Rupert Stasch


Lecturer in Anthropology and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge

Research interests: social relations; kinship and marriage; photography, visual culture, and cultures of sight; mass media; semiotic mediation; linguistic anthropology; ritual; space and time; tourism; primitivism, Occidentalism, and stereotypification of others; working misunderstandings; egalitarianism; state formation at the state periphery; Indonesia, Melanesia, and the Pacific.

I am a broadly-trained sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist with a strong commitment to anthropological theory and its elaboration through close dialogue with ethnography. My research focuses on how social relations are mediated by processes of representation, including particularly visual representations and visual acts.  In my work on vision and allied communicative and perceptual channels, I am concerned with improving anthropological understandings of processes of representation to include levels of practice that are not typically recognized as falling within the purview of semiotic and symbolic theory.

I have long-term fieldwork experience with Korowai people in West Papua, Indonesia, who across the years I have been involved with them have also become internationally famous in the mass media and in the tourism industry. I am currently writing an ethnography of encounters between Korowai and tourists, filmmakers, and magazine journalists. My earlier book, Society of Others: Kinship and Mourning in a West Papuan Place (2009), is an ethnography of relations among Korowai themselves, centered on how they make forms of otherness the central focus of social bonds. This book deals closely with topics such as landownership and residential dispersion, political egalitarianism, linguistic person reference, face-to-face bodily interaction, domestic architecture, attachment between parents and children, spousal love, affinal obligations, experiences of death and mourning, and ways of relating to deities or monsters. I am ongoingly engaged in comparative theorization of these levels of social life.

In my work on tourism and other new articulations between indigenous societies and national or international institutions, I have been concerned with the consequentiality of people’s cultural attunements to otherness and change as routine, productive aspects of social life. These forms of systematic cultural openness and multiplicity are often central to historical processes of cross-societal interchange and transformation, and complicate the question of different actors’ causal agency in their meetings.

For more information, please see Dr. Stasch's faculty website.