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Ward Keeler

Core FacultyPh.D., University of Chicago

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Ward Keeler



Anthropology and expressive culture, including music, theatre, and literature; language and culture; postcoloniality; Java and Bali (Indonesia), and Burma


Additional affiliations: Editor, Bulletin of the Burma Studies Group; Trustee, Burma Studies Foundation; Member of the Editorial Board, Moussons: Social Science Research on Southeast Asia

Research interests:

I am interested in the ways that people in the societies of Southeast Asia where I have worked (Java and Bali, and lowland Burma) take hierarchy as the grounds upon which all social relations are based, whereas in the U.S. people are endlessly troubled by contradictions among equality, autonomy, and hierarchy. The contrast helps to make sense of what people in these societies do and say in their performing arts— which are the main focus of my research—as well as in religious, domestic, and other matters.

Recent Publications:

Compact Disks

In production. Classical Burmese Theatre Music. Produced by Ward Keeler. Liner notes by Ward Keeler. Geneva: Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire.

2003. Mahagita: harp and vocal music from Burma. Music recording coproduced with Rick Heizman. Liner notes by Ward Keeler. Smithsonian Folkways 40491.


2004. Durga Umayi, by Y. B. Mangunwijaya. Translated and annotated, with an Introduction and Afterword, by Ward Keeler. Seattle: University of Washington Press, Singapore: Singapore University Press.


2015. Shifting Transversals: Trans Women's Move from Spirit Mediumship to Beauty Work in Mandalay. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2014.992930

2013. Engaging Students with Fiction, Memoirs, and Film. In ed. Marilyn Cohen, Novel Approaches to Anthropology: Contributions to Literary Anthropology. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Pp. 227-244.

2009. What’s Burmese about Burmese rap? : Why some expressive forms go global. American Ethnologist 36(1):2-19.

2008. Teaching Southeast Asia Through Fiction and Memoirs. Anthropology Today 24 (6): 16-19 (December, 2008).

2006. The Pleasures of Polyglossia. In ed. J. Lindsay, Between Tongues: Translation and/of/in Performance in Asia. Singapore: Singapore University Press. Pp. 204- 23.

2005. “But Princes Jump:” performing masculinity in Mandalay. In, ed. Monique Skidmore, Burma at the Turn of the 21st Century. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Pp. 206-228.

2003. Wayang Kulit in the Political Margin. In, ed. Jan Mrazek, Puppet Theater in Contemporary Indonesia: New Approaches to Performance-Events. Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan Press. pp. 92-108.

2002. Durga Umayi and the Postcolonialist Dilemma. In, eds. Keith Foulcher and Tony Day, Clearing a Space: postcolonial readings of modern Indonesian literature. Leiden: KITLV Press. pp. 349-69.


WGS 345 • Theories Of Culture & Society

46703 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 930am-1100am SAC 4.118
(also listed as ANT 330C)

This course examines the theoretical approaches that have established the intellectual

foundations of contemporary socio-cultural anthropology. ThisIt course aims to provide

undergraduate students a preliminary grounding in the anthropological theory of culture. A short

tour through some of the important ideas and debates of the 20th century (and beyond), the course

aims at reading carefully as opposed to voluminously.

The course is primarily intended for anthropology majors.



WGS 393 • Cultural Constr Of Masculinity

47267 • Fall 2012
Meets TH 900am-1200pm SAC 5.124
(also listed as ANT 391)

The course will focus on the sociological and anthropological study of masculinity. The first few weeks' readings will provide a general introduction to recent theoretical and empirical work, mostly by sociologists. Two books will demonstrate historical approaches, one on late medieval, the other on early modern and nineteenth century understandings of masculinity. The rest of the readings will consist of more focused ethnographies, including Herzfeld's Poetics of Manhood, two acclaimed studies of gay masculinity, as well as work on Nicaragua, Japan, Islamic masculinities, and South Asia, among others.

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