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Lisa Stevenson

Critical Media Lab Co-lead – McGill University


Lisa Stevenson is an Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar in the Department of Anthropology. She received her PhD in 2005 from the University of California, Berkeley. In recent years a central focus of her work has been the question of what it means to think in images. As an anthropologist, she has attempted to trace and describe such imagistic forms of thought in the everyday worlds of the people with whom she works—most recently among the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic and among Colombian refugees in Ecuador. Her book Life Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic (University of California Press, 2014) won the 2015 Victor Turner Book Prize and the 2020 Staley Prize. Stevenson was recently a Mellon New Directions Fellow, studying filmmaking in order to better use the power of film to capture the lived experience of violence.


Her film and theatre work includes a recent collaboration with Manari Ushigua, Fabiano Kueva and Eduardo Kohn entitled The Spirit Life, a short incantatory film that attempts to convey the power and magic of Amazonian rainforests through images and sound.

Production Still from The Spirit Life

Production Still from The Spirit Life


Peer Reviewed Books

2014 Life Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic. Berkeley: University of California Press (Winner of the 2015 Victor Turner Prize and the 2020 Staley Prize).

2006 Critical Inuit Studies (edited with Pamela Stern). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

2020 “Looking Away,” in “Gestures of Care and Recognition” ed. Lauren Cubellis, special issue, Cultural Anthropology Vol 35, No 1. 

2019 “What There Is to Fear”, in “It Runs in the Family: Exploring Contagious Kinship Connections” ed. Lotte Meinert and Lone Grøn, special issue, Ethnos (published online, July 2019): 1-18.

2017 “Sounding Death, Saying Something,” Social Text 35, no 1 (130): 59–78.

2015 “Leviathan: An Ethnographic Dream” (co-authored with Eduardo Kohn), Visual Anthropology Review no 31(1): 51-55.

2012  “The Psychic Life of Biopolitics: Survival, Cooperation, and Inuit Community,” American Ethnologist 39(3):592-613.


Book Chapters

Forth-coming . “Looking Away.” In Traces of Care: Discernment and the Work of Recognition. Durham, Duke University Press.

2017  “A Proper Message,” in Anand Pandian and Stuart McLean, eds., Crumpled Paper Boat: Experiments in Ethnographic Writing. Durham: Duke University Press.

2015 “Life Beside Itself.” in Veena Das and Clara Han, eds., Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Invited Publications

2021  “What there is to fear.” Peeps Magazine. Issue 7.

2020  [Review] “Four thoughts about Knots and Holes,” entanglements, 3(2): 29-32.

2020 "Isabella; or, The Achiote Bush." Fictions, Fieldsights, October 27.                              

2018 “Images,” Society for Cultural Anthropology, (with Stephanie Spray, Anand Pandian, Todd Meyers, and Tarek Elhaik; curated by Aidan Seale-Feldman).





2018 Era Un Lunes, experimental ethnographic film about Colombian families forced to flee across the Ecuadorean border to escape ongoing violence in their country (24 minutes; co-directed and co-produced with Eduardo Kohn).

Screenings include Society for Cultural Anthropology Plenary 2018, Haverford College 2018.

2017 Into Unknown Parts, ethnographic film about Inuit experiences of the 1950s tuberculosis evacuations (27 minutes, co-directed and co-produced with Eduardo Kohn).

Premiered at the Margaret Mead Film Festival 2017. Screenings Include (University of Copenhagen, Slought Foundation, Duke University, New York University, FLACSO Ecuador).

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