Northwestern University, Department of Anthropology
Current and Past Positions
2014-17 NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY Director, Asian American Studies Program
2014-15 Interim Director of Graduate Studies, Anthropology
2010 NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies
2007-10 NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies
2003-07 BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY (SUNY)
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Asian & Asian American Studies Education
2003 NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, Ph.D. Anthropology; Dissertation:
“Windows of Opportunity: South Asian American Youth and the Promise of Technology in Silicon Valley.”
1998 NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, Master of Arts, Anthropology; Thesis:
“ImagiNation and Belonging: Politics of Class and Location in the South Asian Diaspora.”
1994 WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY (CT), Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology.
High honors in Anthropology; Thesis: “College Girls and Popular Culture in Bombay (Mumbai), India.
2019 Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal about Generation Z's New Path to Success. Basic Books.
2017 Language and Materiality: Ethnographic and Theoretical Explorations, J. Cavanaugh and S. Shankar, eds. Cambridge University Press.
2015 Advertising Diversity: Ad Agencies and the Creation of Asian American Consumers. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
2008 Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Referee Journal Articles
2016 “Coming in First: Sound and Embodiment in Spelling Bees” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 26(2)1-22.
2014 “Producing Authenticity in Global Capitalism: Materiality, Language, and Value.” Co-Author Jillian Cavanaugh. American Anthropologist 116(1):1-14.
2013 “Affect and Sport in Asian American Advertising.” South Asian Popular Culture 11(3): 231- 242.
2013 “Racial Naturalization, Advertising, and Model Consumers for a New Millennium.” Journal of Asian American Studies 16(2): 159-188.
2012 “Creating Model Consumers: Producing Ethnicity, Race, and Class in Asian American Advertising. American Ethnologist 39(3): 578-591.
2011 “Style and Language Use among Youth of the New Immigration: Formations of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Everyday Practice.” Identities 18:646-671.
2011 “Asian American Youth Language Use: Perspectives Across Schools and Communities.” Review of Research in Education, Special Issue: “Youth Cultures, Language, and Literacy” 35:1-28.
2008 “Speaking like a Model Minority: ‘FOB’ Styles, Gender, and Racial Meanings among Desi Teens in Silicon Valley.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 18(2): 268-289.
2006 “Metaconsumptive Practices and the Circulation of Objectifications.” Journal of Material Culture 11(3): 293-317.
2004 “Reel to Real: Desi Teens' Linguistic Engagements with Bollywood.” Pragmatics 14(2-3): 317-335. Reprinted in Beyond Yellow English: Toward a Linguistic Anthropology of Asian Pacific America, Angela Reyes and Adrienne Lo, eds. Pp. 309-324. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Book Chapters and Other Publications
2017 “Materiality of Words: The Branded Embodiment of Competitive Spelling.” In Language and Materiality: Ethnographic and Theoretical Explorations, J. Cavanaugh and S. Shankar, eds. Cambridge University Press.
Accepted. “Language and Materiality: Mapping the Field.” Co-authored with Jillian Cavanaugh.
In Language and Materiality: Theoretical and Ethnographic Explorations, J. Cavanaugh and S. Shankar, eds. Under review at Cambridge University Press.
Under review. “South Asian American Language Use in Multilingual Silicon Valley.” In Vox California, Patricia Baquedano-Lopez and H. Samy Alim, eds. University of California Press, under contract.
2016. “Reflections on Professional Sports and Immigrant Life.” In Asian American Sporting Cultures, Stanley Thangaraj, Constancio Arnolodo, and Christina Chin, eds. NYU Press.
2014 “Heritage Language Use, Asian and Pacific Islander American.” Sage Encyclopedia of Asian Americans. Mary Yu Danico, Ed.
2013 "Youth Culture." Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology. Ed. John Jackson. New York: Oxford University Press.
2013 “Chinese and Japanese Americans.” Smithsonian Exhibit: Race and Ethnicity in Advertising, 1890s- Present.
2013 “South Asian Americans.” Smithsonian Exhibit: Race and Ethnicity in Advertising, 1890s- Present.
2012 “Language and Materiality in Global Capitalism.” Co-Author Jillian Cavanaugh. Annual Review of Anthropology 41:355–369.
2007 “Book Review: The Anthropology of Names and Naming, eds. Gabriele vom Bruck & Barbara Bodenhorn.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13 (4): 1045–1046.
2004 “FOBby or Tight?: ‘Multicultural Day’ and Other Struggles at Two Silicon Valley High Schools.” In Local Actions: Cultural Activism, Power and Public Life in America. Melissa
Checker and Maggie Fishman, eds. Pp. 184-207. New York: Columbia University Press.
Fellowships, Grants, and Awards
2017 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow.
2014 Public Voices/OpEd Project Fellow, Northwestern University.
2013 The Business of Spelling: Branded Bees, Neoliberal Socialization, and Racialized Stereotypes. National Science Foundation Cultural Anthropology Research Grant.
2013 The Business of Spelling: Branded Bees, Neoliberal Socialization, and Racialized Stereotypes. The Wenner-Gren Foundation, Post-Ph.D. Research Grant.
2012 The Business of Spelling. Northwestern University Research Grant.
2012 Travel Grant, Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, NC.
2011 Advertising Agency: Producing Racial Imagery of Asian Americans. Northwestern University Research Grant.
2010 Visiting Professor Program, Advertising Education Foundation, New York, NY.
2009 Advertising Agency: Producing Racial Imagery of Asian Americans. National Science Foundation Cultural Anthropology Research Grant.
2009 The Post-Racial Turn. Research Workshop co-organized with Dr. Barnor Hesse. Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities & The Institute for Comparative Race and Diaspora, Northwestern University.
2009 Advertising Agency: Producing Racial Imagery of Asian Americans. Northwestern University Research Grant ($5,000).
2001 Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship on Research Related to Education ($20,000).
2001 New York University June E. Esserman Dissertation Fellowship, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ($15,000).
1999 Social Science Research Council Dissertation Research Fellowship, International Migration Program ($15,000).
1999 American Institute of Indian Studies Fellowship for intensive summer language study at the
Hindi Language Institute, Udaipur, India ($4000).
1998 Social Science Research Council Predissertation Workshop, International Migration Program
1995 New York University multi-year funding package.
Select Invited Presentations
2016 “The Semiotics of Spelling Bees: Sound, Temporality, and Language Materiality.” The Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures & Department of Anthropology, The University of Notre Dame, March 29.
2016 “From Spellbound to Spellebrity: Brain Sports, Spelling Careers, and the Competitive Lives of Generation Z.” Teachers College, Columbia University, February 4.
2015 “3 Developmental Stages.” A Symposium in Honor of Bambi Schieffelin, New York University, October 10.
2015 “#LinguisticAnthropology: Language and Ethnography Matter for Social Equality ”Keynote Address, University of Toronto “This is Linguistic Anthropology” Conference, May 9.
2015 “Elite Spellers and Mediatized Spelling Bees: Chronotopes of Neoliberal Childhoods.” Linguistic Anthropology workshop, University of Toronto, May 8.
2015 “Semiotics of Spelling: Soundscapes and Qualia in Media.” Semiotics Workshop, University of Chicago, March 5.
2015 “Assembling Race: Ethnographies of Language and Media Production among Asian Americans.” Department of Anthropology and The American Studies Program, Princeton University. February 10.
2014 “Branding and Diversity in the American Landscape: Transforming Public Spaces for Consumption.” Urban Futures Seminar, Graduate Center, CUNY, April 25.
2014 “Copywriting Diversity: Productions of Language, Materiality, and Brand in Asian American Advertising.” Department of Anthropology, New York University, March 13.
2013 “Language and Mobility.” Presidential Panel on Education and Migration, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, November 22.
2013 “Branding Diversity: Contests of Ethnoracial Expertise in American Advertising.” Department of Anthropology, UCLA, May 15.
2013 “Ethnoracial Expertise and Contests of Diversity in American Advertising.” Anthropology of Markets and Consumption Conference, UC Irvine, March 8.
2012 “Race Makers, Ethnolinguistic Experts, and Global Diversity in American Advertising.” Buffet Center for International and Comparative Politics, Northwestern University, October 28.
2012 “Language Commodification, Circulation, and Contests of Racial Authenticity in Asian American Advertising Production.” Society for Linguistic Anthropology Invited Session. AAA Meetings, San Francisco, CA. November 12.
2011 “Consuming Disciplines: The Relationship between Anthropology and Asian American Studies.” Roundtable, Asian American Studies Meetings, New Orleans, LA, May 20.
2011 “Reconsidering Language Use and Style among Youth of the New Immigration.” Migration Studies Seminar, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. April 15.
2011 “Style and Language Use among Youth of the New Immigration.” Series on “Schooling” at Munroe Center for Cultural Inquiry, Pitzer College, Claremont Colleges, CA. March 1.
2010 “New Media Circulations of Language and Ethnicity in New York City.” American
Anthropological Association Society for Visual Anthropology Invited Panel. AAA Meetings. New Orleans, LA. November 19.
2009 “Producing Race and Ethnicity: Objectification and Cultural Meaning in Advertising.”
American Anthropological Association Executive Program Committee and Society for Visual Anthropology Invited Panel. AAA Meetings, Philadelphia, PA. December 5.
2009 Presenter and respondent for book discussion for Desi Land. Anthropology Department,
Emory University. October 29.
2009 “Discursive and Interdiscursive Constructions of Race and Ethnicity in Advertising.”
Invited Speaker, Department of Anthropology and Linguistics Program, Emory University. October 28.
2009 “Translation as Semiotic Transformation Producing Race and Ethnicity in Asian American
Advertisements.” Invited Speaker, Anthropology Monday Seminar Series, University of Chicago. June 8.
2009 Presenter and respondent for book discussion for Desi Land. Critical Ethnicity and Diaspora
Group, Northwestern University. April 29.
2009 “Translating Brands, Translating Lives: Producing Asian American Advertising.” Invited
Speaker, Asian American Studies Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. April 15.
2009 Presenter and respondent for book discussion for Desi Land. Asian American Studies
Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. April 15.
2009 Presenter and respondent for book reading for Desi Land. Asian American Writers
Workshop, April 2.
2008 Invited Panelist, “Between Conversation and Critique: African American Studies and the
Other Disciplines,” Northwestern University. May 7.
2008 “Barack OBollywood”: Afro-Asian Connections on the Viral Video Trail. Asian American
Media Week, April 28- May 2, In Media Res May 1.
2008 “Defining Desi Teen Culture: Teenage Girls, Class, and Cosmopolitanism in Silicon
Valley.” Colloquium on Girl Studies, Loyola University Chicago. April 12.
2015 Roundtable Presenter, “Transforming America, One Ethnography at a Time.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO. November 21.
2015 Roundtable Organizer and Introduction, “Ferguson and Beyond: Extrajudicial Violence, Race, and the Role of Anthropology.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO. November 21.
2015 Discussant, “Transforming Movements: Rethinking the Anthropology of Embodiment,
Circulation, and Transformation.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO. November 21.
2015 Graduate Student Workshop Facilitator, “Considering Language and Discourse in
Sociocultural Anthropology.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO. November 20.
2015 “Familiar Orthography, Strange Ontology: The Case of Spelling Bees.” American
Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO. November 19.
2015 “Spelling as Sporting Spectacle: Producing South Asian American Elite Spellers for Media
Consumption.” Association for Asian American Studies Annual Meeting, Evanston, IL. April 22.
2014 “Producing Diversity: Creative and Intercultural Affect in Assemblages of American
Advertising.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Washington DC. December 4.
2013 “Entanglements of Expertise and Legacies of Racialized Capitalism in Asian American
Advertising.” Association for Asian American Studies Meetings, Seattle, WA, April 19.
2013 “Ethnoracial Expertise and Contests of Diversity in American Advertising.” American Ethnological Society Meetings, Chicago, IL, April 12.
2012 “Mobilizing Affect: South Asian American Cultural Production.” Discussant, Association for Asian American Studies Meetings, Washington DC, April 14.
2011 “Roundtable: Class in America.” Association for American Studies Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD, October 21.
2009 “Selling Expertise: Socioeconomic Challenges in Asian American Advertising.” Association for Asian American Studies Annual Meeting, Honolulu, HI, April 23.
2008 “Materializing Media: Producing Asian American Advertising.” Society for Linguistic Anthropology, American Anthropological Association 107th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, November 23.
2007 “South Asian American Youth in the Monoglot American High School.” Association for Asian American Studies Annual Meeting, New York, NY, April 5.
2006 “Curses! Desi teens and the Monoglot High School.” Society for Linguistic Anthropology, American Anthropological Association 105th Annual Meeting, San Jose, CA, November 18.
2005 “Linguistic Dimensions of Desi Identity and Subjectivity.” Association for Asian American Studies Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA, April 23.
2002 "Cheetos." American Anthropological Association 101st Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, November 23.
2000 "Performing Multicultural Day at Silicon Valley High Schools." Society for the Anthropology of North America, American Anthropological Association Annual 99th Meeting, San Francisco, CA, November 15.
2000 “Taal se Taal Mila?” [Can you match my beat]? Multicultural Day at Silicon Valley High Schools." The 29th Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Oct. 21.
1999 “Why We Wear Colored Contact Lenses: Consumption Practices, Ethnicity and Gender among South Asian-American Youth.” The 28th Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin- Madison, October 23.
1999 “Reel Romance and Desi Desire: Teens Watch Hindi Films.” South Asia Pop Culture Conference, University of Victoria, British Columbia, May 31.
1998 “‘Dil To Pagal Hai’ [The Heart is Crazy]: Negotiations of Romance, Gender and Style among South Asian Teenage Boys in Queens.” The 27th Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin- Madison, October 17.
2015 “Better off Brown: Why Bobby Won’t Get Elected But Piyush Could.” Medium July 28.
2015 “Real Diversity is about Confronting Power.” The American Prospect, June 11.
2015 “Why Are Indian Americans Winning the National Spelling Bee?” Newsweek, June 7.
2015 “What does the spelling success of Indian American kids tell us?” The Conversation, June 4.
2015 “Brain Sports are Gaining Momentum.” Boston Globe, May 18.
2015 “Fifty years on, the overachiever stereotype is still hurting Asian Americans.” Quartz, April 6.
2015 “How do you spell S-T-E-R-E-O-T-Y-P-E? Asian American Spelling Bee Champions are
Real Americans.” Pacific Standard, April 6.
2015 “Asian Americans, They’re Just Like Us.” Pacific Standard, February 10.
2015 “A Super Bowl of Racial Candor?” Ms.Blog, February 1.
2014 “Our Racially Diverse Present (and Future) Deserves More Than Tokenism.” The Guardian,
Media Interviews and Appearances
2015 CNN.com, Interviewed for “Why Indian-Americans win spelling bees: P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E.” June 3.
2015 BBC, News Hour, May 30.
2015 CNN, Brooke Baldwin, May 29.
2015 National Public Radio, Here and Now, May 29.
2015 Time, Interviewed for “Here’s a Theory About Why South Asian Americans Totally Rule the
Spelling Bee.” May 28.
2015 Canadian Broadcast Company, As it Happens, May 28.
2015 The Guardian, Interviewed for “Life after the Spelling Bee: 'It’s one of the most unique, odd
clubs you can be in'” May 27.
2015 Washington Post, Interviewed for “Indian Americans dominate the National Spelling Bee. Why
should they take abuse on social media for it?” May 25.
2015 “National Spelling Bee Champions Face Stereotypes.” New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word
of Mouth, April 16.
2014 Expert interview for CUNY TV’s Asian American Life, segment on spelling bees, Sept 7.
2012 Live television interview on race and advertising. Chicago Tonight, WTTW, Chicago, May 12.
Professional Affiliations And Service
2015 Working Group, Police Brutality and Extrajudical Violence, American Anthropological
2015 Co-Chair, Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology, American Anthropological
2015 Board member (recalled to board), Society for Linguistic Anthropology, American
Anthropological Association (2015-2016).
2015 Site Committee Member, 2015 conference, Association for Asian American Studies,
Evanston, IL April 22-25.
2014 Councilor/ Elected Board Member, American Ethnological Association, American
Anthropological Association (2014-2019).
2012 Chair, Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology, American Anthropological
2012 Board member (elected), Society for Linguistic Anthropology, American Anthropological
2012 Conference Program Committee, Association for Asian American Studies.
2010 Elected representative, Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology, American
Anthropological Association (2010-2012).
2009 Member, Language & Social Justice Task Group, Committee for Human Rights, American
2008 Panel Co-organizer, “Toward A New Semiotic Anthropology: Social Theories of Meaning,
Movement and Subject Formation.” American Anthropological Association 107th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, November 23.
2008 Site Committee Member and Workshop Organizer, Association for Asian American Studies
Annual Conference, Chicago, IL April 16-20.
2008 Member, American Anthropological Association Society for the Anthropology of North
America, American Ethnological Society, and Society for Urban and Transnational
Peer Reviews and Related Activities
2015 Manuscript reviewer, Stanford University Press, American Ethnologist, Journal of Asian American Studies, Anthropological Quarterly.
2014 Manuscript reviewer, Communication and Critical Cultural Studies, Anthropology and Education Quarterly.
2013- Editorial Board member, University of Nebraska Press, Anthropology of North America Series.
2013 Book Award Selection Committee, Association for Asian American Studies, Social Science
2013 Manuscript reviewer, Identities, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Duke University Press, Anthropological Quarterly.
2012 Manuscript reviewer, Ethnos, Journal of Consumer Culture, University of Hawai’i Press.
2011 Manuscript reviewer, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Journal of Asian American Studies, Routledge Press.
2010 Manuscript reviewer, Routledge Press, South Asian Diaspora.
2009 Grant proposal reviewer, National Science Foundation.
2009 Manuscript reviewer, Cultural Anthropology, Identities, South Asian Diaspora, New York University Press, Routledge Press.
2008 Fulbright Interviewer, Northwestern University.
2008 Manuscript reviewer, Cultural Anthropology, Journal of Sociolinguistics, and Identities, Oxford University Press, Polity Press.
2007 Manuscript reviewer, Identities and Journal of Asian American Studies, Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Professional and Community Experience
2013- Advisory Board Member, Race and Ethnicity in Advertising: 1890- present, Advertising Education Foundation in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute.
2003-2007 Academic Consultant, Liberty Science Center Exhibit on “Communication.” Jersey City, New Jersey.
2002 Website and Content Editor, “Virtual Casebook "9/11 and Aftermath." Center for Media, Culture and History, NYU.
2000-01 Research Associate, Educational Development Center/Center for Children and Technology, NY. Conducted formative evaluation for nationwide educational technology program. Designed qualitative research plan, visited school districts, interviewed administrators, teachers, and students, and conducted in-class observations. Aided in design of quantitative research plan and instruments. Collected and analyzed evaluation data, synthesized quantitative and qualitative findings, supervised and co-wrote final report for client. Presented findings at national program meetings.
1997-99 Mentor and Tutor, SAYA! (South Asian Youth Action), Elmhurst, NY. Volunteered as a youth mentor on a weekly basis; involved with girls’ program, computer center and sports. Designed, implemented, and documented the construction of a youth website with eight South Asian youth; taught internet use, HTML authoring, graphic designtechniques and content development.
1996-99 Research Assistant, Education Development Center/ Center for Children and Technology, NY. Conducted ethnographic research on issues of technology access and design in underrepresented communities; conducted interviews, focus groups, and on-site technology observations; analyzed data and wrote project reports.
1995-98 Literacy Trainer and Advocate, Sakhi for South Asian Women, NY. Volunteered as a literacy trainer teaching immigrant women English and job-related skills; served as peer advocate and counselor; built and maintained organization’s website, updated information about domestic violence, immigration and job training for clientele and volunteers.
Hindi- Speaking/ Reading/ Writing (fluent), Punjabi- passive competence, Spanish- Speaking/ Reading/ Writing (limited), Tamil- Speaking (fluent)