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This website is mainly about me and my professional interests as an anthropologist.  For information about the people of Siberut and the Mentawai Islands, links are available under Film and Media, Public Anthropology, and Research.

I am currently Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California, where I received my PhD in anthropology in December 2010.  I also received an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  I have dual interests - anthropology and film - which overlap in the field of what was once called visual anthropology and is now called media anthropology.

My anthropological interests converge in my research among the indigenous people on the island of Siberut in the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.  These interests include:
  • indigenous religion, animism, and shamanism
  • reciprocal and nonmarket exchange
  • colonialism, nationalism, and the postcolonial state
  • cultural and eco-tourism
  • development and globalization
My geographic area of specialization is Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia.  Theoretically, I was raised as an anthropologist in the aftermath of the crisis of representation, and I am influenced by postructuralism and postcolonial theory.  However, I am also indebted to predecessors like Marcel Mauss and Marshall Sahlins, and I was surprised to find value in the work of literary theorist Rene Girard.  An argument can be made that all of these theoretical orientations revolve around the concept of mimesis.

My film interests are currently related to my research in Siberut, but this was not always the case.  I came to film from anthropology.  As an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, Boulder, I began to study film because I envisioned myself doing fieldwork in the future and thought that knowing how to make a film would be useful.  In the graduate Program in Culture and Media at New York University, I entered the field of media anthropology, but after receiving my MA, I still felt unprepared to make a film during fieldwork, so I moved to the film school at USC.

At USC Cinematic Arts, I focused on producing and screenwriting, and for a few years after I received my MFA, I worked in the development departments of various production companies in Hollywood, including Tom Cruise's company at Paramount, International Creative Management, and The Disney Channel.  My last job before returning to the PhD program in anthropology at USC was with Bunim-Murray Productions, producers of The Real World and Road Rules.  I wrote four episodes of the first season of the reality series Making the Band.

I have committed the last decade or so to making the films that I originally envisioned myself making as an undergraduate - ethnographic films based on my own research.  However, as I describe in Film and Media and Public Anthropology, my most recent projects incorporate the possibilities of fiction.  I appreciate the benefits of professional collaboration, and in the future, I see myself working with other anthropologists and filmmakers, as well as indigenous people, to produce a shared and public anthropology.