Graham M. Jones

Graham M. Jones
Graham
M.
Jones
Lister Brothers Career Development Professor
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Room E53-335P
617-715-4969

Biography

I am a cultural and linguistic anthropologist who explores how people use langauge and other media to enact expertise in practice, performance, and interaction. After studying literature at Reed College (BA, 1998) and anthropology at New York University (PhD, 2007), I was a postdoctoral member of the Princeton Society of Fellows (2007-2010).  My two monographs constitute a diptych:  Trade of the Tricks: Inside the Magician's Craft (California, 2011) describes day-to-day life and everyday talk within the insular subculture of contemporary French illusionists; Dangerous Doubles (Chicago, forthcoming) examines the meaning of magic in Western modernity, shuttling between the intellectual history of anthropology and the cultural history of popular entertainment.  Alongside these books, I have a third set of projects investigating how language and culture shape, and are in turn shaped by, the way people use technologies of computer-mediated communication.  At MIT, I teach classes on a range of subjects, including: the anthropology of education; the language of mediated communication; and ethnographic research methods.

Research

I study how people use language and media to not only share knowledge, but also to imbue it with meaning and value - whether by colluding in shared secrets or staking out contrastive positions in an argument.   Through ethnographic engagements with a wide range of commuities of speech and practice, I analyze ways in which signifying practices shape moral and epistemological convictions.  From the way sleight-of-hand magicians verbally regulate the circulation of technical secrets to the ways computer hackers communicatively coordinate software design projects and anthropologists construct arguments with analogies, my work spans diverse forms of expertise.  It also attends to multiple scales, from the shared intimacies of a conversation between friends to debates in a sprawling and anonymous online discussion forum.  I use the tools of linguistic anthropology to demonstrate how verbal strategies of encoding knowledge and producing evidence connect with complex social dynamics of identity and difference.   My ethnographic and ethnohistorical research has focused primarily on metropolitan and colonial France, but I have also conduced significant research in the United States and on the English language.  I am currently working on a new project on the global circulation of acrobatics that includes components in China and Québec.  Graduate students I work with typically have projects related to digital communications, though I am open to projects engaging with language and expressive culture more broadly.

Selected Publications

2014 Secrecy. Annual Review of Anthropology 43: 53-69.
2012 Magic with a Message: The Poetics of Christian Conjuring. Cultural Anthropology 27(2): 193-214.
2011 Trade of the Tricks: Inside the Magician's Craft. Berkeley: University of California Press.
2010 Modern Magic and the War on Miracles in French Colonial Culture. Comparative Studies in Society and History 52(1): 66-99.
2009 Enquoting Voices, Accomplishing Talk: Uses of Be + Like in Instant Messaging. With Bambi B. Schieffelin. Language & Communication 29(1): 77-113.
2009 Talking Text and Talking Back: "My BFF Jill" from Boob Tube to YouTube. With Bambi B. Schieffelin. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 14(4): 1050-1079.

Teaching

21A.00
Introduction to Anthropology: Comparing Human Cultures

Through the comparative study of different cultures, anthropology explores fundamental questions about what it means to be human. Seeks to understand how culture shapes societies, from the smallest island in the South Pacific to the largest Asian metropolis, and affects the way institutions work, from scientific laboratories to Christian mega-churches. Provides a framework for analyzing diverse facets of human experience, such as gender, ethnicity, language, politics, economics, and art.

21A.150
Teaching and Learning: Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Explores the diverse ways that people teach and learn in different countries, disciplines, and subcultures (computer gamers, magicians, jazz musicians, etc.). Compares schooling to other forms of knowledge transmission, from initiation and apprenticeship to recent innovations in online education. Students discuss various learning theories and apply them to a variety of in-class activities using qualitative methods to conduct original research on topics of their choice.

21A.502
Fun and Games: Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Considers the cultural organization of play in different communities and societies. Explores why all people play, how different cultures experience fun, and what particular games mean, if anything. Surveys major theories of play in relation to a variety of play phenomena, such as jokes, video games, children's fantasies, sports, and entertainment spectacles. As a final project, students develop their own case study.

21A.503J / 24.913J / STS.070J
Language and Technology

Examines cultural impact of communication technologies, from basic literacy to cell phones, and computer-based social networks on patterns of verbal interaction. Introduces theories and methods of linguistic anthropology pertinent to technologies that make it possible for people to communicate across distances in space and time. Students develop their own research projects exploring the cultural dimensions of technologically enhanced communication. Enrollment limited.

21A.819J / 15.349J
Qualitative Research Methods

Training in the design and practice of qualitative research. Organized around illustrative texts, class exercises, and student projects. Topics include the process of gaining access to and participating in the social worlds of others; techniques of observation, fieldnote-taking, researcher self-monitoring and reflection; methods of inductive analysis of qualitative data including conceptual coding, grounded theory, and narrative analysis. Discussion of research ethics, the politics of fieldwork, modes of validating researcher accounts, and styles of writing up qualitative field research.

Awards

2015 Mellon Foundation, New Directions Fellowship
2013

National Science Foundation, "MOOCs and the Ethnography of Media Socialization"
(award # BCS-1258640)

2013 Edgerton Award for Exceptional Distinction in Teaching and Research
2012 Levitan Award for Excellence in Teaching, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
2007-2010 Haarlow-Cotsen Fellowship, Princeton University Society of Fellows
2006-2007 Ford Foundation Dissertation Diversity Fellowship
2004-2005 International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council
2004-2005 Fulbright Graduate Student Research Fellowship