I am an Oakland-based researcher and writer with a PhD in cultural anthropology.
Most recently, I worked as an on-call UX researcher at the inimitable Exploratorium, a communications consultant at MycoWorks, the biomaterial start-up making leather out of mycelium, and a researcher at Dovetail Labs, a consultancy specializing in the ethical questions raised by AI. I’ve written and edited for both academic and general audiences. My last piece, for the magazine Double Blind, was on the history of the word “entheogen.” A series that I edited (with Tehseen Noorani) on the psychedelic revival for Cultural Anthropology will be out in July.
Anthropology centers on meaning as process: a constant making and remaking of our worlds. In my research, I trace these processes through personal and historical arcs. I’m curious about how people understand, experience, and interact with natural, supernatural, and artificial worlds and with life in its various forms, as being and beings. Are these boundaries being rewritten or dissolved, as proposed by contemporary anthropological theory? In my writing, I try to bring these arcs into focus through stories, observation, and clear exposition. I’m especially interested in making anthropological knowledge accessible to a general audience.
And here are more details on my academic and work history:
I completed my PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara in September 2018. My dissertation explored how fungi become meaningful and valuableto a community of amateur applied mycologists. Themes include the ascendant ecological paradigm, popular understandings of science, popular engagements with technology (as both users and “misusers“), emergent forms of applied mycology (high and low tech), and the mycophilia generated by this unique interspecies relationship. I’ve published one chapter and plan to publish more soon. (You can watch me present on the topic here.)
Since finishing my Ph.D., I have worked as a research consultant, most recently for Dovetail Labs, a consulting company (founded by two anthropologists) that specializes in ethical questions and concerns related to emergent technologies with a focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence. I wrote two research briefs: one on digital identity in Africa (specifically ID4Africa) and the other on VR/AR in Israel. (I published my own summaries of this research on my Medium channel. You can read them here and here.)
From early-2016 to late-2017, I was a communications consultant at MycoWorks, a San Francisco-based biomaterials company making new materials out of fungi. I conducted market research and helped build social media presence and community engagement. (Read two Medium posts I wrote on mycotechnology for MycoWorks Radio here.)
Before pursuing a PhD, I completed an MA in Cultural Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I wrote my thesis on a mystical religious revival among North American ex-pats, drawing on two years of field work (2004-2006) in Neo-Hasidic yeshivot in and around Jerusalem. (You can read an article I published on this research here.)
Since May 2018, I’ve also been working as an on-call researcher for the Exploratorium’s Visitor Research & Evaluation department.
I also work part-time at a lovely tea shop in North Berkeley called Blue Willow.