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Anthropology JHU

Department of Anthropology
The Johns Hopkins University
404 Macaulay Hall
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

Phone 410-516-7272
Fax 410-516-6080


Anand Pandian
Associate Professor
Director of Undergraduate Studies
PhD, UC Berkeley, 2004

Phone: (410) 516-7267
Office: Macaulay 111
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 1:30pm-3:30pm
Curriculum Vitae: PDF

Twitter @anandspandian


philosophical and ecological anthropology / posthumanist and postcolonial criticism / sensory ethnography / experimental writing / anthropological method / India / America / Earth

Recent Courses

Invitation to Anthropology -- An Ontological Turn? -- Cinema and Ethnography -- Ethnographic Writing -- Encountering Experience -- Anthropology of Media -- Anthropology and Fiction -- Philosophical Anthropology -- Creative Expression


In an environment of flux and uncertainty, it is often difficult to distinguish what is emerging anew from what may be disappearing altogether. Such is the nebulous fate of that most vexed object of contemporary affections and anxieties -- nature. The very word may seem anachronistic. Nature simply doesn't appear to be "out there" anymore in the world at large, to find, celebrate, miss, or mourn. This condition may provoke despair, but it also challenges us to reimagine an ecology more suitable for these times. The force and frailty of things is knotted into the very architecture of our minds and bodies: the sudden cry of a songbird; an ominous hum in the air; the tug of that image on a screen. Such convolutions -- inside and outside, matter and spirit, human and nonhuman -- bring into focus one of the most difficult problems we face at the moment: how to think with the unpredictable life of the worlds in which we find ourselves, how to attune reflection to whatever exceeds our knowledge, judgment and control. Anthropology can help with this task, for it is, most simply, a science of experience, a continuous deflection of thought through the vagaries and vicissitudes of earthly life.

Over the last decade or so, I've had the chance to pursue a few such experiments in living and thinking with others. A forthcoming book, Reel World: An Anthropology of Creation (under contract with Duke University Press and Penguin India) confronts the fluid reality of a world become cinema, by examining the process through which Tamil films in India lurch into being: the ebb and flow of excitement in a story, the mercurial play of light, wind and sound, the failure of actors, equipment, and audiences alike to act and react as they should. Released this spring was Ayya's Accounts: A Ledger of Hope in Modern India, a book that takes my grandfather's life in Burma and India as an aperture for a century of tremendous aspiration and upheaval (the project was first published in Tamil in 2012 as Mitcham Meethi: Oru Anubava Kanakku). My 2009 book, Crooked Stalks: Cultivating Virtue in South India, trailed practices of moral and agrarian cultivation through postcolonial landscapes of development and the ethical life of desire, deed, and habit. I am now planning a new comparative research project on ecological perception and imagination, with fieldwork planned for Baltimore and elsewhere in the United States and beyond. What these ventures have in common is a concern for the ecological horizons of human aspiration.

Claude Levi-Strauss says that structuralism first struck him one Sunday afternoon in 1940, as he was lying in a patch of grass and contemplating the seedheads of a dandelion. I can't think of a better image for the wildly collaborative nature of anthropology, which seems always to be drifting along from place to place with stowaway friends and ideas. Under review is a book of ventures in "Literary Anthropology," based on a workshop that I organized with Stuart McLean at the School of American Research in 2013. Earlier this year, I worked closely with Tamil film director M. Sasikumar to release an English translation of his pathbreaking screenplay, Subramaniyapuram, accompanied by a series of essays. I co-edited Ethical Life in South Asia in 2010 with medieval historian Daud Ali, while Race, Nature, and the Politics of Difference was co-edited in 2003 with Donald Moore and cultural geographer Jake Kosek. I also serve on the Executive Board of the Society for Cultural Anthropology.

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