Past Research

Most recently (2016-2020), I collaborated with Sari Pietikäinen (University of Jyväskylä) and Luke Cantarella (Pace University) on one node of a 4-year project, Cold Rush, investigating Arctic economies, including winter sports, mining, and tourism. Luke and I worked with Sari to create a lateral analysis process for re-examining her ethnographic data by co-designing an exhibition of speculative memorabilia. Creating an “alternative now” and an imagined past for a fake hockey team allowed us all to consider how calculation and speculation – methodical assessment as well as future-oriented guesswork – are embedded in the everyday work of hockey professionals and support staff in the Finnish hockey liiga. Familial and personal sacrifices are entangled with shifts in the global hockey market, giving rise to rhizomatic connections across this labor field in the form of irregular convergences of effort, identity, and affect.

Our work culminated in an installation at the University of Jyväskylä (which we replicated at the 2018 AAA meetings in San Jose with funding from the Society for Visual Anthropology), a website, a short reflection piece in the American Anthropologist, and and a forthcoming article that considers hockey work as an assemblage that produces forms of readiness (under review).

Luke, Sari, and I discuss our design process for this project here.

From 2003 – 2011, I conducted dissertation research in Port Said, Egypt on the use of legal fictions to reconfigure debt relations within and between families in this Mediterranean port city. I was the PI on NSF, Fulbright, and SSRC grants that funded the original research. In addition to the publication of articles in the Law, Culture, & Humanities Journal (2011) and in two edited volumes, Family Law in the Muslim Middle East (I.B. Tauris 2012), and Anthropology of the Middle East (IUP, 2013). My dissertation examined the everyday hermeneutics of legal obligations and rights by tracing the production, falsification, and circulation of commercial devices like contracts and promissory notes.

In so doing, I contributed to debates about how forms of inequality are enacted and materialized through the technologies of law, and tested the limits of Latour’s argument that documents are social actants. At the same time, by analyzing how litigants work with lawyers to shift their debt obligations in and out of the courts, this research also spoke to questions of legal subjectivity in the Middle East; in the political context of Egypt, in which the rule of law has historically been undercut by courts that fail to deliver economic justice, my work revealed how citizens leverage the threat of law while simultaneously circumventing legal authority.