iOS app Android app

Paul Stoller
Paul Stoller has been conducting anthropological research for 30 years. His early work concerned the religion of the Songhay people who live in the Republics of Niger and Mali in West Africa. In that work, he focused primarily on magic, sorcery and spirit possession practices. Since 1992, Stoller has pursued studies of West African immigrants in New York City. Those studies have concerned such topics as the cultural dynamics of informal market economies and the politics of immigration. The results of this ongoing research has led Stoller to the study of the anthropology of religion, visual anthropology, the anthropology of senses and economic anthropology. Stoller's work has resulted in the publication of 11 books, including ethnographies, biographies, memoirs as well as two novels. His work is widely read and recognized. In 1994 he was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2002, the American Anthropological Association named him the recipient of the Robert B Textor Award for Excellence in Anthropology. The Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography named him the 2013 recipient of the Anders Retzius Medal in Gold for his scientific contributions to anthropology. In 2015 The American Anthropological Association Awarded him it Anthropology in Media Award. He lectures frequently both in the United States and Europe and has appeared on various NPR programs as well as on the National Geographic Television Network.

Entries by Paul Stoller

Trump, Fear and the Big Man

(1) Comments | Posted January 18, 2016 | 8:29 PM

Donald Trump is nothing more -- and nothing less -- than what anthropologists used to call a "Big Man." As I listened yesterday to his hour-long speech at Liberty University I began to understand him as a prototypical Melanesian Big Man. More than a generation ago anthropologists used the Big...

Read Post

Creed: Learning About the Life of Men in America

(2) Comments | Posted December 28, 2015 | 2:52 PM

Sometimes we can learn a great deal by going to the movies, which is why I encourage my students to see films. The recently released film, Creed, is a case in point.

Creed has received much critical praise. It is the seventh film of a series that details the...

Read Post

Terrorism: A Challenge for the Social Sciences

(1) Comments | Posted December 7, 2015 | 4:23 PM

We live in dangerous times. Our mean streets have become killing fields. During the past year police officers have shot and killed many unarmed African- American men. During the past year Christian terrorists have (1) killed nine innocent African Americans in a historic Charleston, South Carolina church and (2) a...

Read Post

On the Margins of Anthropology

(2) Comments | Posted December 2, 2015 | 10:58 AM

Things are usually more creative on the margins, a notion that became evident during the recently concluded meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Denver. The proposed AAA resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions, which occupied center stage, sparked a series serve and volley debates in the corridors of...

Read Post

Marco Rubio and the Shallow Pit of American Politics

(2) Comments | Posted November 13, 2015 | 12:04 AM

There is a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in American politics and American society. More than 45 years ago George Wallace, then Governor of Alabama and a presidential candidate, liked to make fun of intellectuals. Writing in the May 14, 2011 edition of The Spectator, Mathew Paris wrote:

When Alabama governor...
Read Post

It's Not Easy To Be Old In America

(0) Comments | Posted October 29, 2015 | 8:26 AM

There is much in the news these days about widespread discrimination in America -- heartbreaking stories of police shooting unarmed black men, reports on the shameful rise of Islamophobic violence, and dispatches about hate crimes generated by bias against sexual orientation. Last month a young transgender woman was killed in...

Read Post

Ethnographic Interventions: Waking Up and Walking With Abel

(0) Comments | Posted September 29, 2015 | 11:13 PM

The French surrealist Antonin Artaud liked to claim that we journey through life in an open-eyed sleep that condemns us to the deadening realities of routine life. In the Artaudian world routine narrows our vision and dulls our thoughts, transforming the world into a place in which most of us...

Read Post

In Defense of Ethnography

(1) Comments | Posted August 23, 2015 | 6:34 PM

As students and faculty head back to college campuses to begin a new academic year, there has been a steady stream of uninformed criticism of the practice of ethnography, a method of inquiry and representation that has become an important aspect of social science research. The most trenchant criticism has...

Read Post

Trumping Fears of the Other: Media and the Politics of Contagion

(2) Comments | Posted August 3, 2015 | 12:00 PM

We live in fearful times. Many people seem to be afraid of almost everything--sharks, contaminated foods, polluted water, heat waves, droughts, floods, tsunamis, rising ocean levels, financial collapse, the police, radical Muslims, young African American men. These fears are reinforced exponentially in our media, including, of course, social media. There...

Read Post

Alice Goffman and the Future of Ethnography

(1) Comments | Posted June 15, 2015 | 11:12 AM

When scholars attract widespread public attention the news coverage about them and their works, which is often incomplete and filled with misconceptions, is not usually good. So it is with the public controversy about Alice Goffman's much-discussed book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. Consider Marc Parry's...

Read Post

In Search of Soul and Soulful Social Science

(0) Comments | Posted May 4, 2015 | 5:42 PM

It's graduation season again, and after more than 35 years as a university professor, I am particularly concerned about the kind of world this year's college graduates are about to enter. We live in times of increasing emptiness. World and national events have promoted widespread cynicism. Consider the dysfunction of...

Read Post

Remiss About Remission

(0) Comments | Posted April 12, 2015 | 11:31 PM

Last week millions of television viewers watched the Ken Burns production of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies. It is a magnificent documentary film that is based largely upon Siddhartha Mukherjee's Pulitzer Prize-winning book. In the book and the six-hour documentary that emerged from it, we are exposed to the...

Read Post

Message from Mali: There is No Life Without Music

(0) Comments | Posted March 27, 2015 | 10:06 PM

"There is no life without music," says Khaira Arby in the recent documentary, They'll Have to Kill Us First. Seeking refuge from Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamists who in 2012 sacked Timbuktu's libraries, razed its shrines and banned its music, Arby, the diva of the fabled city, fled to Bamako, Mali's capital, which...

Read Post

Big Man Bibi

(1) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 10:32 AM

The prospect of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress has generated a great deal of political heat. People in the Obama administration have been outraged that a foreign leader is coming to America two weeks before his own hotly contested bid...

Read Post

Well-Being in the World

(0) Comments | Posted February 5, 2015 | 9:49 AM

On these dark and dreary February days the news has been hard to stomach. The brutality of videotaped ISIS executions has been gut-wrenching. In the Ukraine there's no end in sight for a desolate war. In the U.S. the ongoing distrust of medicine (the vaccination controversies), and climate science (human-instigated...

Read Post

State of the Union/States of Fear

(1) Comments | Posted January 22, 2015 | 9:43 AM

The State of the Union (SOTU) address is a striking example of dramatic political theater that features mythic rhetoric in a lofty setting. It is certainly compelling to see someone like President Obama, who is a skilled wordsmith and author, speak before a joint session of Congress. True to form,...

Read Post

Keystoning the Culture of Extraction

(2) Comments | Posted January 8, 2015 | 8:09 AM

Beyond the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, the politics of the Keystone XL pipeline are likely to be in news this week in America. The Republican controlled U.S. Congress is poised to pass legislation to jump start construction, and President Obama, according to his Press Secretary, is ready to exercise...

Read Post

Racing Away From Ferguson and the Challenge of Education

(0) Comments | Posted December 12, 2014 | 4:33 PM

As the holidays approach, we are racing toward a point of social upheaval in America. The killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City has brought into bright relief the utter ugliness of police behavior toward young African American men in our cities and...

Read Post

Welcome to the Anthropocene: Anthropology and the Political Moment

(1) Comments | Posted November 29, 2014 | 11:55 AM

We live in very troubled times -- welcome to the Anthropocene, a new epoch during which human activity (industrial production and consumption) has provided us unparalleled wealth but also an unmistakable path toward potential ecological devastation. As Naomi Klein powerfully demonstrates in her new book, This Changes Everything, the structures...

Read Post

Thinking About the Future From the Edge of Darkness

(0) Comments | Posted November 1, 2014 | 4:41 PM

Elections often highlight shifts in society. In America, the upcoming midterm election is no exception. The half-truths that today constitute our political discourse are likely to produce a set of results that will bring us to the edge of darkness. In the here and now of American politics, fear has...

Read Post