Ilana Gershon

WEBSITE(S)| APLA Podcast | CaMP Blog

Ilana Gershon is a US focused anthropologist with broad interests in political and legal anthropology, linguistic and media anthropology, science and technology studies, and the anthropology of work. She has two major theoretical projects at the moment. First, with Sarah Green, she is surfacing an emerging theoretical movement in anthropology that assumes everyone lives among multiple social orders, and endeavor to form boundaries between these social orders that are stable and yet porous enough to allow people, objects, forms, and ideas to circulate in appropriate ways. With this as a starting point, ethnographers are analyzing anew circulation, power, ritual, and scale, among other traditional anthropological foci. Second, she endeavors to generate a historically specific and rigorous understanding of neoliberalism as a distinct moment of capitalism through various axes of comparison. Her research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren, SSRC, NSF and fellowships at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and Notre Dame’s Institute of Advanced Study.

  1. A comparative study of Samoan migrants in New Zealand and the United States, informing her book, No Family is an Island: Cultural Expertise among Samoans in Diaspora (Cornell 2012). Her publications and edited special issues inspired by her research on Samoan migrants are the early explorations of porous social orders.
  2. Maori members of the New Zealand parliament culminating in a 2011 PoLAR article, “Studying Cultural Pluralism in Courts versus Legislatures”, recently celebrated in the 2022 PoLAR digital discussion Reflective Conversation: Revisiting and Revitalizing Ethnographies of Legislatures. Edited by Neil Kaplan-Kelly.
  3. Mediated breakups –research on what is revealed by studying people’s efforts to disconnect using technologies designed to encourage connection. This lead to her book, The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media (Cornell 2010), and a 2017 Annual Review article, “Language and the Newness of Media” and “The Breakup 2.1: The Ten Year Update,” and numerous other articles.
  4. Hiring rituals in corporate America led to the book, Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today (Chicago 2017), an special issue in the Journal of Cultural Economy co-edited with Michael Prentice, “Genres in the New Economy” (2022), and articles in the American Ethnologist; Culture, Theory, and Critique and other journals.
  5. What the pandemic reveals about how workplaces function as a site of private government in the United States, incubating democratic and autocratic citizens – leading to a book manuscript currently under review, The Pandemic Workplace.

She has edited a trilogy of ethnographic fiction – imagined manuals for learning a new job, living alongside animals, and dealing with the monsters among us.

She produces a podcast for the Association of Political and Legal Anthropology – Academic Hiring Rituals: The International Edition – on how academic hiring rituals function in different countries.

She runs a blog for scholars of linguistic and media anthropology – CaMP Anthropology blog.

If you are interested in participating in the blog, or joining her monthly virtual reading groups with authors of recently published book in legal and political anthropology (the APLA reading group) or linguistic and media anthropology (the CaMP reading group), please contact her.

Research Areas

employment; new media; work; breakups; neoliberalism


Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2001


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