Rosalind Morris Former Senior Fellow

Rosalind Morris
January - May 2013


Rosalind Morris is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, New York. Born in 1963 in Canada, Rosalind Morris studied Anthropology and English (B.A.) at the University of British Columbia, Canada and did her Master in Anthropology at York University, Canada. In 1994, she received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. She was then Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University until 1999. After working as a visiting lecturer in the film program at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa in 1999, and as a visiting associate professor in the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University in 2000, she returned to New York, where she was the Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (until 2004) and Associate Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (until 2009) at Columbia University. Furthermore, Rosalind Morris is the former co-editor of the journal CONNECT: art, politics, theory, practice. A scholar of both mainland Southeast Asia and South Africa, she has published widely on topics concerning the politics of representation, the relationship between violence and value, gender and sexuality, the mass media, and the changing forms of modernity in the global south.

Dated from 2013

Fields of research

Theoretical: Social Theory; Representation; Mass Media, Political Authority and Violence; Forms of Capitalist Modernity; Translation and Poetics; Gender and Sexuality Geopolitical: Southeast Asia (esp. Thailand), South Africa.

IKKM Research Project

During my term as a fellow of the IKKM (Spring 2013), I will be completing a book manuscript based on ethnographic research conducted over a period of more than ten years in the gold-mining region of South Africa. Entitled “Unstable Ground,” this book undertakes an analysis of the transformations in social life on the Far West Rand, where the deepest mines in the world are located, while engaging philosophical and political theoretical debates about the nature of global contemporaneity. The title, “Unstable Ground,” is intended to evoke a triple referent, including: 1) the material conditions of a life-world determined by geophysical instability, and marked by sinkholes and other “accidents” (a function of the mines’ dewatering of the earth in an area of dolomitic porosity); 2) the sense of precariousness that suffuses the (un)consciousness of this world’s residents—migrant laborers, descendents of migrants from an earlier era, and a very small managerial class--who live amid epidemic, in a context of scarcity, and in politically tumultuous times; and; 3) the philosophical tradition of groundwork, and the problem of grounding, in the writings of Kant, Marx and others critical theorists with whom the book is in conversation. Dedicated to articulating a view from South Africa, the book in its entirety offers an analysis of the diminishing centrality of “representation” (and the exchangism with which it is linked) as a concept determining the logics of value production and the institutions of the political on a global scale. It considers this shift in terms of the technologically mediated transformation of the concept of the “public,” on which basis, I argue, it becomes necessary to rethink the humanistic conceptions of language and the political (and the language of the political), for which anthropology remains the custodian.



Wars I Have (not) Seen. New York, Calcutta, London: Seagull Books (forthcoming 2013).
The Art of Clive van den Berg: Unlearning the Grounds of Art. Johannesburg: Goodman, 2011.
In the Place of Origins: Modernity and its Medium in Northern Thailand. Durham: Duke University, 2011.
New Worlds from Fragments: Film, Ethnography, and the Representation of Northwest Coast Cultures. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

Edited Books

'Can the Subaltern Speak?': Reflections on the History of an India. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.
Photographies East: The Camera and its Histories in East and Southeast Asia. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
With Radhika Subramaniam: CONNECT: art politics, theory, practice. Special Issue on 'The Wall', 2002.


Cinema (noir) and Vernacular (Black) Modernism in South Africa. In: Mark Wollaeger (ed.): Encyclopedia of Global Modernism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (in press)
Theses on the New Öffentlichkeit. In: Erhard Schüttpelz and John Durham Peters (ed.): Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaften. (in press)
Accidental Histories: Post-Historical Practice? Re-reading Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance in the Actuarial Age In: Jesse Shipley (ed.): Anthropological Quarterly Vol. 83.3, p. 581-624.
Rush/Panic/Rush: Speculations on the Value of Life and Death in South Africa’s Age of Epidemic. In: Public Culture Vol. 20.2, 2008, p. 199-231.
Giving Up Ghosts: Notes on Trauma and the Possibility of the Political from Southeast Asia. In: Positions Vol. 16.1, 2008, p. 209-237.