Karen Brison, Professor (B.A., McGill, and Ph.D., University of California, San Diego) specializes in anthropology of childhood, religion and the study of language and culture. She lived and did research in Papua New Guinea for two years and published a book on oratory and village politics. She started working in Fiji in 1997 and has published one book on personal and cultural identity, another on social class in kindergartens, as well as an edited collection and numerous articles on related topics. She is currently studying the participation of Fijians and Papua New Guineans in global Pentecostal networks.Read More
George Gmelch (B.A., Stanford and Ph.D., University of California at Santa Barbara) is a cultural anthropologist. He did his early research in Ireland among a nomadic group known as Tinkers or Travellers. Since then he has done research on migration in Ireland, Newfoundland and Barbados, studied the ecology of salmon fisherman in Alaska, Gypsies in England, professional baseball players in the United States, and tourism workers in Barbados and the Napa Valley. He is the author and editor of ten books and seventy articles dealing with these subjects.Read More
(B.A., Ph.D., University of California at Santa Barbara) is a cultural anthropologist who specializes in ethnic identity, visual anthropology, and tourism. She has conducted research with Irish Travellers, Barbadian villagers, Tlingit Indians in Alaska, and tourist guides in several countries. She is the author and editor of six books and the co-producer of an ethnographic film on the Tlingit.
Arsalan Khan’s (B.A. Beloit College, Ph.D. University of Virginia) research focuses on ritual, gender and ethics, themes that he explores in the context of the Islamic revival in Pakistan. His dissertation ‘Islam, Ritual and the Ethical Life: Dawat in the Tablighi Jamaat in Pakistan’ examines the zealous commitment to a distinct form of face-to-face preaching (dawat) among Pakistani Tablighis, practitioners of the transnational Islamic piety movement, the Tablighi Jamaat. This research looks at howdawat, which involves arduous travel and great personal sacrifice, is understood by Tablighis...Read More
Stephen Leavitt, on leave, (B.A., Swarthmore and Ph.D., University of California at San Diego) is a psychological anthropologist who has written on religious movements, family relations, sexuality, adolescence, and responses to bereavement. He and his wife Karen Brison supervise a term abroad in Fiji, where students learn the fundamentals of anthropological field work while living independently with families in different villages. Leavitt’s research in Fiji involves self definition in the age of postcolonial development.
Prof. Leavitt did his doctoral field research in 1984-1986 among the Bumbita Arapesh people of the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. His primary research looked at how a contemporary religious revival movement was informed both by local colonial history and by continued emotional conflicts in family relationships.
Steve Leavitt is on extended leave from the department while serving as Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students. He may be reached at 518-388-6116 or by email.
Dr. Michelle Osborn (BA Vanderbilt, MA Case Western, PhD Oxford) has done extensive field work in Kenya, and her doctoral thesis, ‘Authority in a Nairobi Slum: Chiefs and Bureaucracy in Kibera’ examines local-level urban politics, focusing on the position of chief and how that authority has shifted due to changes in Kenyan rule. Dr. Osborn is currently in the process of publishing three other articles, which stem from her research, and is developing a new research project that will examine the role of chiefs within the new Kenyan constitution, which passed in 2010. Dr. Osborn specializes in...Read More
Robert N. Samet, Assistant Professor (B.A. Duke University, M.A. Columbia University, Ph.D. Stanford University), specializes in media, urban violence, and the politics of security in Latin America. A legal and political anthropologist, he has been conducting fieldwork in Venezuela since 2006. His first research project was alongside crime journalists in Caracas. It is the subject of a book manuscript in progress Who’s Afraid of Caracas?: Sovereignty and Spectacles of Security in Venezuela. Currently, he is beginning a pair of new research projects. The first is on security as it relates to...Read More
Jeffrey Witsoe (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. University of Chicago, and Ph.D. University of Cambridge) has done research focusing on a critical rethinking of democracy and the postcolonial state through an examination of lower-caste politics in Bihar, a populous state in north India where he has been engaged in ethnographic research since 2000. He is the author of the book Democracy Against Development (University of Chicago Press) and several articles and book chapters on lower-caste politics in India. His current research explores the political economy of rural...Read More
Leahanna (Leah) Pelish is the Administrative Assistant for the Philosophy, Classics, Anthropology and Religious Studies Departments. She joined in 2016, and is incredibly excited to be returning to Union. Leah graduated summa cum laude from Union College in 2007, double majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. In 2010, she graduated with honors with her Masters Degree in Philosophy from SUNY Albany. She has taught philosophy as an adjunct professor at SUNY Albany; her areas of interest include intersectional feminism, ethics (especially applied), and bioethics. In her free time,...Read More