Debra Spitulnik Vidali

Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Research

Office: 209 Anthropology. Office hours Wednesday 3:00pm-4:30pm.

Phone: 404-727-3651


Additional Contact Information


  • PhD, Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Chicago, 1994
  • MA, Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1985
  • BA, Language and Mind, University of California-Berkeley, 1983



  • Experimental Ethnography
  • Ethnographic Theater-Making
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Media Anthropology
  • Language & Discourse
  • Phenomenology
  • Critical Epistemology


I am an anthropologist, theater-maker, artist, and scholar-activist.  My work centers on building bridges across disciplines and experimenting with the modalities, frontiers, and implications of knowledge production.  Most recent projects are built as interventions at the intersection of social science, theater-making, performance, and multimodal/multisensorial ethnography.  Topics include: civic engagement, social justice & human rights, embodiment, media, language, and Indigenous sovereignty.  Experimental work and interventions include:

Ethnographic theater-making
Multimodal Alchemy, Knowledge, and Invention, American Anthropologist (2020).
Re-Generation Initiative (2009-present)
projects/workshops:  State of the Nation, #WaterIsLife, Slices of Time, Re-Generation, and more.

Ethnographic installations
Ethnographic Installation and “the Archive:”  Haunted Relations and Relocations, co-authored with Kwame Phillips, Visual Anthropology Review (2020).
Kabusha Radio Remix (2014-present).  Exhibited in London, Paris, and Washington DC.
audio paper:  Collisions of Memory (2017)

Short-form multimodal narrative/spoken word
The Sign at the Threshold (2017)

Multisensorial anthropology
position statement: Retrofit (2016)

I am the recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for Humanities, Spencer Foundation, National Science Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, Wenner-Gren, Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and Social Science Research Council.  My current work is primarily U.S.-based, centered on issues of Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity (ally-ship).  Previous research has focused on radio, discourse, multilingualism, national publics, and the Bemba language in Zambia.   Publications can be downloaded here.  

In addition to being a faculty member in Emory University’s Department of Anthropology, I am a founding member and core faculty member of Emory's Program in Linguistics and an associated faculty member of the Department of Film & Media Studies. I currently head up the Experimental Ethnography Working Group at Emory.


  • ANT 280 Indigenous Peoples of North America
  • ANT 377/THEA 377 From Fieldwork into Performance
  • ANT 385 Experimental Ethnography
  • ANT 385 Public Anthropology
  • ANT 585 Experimental Ethnography
  • ANT 585 Decolonizing Theory & Practice