"The archives" sometimes enact violence—against women, people of color, and others unrecognized within official nation-building stories. Feminists and critical diaspora scholars work from fragments to reconstruct the lives of those considered not fully human, to gain insight into their aspirations, imaginations, and movements. These reconstructions might oppose state memory and offer potential sites of reparative justice. Anthropologist Deborah Thomas describes how new visual archives of state violence are being used to rewrite the official histories.
Deborah Thomas received her Ph.D. in anthropology from New York University, and is currently Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies, and Chair of the Graduate Group in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She also holds a secondary appointment in Penn's Graduate School of Education and is a member of the graduate groups of Africana Studies and English. Before joining Penn, she held academic posts at Wesleyan University and Duke University.
Thomas is author of Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica and Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica, and is co-editor of Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness (with Kamari Clarke). She is former editor of the journal Transforming Anthropology and former member of the Executive Council for the Caribbean Studies Association. She currently serves on the editorial committee of the Caribbean-based journal Social and Economic Studies as well as the editorial board of American Anthropologist, and is secretary of the Society for Cultural Anthropology.
Before becoming an academic, Thomas was a professional dancer with the New York-based Urban Bush Women, a company committed to using art as a means of addressing issues of social justice. Thomas was also a program director with the National Council for Research on Women, an international working alliance of women's research and policy centers.
Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies
University of Pennsylvania