Eli Thorkelson

Contact Information

Department of Anthropology
Whittier College
13406 E Philadelphia St.
Whittier, CA 90608

Email: eli.thorkelson@gmail.com
Web: decasia.org


Sept 2017- Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
Jan 2016-August 2017 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Whittier College
2012-15 Web Applications Programmer, Division of the Humanities, University of Chicago


2014 Ph.D., Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Chicago
Dissertation: Hostile Futures: Radical Philosophy and the French University Movement of 2009
2007 M.A. Anthropology, University of Chicago
Thesis: Literary theory as commodity & literary theorists as brands
2000-2004 A.B. Anthropology, Cornell University
Thesis: The Silent Social Order of the Theory Classroom
summa cum laude with distinction in all subjects


2014 Starr Lectureship, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
2012-2013 Assistantship in Learning Technologies, University of Chicago Center in Paris (declined)
2010-2011 Doctoral Exchange Fellowship, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
2005-2008 Graduate Research Program Fellowship, National Science Foundation


2016 The Infinite Rounds of the Stubborn: Reparative futures at a French political protest. Cultural Anthropology 31(4):493-519.
2016 Precarity Outside: The political unconscious of French academic labor. American Ethnologist 43(3):475-487.
2016 Review of Why There Is No Poststructuralism In France (Johannes Angermuller). Critical Inquiry, March 17, http://criticalinquiry.uchicago.edu/eli_thorkelson_reviews_why_there_is_no_poststructuralism_in_france/.
2016 Antiheroism: The Underdog’s Survival Tactic. Allegra Laboratory, December 9, http://allegralaboratory.net/antiheroism-the-underdogs-survival-tactic-universitycrisis/.
2015 De quoi l’université états-unisienne est-elle le nom? [What does the American university stand for?] In La dérégulation académique: la construction étatisée des marchés universitaires dans le monde, Editions Syllepse, Paris. Pp. 209-246. Charles Soulié and Christophe Charle, eds. Translated by Annael Le Poullennec.
2013 Review of The Intimate University: Korean American students and the problems of segregation (Nancy Abelmann). LATISS: Learning and Teaching 6(1).
2012 Navigating doctoral socialisation in Anthropology. With Katherine Nielsen. LATISS: Learning and Teaching 5(1):1-9.
2011 Comment ‘la pensée’ se fait monde malgré tout : analyse ethnologique d'un symbole central du cosmos philosophique français [How ‘thought’ becomes world after all: Ethnographic analysis of a key symbol in the French philosophical cosmos]. In Frontières et Philosophie: Actes du colloque du Musée d'art moderne de Céret-EPCC (mars 2010). Louise Ferté, Lucie Rey and Patrice Vermeren, eds. Pp. 277-287. Series Travaux et Documents. Saint-Denis: Université Paris 8.
2011 Review of L’Enseignement Supérieur entre Nouvelle Gestion Publique et Crise Systèmique [Higher Education between New Public Management and Systemic Crisis], Annie Vinokur and Carole Sigman, eds. Learning and Teaching 4(2).
2010 Experience, Reflexive Socialization and Disciplinary Order in Anthropology, Michigan Discussions in Anthropology 18:1-38.
2010 The Limits of Theory: Idealism, Distinction and Critical Pedagogy in Chicago Anthropology, Michigan Discussions in Anthropology 18:324-377.
2008 The Silent Social Order of the Theory Classroom, Social Epistemology 22(2):165-196.
2008 Anthropology as Trauma and as Transformation, Anthropology News 49(1):13-14.
2007 On the Socialization of Graduate Students in Anthropology, Anthropology News 48(4):56.


2017"Utopian in the morning, neoliberal by afternoon?" Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
2016"Desubjectification and normative ambivalence in French philosophy." American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings, Minneapolis.
2016"The ruses of academic radicalism." Invited presentation, Society for Cultural Anthropology Meeting, Ithaca, NY.
2015"Cruel laughter and the French production of philosophical facts." American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings, Denver.
2015"Saving the University? The production of an oppositional faculty collective on the scene of French university reforms." Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA.
2014"The impasse of precarious academic identity." Invited presentation at 200 Years of Dialogue Between Knowledge and Power: Historicizing the Challenges of Higher Education in the 21st Century. European University Institute, Florence, Italy.
2014"Saving the University? The Production of an Oppositional Faculty Collective and the Politics of French Neoliberalism." American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings, Washington, DC.
2014"The bed, the people, and the work of thought." Society for Cultural Anthropology Meeting, Detroit.
2014"L'échec de l'internationalisme universitaire après la grève de 2009 : Analyse ethnologique des « contre-sommets européens » de Dijon et Bruxelles." Department of Sociology, University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint Denis.
2014"The Failure of Left Internationalism." Social Theory Workshop, University of Chicago.
2013"Disappointed Utopianism and the Future of Radical French Philosophy." American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings, Chicago.
2013"Roundtable participant, The AAA and Labor Issues: Initiatives, Goals and Dialogue." American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings. Special session organized by the AAA’s Committee on Labor Relations.
2013"'68 Thought: An ethnography of reflexive concept-work in a French radical philosophy department." Anthropology Department Colloquium, Rice University.
2013“Postcolonial academic labor and the nationality of post-1968 radical philosophy.” Invited presentation at Archaeologies of Frenchness conference, University of Chicago.
2013“The struggle to organize the struggle: industrial and post-industrial temporality in French universities.” American Ethnological Society/Association for Political and Legal Anthropology Conference, Chicago.
2013“Precarious work and the limits of the French academic labor movement.” Countering Contingency: Teaching, Scholarship, and Creativity in the Age of the Adjunct. Pittsburgh, PA.
2013“Je n’en peux plus: The visceral conflicts of the faculty in a post-68 philosophy department in Saint-Denis.” Modern France Workshop, University of Chicago.
2012 "L'usage politique des modèles d'université étrangers : l'université américaine aux yeux des français." [The political use of foreign university models: The American university through French eyes.] Invited presentation at ARESER conference (Association de réflexion sur les enseignements supérieurs et la recherche), University of Paris 1.
2012 "Hostile Futures: Temporal conflict and the survival of the opposition after the 2009 French university strikes." Society for Cultural Anthropology Conference, Providence.
2012 "Precarity and class fantasy in French universities in 2010." Anthropology of Europe Workshop, University of Chicago.
2012 "The relations of intellectual production in a radical French philosophy department." Milwaukee Labor and Working-Class History Graduate Student Colloquium, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
2012 "Emancipation and the relations of intellectual production in French radical philosophy." Knowledge/Value Workshop, University of Chicago.
2011 "The problems of experience: precarious work in French public universities." Invited session on Flexible Labor in Academia. AAA Annual Meetings, Montreal.
2011 "French academic precarity and the politics of moral crisis." Graduate Student Symposium on Labor, Northwestern University.
2011 "First as fantasy, then as farce: Internationalism in the European university movement." Rethinking Europe, Center for German and European Studies, University of Minnesota.
2011 "Emancipation at the University of Paris-8, between occupied space and philosophical text." Anthropology of Europe Workshop, University of Chicago.
2010 "On an anthropology of a philosophy of emancipation." Paris Center Workshop, University of Chicago.
2010 "A break in the circularity of utopia: On the temporary persistence of the Ronde Infinie des Obstinés." EASA Conference, Maynooth, Ireland.
2010 "French universities and the politics of resistance and resignation." Poster presentation displayed at "Beneath the University, the Commons," University of Minnesota.
2009 "Ethnographic preface to an epistemology of university models in recent French politics." Paris Center Workshop, University of Chicago.
2009 "Politicized intellectual collectives" (with Andrew Yale). Reworking the University, Minneapolis, MN.
2008 "The will to knowledge and cultural crisis in universities." Rethinking the University, Minneapolis, MN.
2007 "Liminality, socialization, democratization (and ambivalence): Rethinking graduate education." AAA Annual Meetings, Washington, DC.
2007 "Knowledge as Ideology: Lycée philosophy classes and the category of the intellectual." Semiotics workshop, University of Chicago.
2007 "The case of the Bad Writing Contest: Literary theory as commodity & literary theorists as brands." Michicagoan, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
2006 "Bureaucratic order and social purification in literary theory classrooms." AAA Annual Meetings, San Jose.
2005 "Ethnography of literary theory classrooms." Social Science & Higher Education Network meeting, Herencia, Spain.

Scholarly organization

2016-Editor, Academography: Critical Ethnography & Higher Education. http://academography.org.
2013-16Chair (initially co-chair), Committee on Post-Secondary Education, Council on Anthropology and Education.
2014"Co-Organizer, Work Chronotopes: Work, Space, and Temporal Rhythms." With Duff Morton. Society for Cultural Anthropology Meeting, Detroit.
2013Panel organizer, “Politicking for a compromised future,” American Ethnological Association/Association for Political and Legal Anthropology Conference, Chicago.
2012 Panel organizer, "Living with dead futures," Society for Cultural Anthropology biannual conference.
2007, 2011-12 Coordinator, Anthropology of Europe Workshop, University of Chicago
2006-10 Editor, "Graduate Socialization in Anthropology," a pair of edited collections, appearing in Michigan Discussions in Anthropology and Anthropology News.
2007 Organizer, "Trauma, transformation, and tactics: Rethinking the socialization of graduate students in anthropology," AAA Annual Meetings, Washington, DC.
2007 Organizer, "Regards Croisés: Crossing Cultural Borders," Collaborative workshop with University of Chicago and University of Paris X.

Research experience

2014 Follow-up interviews in Paris and Saint-Denis.
2012 Follow-up interviews in Paris.
2009–2011 Two years of ethnographic research on French academic institutions and politics. Based in the Parisian region, particularly in Saint-Denis, with additional research visits to Brussels, Aix/Marseille, Quimper, Dijon, Céret, and Toulouse.
2008 One month of French language training, Retournac, France.
2006-7 One year of documentary and archival research on the politics of “bad writing” in American literary studies. Conducted in Chicago.
2006 Two months of French language training, IS–Aix-en-Provence, France.
2003 Three months of ethnographic research on literary theory classrooms. Conducted at Cornell University.


Human languages: English (native), French (fluent), Spanish (basic).

Computer languages: Ruby, JavaScript, PHP, Python, bash. (Coursework in Java, C++.)

Manuscript reviews