PhD, Princeton University (1996)
AB, University of Chicago (1989)
Visual anthropology and documentary filmmaking; media, sound and data visualization; capitalism and commodification; indigenous media and politics; Bolivia and the Andes.
Jeff directs the Anthropology Department’s VizE Lab for Ethnographic Data Visualization, an innovative hub for researchers interested in visualizing anthropological knowledge through documentary video and data visualization. VizE Lab is especially devoted to bringing methods of interactive data visualization and mapping into ethnographic contexts. It is a vibrant interdisciplinary working space where scholars develop projects, learn new techniques, collaborate, and reflect on expanding forms of data and expression that are shaping the future of ethnographic inquiry and practices.
Research and Filmmaking
Jeff is author of Circuits of Culture: Media, Politics, and Indigenous Identity in the Andes, a book based on several years of field research in La Paz, Bolivia. His book and other publications have studied the cultural dynamics of film circulation, the televisualization of political populism, the performance of capitalism and spectacle among cholos (urban indigenous middle class), and the indigenization of both filmmaking and national politics.
His prize-winning ethnographic and documentary films have been recognized with awards from the American Anthropological Association and the Royal Anthropological Institute. His films explore the intersecting regimes of knowledge, visuality and tourism, and heritage politics at archaeology sites in Bolivia and Mexico. Incidents of Travel in Chichen Itza was named as one of the 50 most important films for teaching anthropology. He edited The Torture Letters, for colleague Laurence Ralph, and based on his book, for the "Op-Doc Series" of the New York Times. His current work in progress is Men of Steel, a musical documentary on the adventures of the steel guitar from its beginnings in Hawaii to the honky-tonks of country music and far beyond.
Jeff has served the American Anthropological Association as Editor for the Visual Anthropology section of American Anthropologist (2001-2006) and as Program Editor for the Visual Anthropology section of the Annual AAA Meetings (2000-2001). He also served two terms in various roles on the Board of Directors of the Society for Visual Anthropology (1999-2005, ex officio 2005-2007).
Jeff teaches a range of courses on media, sound, and visual anthropology. Most recently, he taught Culture, Media, and Data (ANT 347) and Visible Evidence: Documentary Film and Data Visualization (ANT 455). In all of his teaching, he uses innovative techniques for incorporating digital tools for video editing and data visualization to engage students in deep media-specific analysis, and as methods for students to create and represent ethnographic knowledge. In spring 2021, he is teaching Transcultural Cinema (ANT 454).
Before joining the Anthropology Department in 2016, Jeff was Director of Teaching Initiatives and Programs for the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. As a director in McGraw for 9 years, he oversaw the pedagogy programs for faculty and graduate students as well as Princeton’s initiative online education, which included innovative projects for hybrid online-classroom teaching. Before moving to Princeton in 2007, he was a professor in the Anthropology Department at NYU, where he received the University’s “Golden Dozen Teaching Award.” At NYU, he taught courses on capitalism, culture and media as well as the year-long seminar in documentary video production for the Graduate Program in Culture and Media, also housed within Anthropology.
Circuits of Culture: Media, Politics and Indigenous Identity in the Andes, (2008) University of Minnesota Press.
"Making a Film About a Sound: The Steel Guitar from Hawaii to the Honky-Tonk," (2011) Anthropology News, 52(1): 5-6.
“Reimagining Globality: Toward An Anthropological Physics,” (2006, co-author Francis Mascia-Lees) Anthropology News, 47(5): 9,11.
"Packaging Indigenous Media: An Interview with Ivan Sanjines and Jesus Tapia," (2004) American Anthropologist, 106(2): 354-363.
"The Gran Poder and the Social Movement of the Aymara Middle Class," (2003) Visual Anthropology, 16(2-3): 207-243.
"Arrival Scenes: Complicity and Media Ethnography in the Bolivian Public Sphere," (2002) in Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain. Edited by Faye Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin. Berkeley: University of California Press. Pgs. 301-316.
"Guidelines for the Evaluation of Ethnographic Visual Media: AAA Statement on Ethnographic Film," (2001, co-author Peter Biella) American Anthropologist 104(1): 303-6.
"Transcultural Cinema: Essays by David MacDougall," (1999) American Anthropologist, 101(4): 836-837. Book review.
"Film Distribution as Media: Mapping Difference in the Bolivian Cinemascape," (1996) Visual Anthropology Review, 12(1): 63-77.
"Transnational Fiesta: 1992," (1995) Visual Anthropology Review, vol. 11(2): 107-109. Film review.
The Torture Letters (2020, editor), The New York Times, Op-Docs Series.
Men of Steel (work in progress, co-producer with Martin Muse).
Incidents of Travel in Chichen Itza, (1997, co-producer Quetzil Castañeda) Documentary Educational Resources.
Taypi Kala: Six Visions of Tiwanaku, (1994) University of California.