my name: eli thorkelson.
how to reach me: eli.thorkelson at gmail dot com.
twitter: unambivalence.
see also: curriculum vitae.

self portrait

I’m a writer, a teacher and an ethnographer. I’m especially interested in the workings of education, labor, politics, and people’s inner lives. Right now I live in Cleveland with my partner and our two kids.

Questions, there are always questions. Here are some of mine: How do we relate to our institutions, our classrooms or our work? How do we make the world livable, or cope with its unlivable moments? How do we respond to precarious times, or to pervasive ambivalence? When do we do something utopian and when do we just get by? How are our lives shaped by outside forces, by history and hierarchy, by unsolved dilemmas that we’ve inherited? What sort of future awaits us? And who is “we”?

I’m writing about some of these questions in a book about French utopians whose projects never quite worked out. It’s going to be called Disappointed Utopia: Radical Philosophy in Postcolonial France. I’ll let you know when it comes out.

Last year I had a faculty position at Stellenbosch University, and I’m still affiliated with Stellenbosch as a Research Fellow. I got my PhD in anthropology at the University of Chicago, and I’ve also worked as a computer programmer. I suppose software has been the most practical of my art/tech interests: as a teenager I also did some video production, and then quite a bit of lighting work in theatres, and I play some musical instruments.

Anyway, if you want to know more about me, you can read my biography, see some academic papers I’ve written, read about my academic research, or check out my blog on academic life.

This site got its name because I used to think a lot about decay and disorder in academic culture. The word decasia was coined by Bill Morrison, who used it for the name of his eerie movie made from decaying film footage. (But this site has nothing to do with Bill, the film Decasia, his website formerly at, the symphony by Michael Gordon, or anything else like that.)

When I think about websites, I like to think back to when the web was a fairly new medium. When people more often had websites that were zany and a little bit personal. Like in 1997.