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Anthropology and Museum Studies

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Dean Hall 357A
Phone: (509) 963-3201

Mark Auslander

fMark Auslander

Mark Auslander

(2011) Associate Professor and Museum Director

Office: Dean Hall 334
Phone: 963-3209

Interests and Expertise: Sociocultural anthropology, museum anthropology, art and aesthetics, meaning in the material world, symbolic mediation, ritual and performance theory, historical anthropology, race and class, engaged anthropology, slavery studies, contemporary African and Diasporic art. Ethnographic areas: Sub-saharan Africa, Zambia and South Africa; African Diaspora, United States; African American communities; U.S. South  He serves as Director of the CWU Museum of Culture and Environment and oversees the Museum Studies minor.

Mark is the author of The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding an American Family (University of Georgia Press, 2011), winner of the 2010-12 Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Book Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of North America, and the second book prize of the 2012 Victor Turner Ethnographic Writing Award from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. With Katharine Whitcomb, he co-edits Cascadia Chronicle: A Geospatial Journal of Place, Environment and Imagination. He writes a regular blog on his ethnographic, museum, and cultural studies interests, "Cultural Environments."  

With his students he works on a range of community engaged learning projects, including housing security and the cultural politics of representation--at such locations at the Shady Acres manufactured home park in Ellensburg.  He serves on the steering committee of the pro-tolerance organization, Not in our Kittitas County.

His courses at Central include:

  • Culture and Power in Africa
  • New Frontiers: Power and Fantasy in American Culture
  • Museum Exhibition Design and Public Programs
  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Gender in Cross Cultural Perspective
  • Exhibiting Nature

Recent Exhibitions at the CWU Museum of Culture and Environment

  • Liberty Denied: Immigration Detention Deportation (curated with Susan Platt) 
  • The Things We Carry (curated with Lynn Bethke)
  • Tapestries of Hope: The Arpilleras Movement in Chile.  (curated with Marjorie Agosin)
  • Visions of the Miraculous: Retablos and Ex Votos from Mexico.  (curated with Antonio Sanchez)
  • Welcome to the Kuiper Belt: New Discoveries from New Horizons.
  • Binding Culture: Living Landscapes and Material Life in Northern Luzon, Philippines (curated with Ellen Schattschneider)
  • How did the cougar cross the road? Restoring Wildlife Passages in  Snoqualmie Pass
  • Stellar: The Formation of Stars (Guest curator: Cassandra Falscheer)

Selected publications

2017. Objects of Kinship: Reconstituting Descent in the Shadow of Slavery, Transition .No. 122. pp. 206-216.

. 2017.  Rose’s Gift: Slavery, Kinship, and the Fabric of Memory. Present Pasts. 8(1), p.1.     DOI:

2016. “By Iron Possessed: Fabrice Monteiro’s Maroons: The Fugitive Slaves.“ African Arts. 49, 3 (Autumn 2016)

2016.    “Slavery’s Traces: In Search of Ashley’s Sack.” Southern Spaces (28 November

2016.  “Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the  Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria” at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts [Exhibition review essay] African Arts.

2015.  ReMixing Possession: Dreaming Futures Past in the Work of Jim Chuchu.  General Anthropology. Volume 22, Issue 2, pages 14–15, Fall.

2015. (with Bryce Peake)  Viral Soundscapes in the Public Square: The Confederate Flag Visits the U.S. Capitol. Centre for Imaginative Ethnography.

2015. Contesting the Roadways:The Moore's Ford Lynching Reenactment and a Confederate Flag Rally, July 25, 2015. Southern Spaces (Published August 19)

2015. (with Chong-Eun Ahn).  Responding to “Comfort Woman” Denial at Central Washington University'.  Japan Focus: Asia Pacific Journal. Vol. 13, Issue 21, No. 3, June 1.

2015.  “We Can’t Breathe”: Performing Subjection in African American Protest Traditions. Centre for Imaginative Ethnography.

2015. Between Night and Day: Exhibiting Homelessness in Ellensburg, WA.
(co-authored with J. Hope Amason, Alexander McCrary, Brittany Anderson, Sarah Bair, Nicolas Crosby, Barbara Hammersburg) Centre for Imaginative Ethnography

2014. Driving Back into the Light: Traversing life and death in a Lynching  Reenactment by African Americans, pp. 178-193.  Chapter 8, in the   volume, Vehicles: Cars, Canoes and other Metaphors of Moral Imagination (edited by David Lipset and Richard Handler) Berghahn Books.

 2014. Give me back my Children: Traumatic Reeanactment and Tenuous   Democratic Public Spheres.  North American Dialogue (Society for the   Anthropology of North America)  17:1, pp. 1-12.

2013. Touching the Past: Materializing Time in Traumatic Living History Reenactments, Signs and Society. 1 (1). pp.161-183

2012   How Families Work: Love, Labor and Mediated Oppositions in American Domestic Ritual.  in Applying Cultural Anthropology, 9th edition (edited Peter Brown et al) McCraw Hill.

2012 Enslaved Labor and Building the Smithsonian: Reading the Stones. Southern Spaces.  December 2012.

2012. Witchcraft and Sorcery in 20th Century Africa, in The Cultural Sociology of Africa; Part 3, 1900 to Present (edited by Orlando Patterson) Sage Reference.

2011. The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding and American Family (book) University of Georgia Press   [Winner of the 2010-11 Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Book Prize for the Critical Study of North America, Society for the Anthropology of North America and the 2012 Victor Turner Ethnographic Writing Prize (second book award), Society for Humanistic Anthropology.

2011. “She Speaks with the Wisdom of God”: Traversing Visible and Invisible Worlds in African Environmental Arts. Catalogue Essay for  Environment and Object in Recent African Art. The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College

2010. “Holding on to Those Who Can’t be Held”: Reenacting a Lynching at Moore’s Ford, Georgia  (Southern Spaces)  

2010. Dreams Deferred: African-Americans in the History of “Old Emory.” In the edited volume, “Where Courageous Inquiry Leads:  Studies in the Emerging Life of Emory University.” Co-edited by Gary Hauk and Sally Wolff King (Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia)

2010.  The Other Side of Paradise: Glimpsing Slavery in the University’s Utopian Landscapes  (Southern Spaces)

2009 Going by the Trees: Death and Regeneration in Georgia’s Haunted Landscapes. Electronic Antiquity, “Ancient Mysteries, Modern Secrets.” (May)

2007  Divination in the Age of DNA: (Re)reading the Entrails. In Steve Miller:
Spiraling Inward
(Rose Art Museum exhibition catalogue, pp. 31-48. Brandeis University)

2005 First Word: Assemblies: Paradoxes of Excavation and Reconstruction in Contemporary African Art. African Arts

2005. Saying Something Now: Documentary Work and the Voices of the Dead. Michigan Quarterly Review, (Fall)

2004. Trans/Script: The Art of Victor Ekpuk  (exhibition statement, by curator Mark Auslander)

2005. Rites of Passage. Entry in Encyclopedia of Anthropology (Sage Publications)

2003  Rituals of the Workplace. Work and Family Encyclopedia.  (Sloan Work and Family Research Network)

2003. Landscapes and Bodies: Transpositions and Mirror Images. [Review of exhibition, “Coexistence: Contemporary Cultural Production in South Africa.”] American Anthropologist, 105 (3): 621-3 (September)

 2003 Myth and the Family.  Work and Family Encyclopedia. (Sloan Work and Family Research Network)

2002 Taking Difference Seriously: Considering Race in Work-Family Studies. Sloan Research Network Newsletter Volume 4(3) Fall 2002:1-4

2002.  “Return to Sender:” Confronting Lynching and our Haunted Landscapes.  In Southern Changes, Spring/Summer 2002: 4-15

2002. Something We Need to Get Back To: Mythologies of Origin and Rituals of Solidarity in African American Working Families.  Working Paper #8 (Sloan Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, Emory University)

2002.  Rituals of the Family.  Work and Family Encyclopedia.  (Sloan Work and Family Research Network)

200. Reconciliation Begins at Home: Remembering African American Contributions
at Emory and Oxford Colleges. Academic Exchange (December)

2001/  Introductory essay (with Charles Piot).  Special Issue of the journal Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. (3):1. (Special Topic: On Of Revelation and Revolution, co-editors of issue: Mark Auslander and Charles Piot)

1999 Owning the Kruger National Park (with David Bunn).  In Arts 1999  (South African Department of Arts, Culture Science and Technology)

1998  Nature, Meaning and Power in South Africa (with David Bunn). Proceedings of the “Voices, Values and Identities Symposium”, 25-27 August 1998. Edited by Yvonne Dladla. (Kruger National Park)

1993  “Open the Wombs!”  The Symbolic Politics of Modern Ngoni Witchfinding.
in Modernity and its Malcontents: Ritual and Power in Postcolonial Africa. (pgs. 167-192) Edited by John and Jean Comaroff (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)



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