains -- cast, crew, etc. -- a critical task given the paucity of written documentation of filmmaking, and the aging of this pioneering population whose work was conducted in the critical years before and after Independence.
CoursesAnth 301 Arts and Media in Global Perspective
Anth 303 Religious Experience
Articles and Chapters
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