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Personal profile


Ken joined the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific in 2013 as Professor of Anthropology and Director of the School of Culture, History and Language, having served previously at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harvard University and the University of Oregon.  He is a specialist on Southeast Asia and a Past Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies (2005-2008).  His ethnographic research in Indonesia began with a prize-winning study on the cultural politics of minority ancestral religions (1982-1992). He followed that work with a long-term collaboration (1994-2014) with painter A. D. Pirous, exploring the aesthetic, ethical, and political ambitions shaping Islamic art and art publics in that country.  Ken has been the recipient of major postdoctoral fieldwork fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.  His fellowships for writing and study include awards from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. His current research with Kirin Narayan (2017-present) has been supported by the American Institute of Indian Studies, the USIEF Fulbright Program, and an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Award. Together they are exploring the intermingling of Hinduism, Buddhism, artisanship, and technology in India and beyond.  His other research projects are two: The first looks at the production of “companionable objects and “companionable conscience” in an effort to link works of art to ethics, affect, language, and public culture.  The other explores the theopolitics of art and technology in object-oriented lifeworlds and public spheres.

Research interests

Visual and material culture; ethnography of lifeworlds and everyday life; anthropology of ethics; cultural politics; religion; technology; violence; art; language; narrative; folklore.

Pragmatism; phenomenology; social theory; art history.

Island Southeast Asia; South Asia


BA (Tufts), MA (North Carolina-Chapel Hill), MA & PhD (Michigan)


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