Maura Finkelstein, Ph.D. Sociology and Anthropology

Associate Professor of Anthropology

I am a broadly trained cultural anthropologist with an MA in anthropology from Columbia University (2005) and a PhD in anthropology from Stanford University (2012).  I have two long-term ethnographic projects in the subfields of urban anthropology and medical anthropology/interspecies ethnography. Throughout my work I highlight questions of embodiment and experience: what does it feel like to live in a city, to live in a body, to live in the world? My first book, The Archive of Loss: Lively Ruination in Mill Land Mumbai (Duke University Press April 2019) argues that the temporal frame of the postindustrial city eclipses the experiences of contemporary industrial workers living and working within the modern moment. Through my fieldsite of Dhanraj Spinning and Weaving Ltd, a functional textile mill in a city with no functional textile mills, I ask what is missed through this misrecognition of industrial remains: spaces in which formal and informal economies collide and multiple temporalities overlap.

Throughout the book I argue that Dhanraj is an ethnographic archive of the city where documents, artifacts, and stories exist in the buildings and the bodies of workers. The lives of current textile mill workers are central to my work: their pain, illnesses, injuries, and exhaustion narrate industrial decline; their lives in tenement buildings reveal a disavowed dimension of the modern values expounded by modernity; and the rumors and untruths they share about mill strikes and industrial fires help them make sense of the industry’s survival. In outlining this archive’s contents, the book shows how Dhanraj, which I conceptualize as a lively ruin, becomes a lens through which to challenge, reimagine, and alter ways of thinking about the past, present, and future of urban labor, ruination, and the untimely embodied experience of industrial temporality.  

In addition to this monograph, I have published articles related to this research in City and Society (“In the Shadows of Industry: Anachronistic Subjects and Allochronous Spaces in Mill Land Mumbai” 27(3): 250-271) and Anthropological Quarterly (“Ghosts in the Gallery: The Vitality of Anachronism in a Mumbai Chawl” 91(3): 936-966), as well as an edited volume, Galleries of Life: The Chawls of Mumbai (2011), in which I also provided editorial contributions.

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My current research explores futures of accessibility through therapeutic horseback riding. I am currently conducting ethnographic research at an equine therapy facility in Allentown, PA, where I have worked as a therapeutic horseback riding instructor, intern and volunteer for three years. This research is situated at the intersection of medical anthropology, disability studies/crip theory, and interspecies ethnography and explores how individuals experiencing cognitive, physical and emotional challenges reimagine their futures outside the limits of diagnosis. Like my first book, this project asks how attention paid to embodied experience can reveal modes that trouble conventional diagnoses, whether medical, psychological, or sociological/political. By taking the individual body seriously as its own constellation of experiences, hopes, and expectations, this project considers what accessible futures can look like and become through the lens of therapeutic horseback riding.