Sociocultural Anthropology and Linguistics
The faculty of the Department of Anthropology reflect a range of overlapping specializations, consistent with the diversity of the discipline. The 17 full time sociocultural and linguistic anthropology faculty, along with additional anthropologists in other departments, are involved in research in Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Oceania, North America, and Southeast Asia. These regional strengths of the department are complemented by a number of interdisciplinary programs on the UIUC campus, which provide a wealth of resources—from language training, to speaker series, to financial support for preliminary research and language study abroad. These programs include:
- Afro-American Studies and Research Program
- Asian American Studies Program
- Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies
- Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
- Center for African Studies
- Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
- Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
- Latina/Latino Studies Program
- American Indian Studies Program
- Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center
- Gender and Women’s Studies Program
- Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society
- International Forum for U.S. Studies (IFUSS)
- Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH)
The details of our respective research and teaching interests (along with recent and notable publications) can be found on the faculty page and on the listings of recent course offerings. All of these are integral to our department, and reflected in the work of our students. On this page we want to underscore what we take to be areas of particular depth in our program, where the regional and/or topical specialization of a number of our faculty intersect in ways that distinguish Anthropology at UIUC from other graduate programs.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Regionally, UIUC has a strong focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, with the research of Lugo and Rosas focused on Mexico and the US-Mexican border area (Lugo in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and Rosas in Nogales, Sonora), Moodie on emergent subjectivities in the post-conflict transitions in Central America (particularly El Salvador), Orta on Aymara communities and foreign missionaries in highland Bolivia, Torres on the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Perry on the African Diaspora and comparative racializations in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Dominguez on the French, English, and Spanish-Speaking Caribbean. (See also the archeological work of Silverman in Peru and the ethnomusicological work of Turino in Peru as well Lucero’s archaeological analysis of Mayan political systems and water management in Belize.)
The department also boasts a number of faculty engaged in research with North American communities, including Abelmann's research on Korean Americans, Farnell's work with Native North Americans, Lugo's research on the Southwest United States, Desmond’s work on culture and feminist theory, popular culture, and media and live performance in the U.S. and beyond, including the transnational study of the U.S., Rosas’s work in the Midwest, Dominguez’s work in Louisiana, Manalansan's work with Filipino Americans, Keller's work with American artist blacksmiths, and Torres' and Lugo’s research with Latinos in the U.S. (See also the archeological work of Pauketat).
Other regions of focus
Another notable area of research strength is both the anthropology of Europe, reflected in the research of Bunzl in Austria and Central Europe as well as Gottlieb’s recent work in Portugal, and Dominguez’s work in the Middle East, particularly Israel. In East Asia Abelmann conducts research in South Korea, Kelsky focuses on global cultures and gender in Japan, and Toby works on the historiography of the Japanese empire. In Africa, Gottlieb and Saul are each engaged in research in francophone West Africa (see also the archeological work of Ambrose in East Africa). In Southeast Asia and Oceania, Lehman's work in Burma and Thailand, Manalansan's research in the Philippines, and Keller's research in Oceania continue a long-standing departmental regional strength.
Many of the issues in sociocultural anthropology and linguistics that we pursue can be organized under a set of thematic clusters. While the following list does not exhaust our expertise or our sense of the scope of the discipline, we consider these to be among the most vital ventures in contemporary anthropology, and identify these as areas of particular intellectual breadth and depth that distinguish Anthropology at UIUC from other programs in the US and internationally. Students interested in pursuing research questions organized around these issues will find a number of faculty mentors and student colleagues working on comparable themes. These converging interests rarely result in absolute intellectual agreement; we ask this neither of our colleagues nor of our students. We find it is the depth of these overlapping intellectual concerns, and the lively debate they spark, that make the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign a productive and challenging place for anthropological research and training.
A great number of our faculty share an explicit research interest in the body as an ethnographic site, as a prime locus of culture, as a resource for social action, and as a focal point for historical processes. We come to the body through a variety of research questions and intellectual trajectories, from a concern with the inheritance of Cartesian dualisms, to a focus on locality and situated practice, to an engagement with queer theory, to the pasts, presents, and futures of feminist anthropology, to a focus on dance and human movement, to an examination of selfhood, to research into cognition and agency.
Our work as a faculty includes research on processes of ethnic and national identity construction, research on transnational populations (migrant and diasporic communities), and research on transnational social phenomena (from missionaries to global capital).
Our faculty considers race as a pivotal component of their research programs. Race is no longer accepted by anthropologists as a biologically determined feature but rather one that is socially created, imposed and contested. Race is approached through faculty research on the roles played by the state in the continuing production, imposition and performance of racialized identities as well as the construction of racialized counter-narratives by peoples in various spaces.
Transnational and global economic developments have renewed a long standing interest within anthropology in the organization of work and its articulation to social reproduction, cultural practices, and local and national politics.Our faculty has produced work that has addressed these issues on a variety of levels.
The fuzzy and fertile boundaries between history and anthropology, between past and present, and between memory and experience, are indispensable reference points and constant resources for innovation for anthropology. Our work as a faculty spans historical anthropological studies of colonial situations, missionary encounters, and the anthropology of modernity, close ethnographic examinations of memory practices, along with efforts to address the intellectual and practical history of our own discipline.
A number of faculty have developed their research interests and teaching at the interstices of questions of language, culture and mind. Our perspectives and approaches are diverse, and it is in part this very diversity that creates an optimal intellectual context for vital, reflective scholarship. Several decades ago department faculty worked collaboratively with others across the country to highlight the potential for integrative research on cognition and symbolism. A foundational treatment appeared in two special issues of the American Ethnologist which appeared in the early 80s.
A number of our research and teaching interests converge around the imbricated themes of religion and modernity: as analytic frames for examining cultural difference and its negotiation through history, as key diacritics of our contemporary moment, and as questions that cut across a long disciplinary genealogy. This nexus is an especially productive one for anthropology today as the perpetuation and proliferation of religious identities and practices, often in complex relation with the phenomena of globalization, compel new understandings of culture and new approaches to ethnography. As a faculty, we address these issues through a wide range of cases and a mix of particularist and comparative perspectives.