Scott MacLochlainn

Scott MacLochlainn

Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Contact Information

Research Interests: Media; Language; Semiotics; Abstraction & Type; Ethics; Religious Forms; Christianity; Death; Corporations & Collectivities; Legality & Bureaucracy; Philippines & Southeast Asia; United States; Ireland

My research is broadly concerned with the ethical contestations emergent from the circulation of new language, media, and legal formations in the Philippines, as well as in the United States and Ireland. Within these spaces (from religious difference in the Philippines, to the politics of naming, to defining kinds of death) I am fascinated by the nature of social categories and types, how they come into being, circulate, and change. Throughout my work I engage with the nature of abstraction within the social. I completed my Ph.D. in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Before coming to Johns Hopkins University, I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.

I am currently conducting research on an ethnographic project examining the ethics and practices of abstraction around different types of death in the Philippines. Among other spaces, this project explores the collection of evidence in extrajudicial killings in Manila, the measuring of the dying of biodiversity, bureaucracies of indigenous deaths in Mindoro, and the data production around natural disasters.

My first book, The Copy Generic: How the Non-Specific Makes our Social Worlds (University of Chicago Press, 2022), seeks to rethink the role of “generic” social forms. While we are seemingly surrounded by the culturally worn-out, discarded, and over-produced, this book describes how such spaces of overload and repetition have emerged as important templates and semiotic short-hands, forcing us to rethink the very nature of newness, replication, and of non-specificity. The Copy Generic moves among the ethnographic and historical spaces of Bible translation and Sign language, legal discourses on indigeneity, media and branding in Southeast Asia, Christian missionaries, as well as the postcolonial inheritances of American infrastructural design in Manila. It won the 2023 Society for Linguistic Anthropology New Voices Book Prize.

I also maintain ongoing and future oriented research interests in the emergence, consolidation, and circulation of Filipino Sign Language, natural language processing, design theory, as well as corporations and collectivities, and social housing.



2022 The Copy Generic: How the Nonspecific Makes Our Social Worlds. University of Chicago Press.

Journal Articles

2019 “Brand Displaced: Trademarking, Unmarking and Making the Generic,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory Vol. 9, No. 3: 498-513.

2019 “Of Congregations and Corporations: Schism, Transcendence, and the Religious Incorporate in the Philippines,” Anthropological Quarterly Vol. 92, No. 4: 1039-1068.

2015 “Divinely Generic: Bible Translation and the Semiotics of Circulation,” Signs and Society Vol 3, No. 2: 234-260.

Other Publications

2020 “For God and State: Collaboration and Complicity, and the Work of ‘Intention’ in Duterte’s Philippines” in Collaboration in the Neoliberal Age, edited by Fiona Murphy and Emma Heffernan. Routledge Press, 251-264.

2020 “Money, Materiality, and Fungible Selves,” Review Forum, New Directions in the Anthropology of Christianity: 8-13.

2019 Invited commentary on “Are They Serious? The Discourses of Family Planning, Bio-Citizenship and Nationalism in the Philippines” by Paul Matthews, Sabangan, Vol 5: 112-118.

2018 “Learning the Code of Plural,” Journal of World Christianity Vol. 8, No. 2: 176-182.