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Assistant Professor of Anthropology and of Women's Studies

Deborah Elliston is a sociocultural anthropologist pursuing questions of gender, culture, sex, and power. Her areas of specialization include critical engagements with nationalism, colonialism, and postcoloniality, with “race” and racialization processes, and with modernity, sex, and desire. Additional interests include “Third World”/postcolonial feminist theories and politics, feminist and queer sexuality studies, and formations of the modern subject. Specializing in the societies of Polynesia/Oceania, her field research projects have focused on the Society Islands of French Polynesia, an “overseas possession” of France more commonly known as Tahiti and its Islands. Her current research project there engages questions of sexuality, gender, desire, and labor as well as the anthropology of fashion through fieldwork with raerae – male-bodied, femininity-performing, transgender sex workers.


Office: S1 114A
Phone: (607) 777 - 2722


Ph.D., New York University, 1997


Sites of Struggle: The Politics of Difference in Polynesian Nationalism & Beyond. Book manuscript in final preparation.

In Press. Gendered Modernities and Traditions: Masculinity and Nationalism in the Society Islands. In The Trouble with Young Men: Predicaments in Coming of Age. Vered Amit and Noel Dyke, eds. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books.

2005. Critical Reflexivity & Sexuality Studies in Anthropology. Reviews in Anthropology 34(1):21-47.

2004. A Passion for the Nation: Masculinity, Modernity, and Nationalist Struggle. American Ethnologist 31(4):606-630.

2002. Anthropology's Queer Future: Feminist Lessons from Tahiti. In Out in Theory: The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Anthropology. Ellen Lewin and William Leap, eds. Pp. 287-315. Champaign: University of Illinois Press. (Anthology was awarded the 2004 Ruth Benedict Prize.)

2000. Geographies of Gender & Politics: The Place of Difference in Polynesian Nationalism. Cultural Anthropology 15(2):171-216.

1999. Negotiating Transnational Sexual Economies: Female Mahu and Same-Sex Sexuality in ‘Tahiti and Its Islands.' In Female Desires: Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures. Evelyn Blackwood and Saskia Wieringa, eds. Pp. 230-250. New York: Columbia University Press. (Anthology was awarded the 2000 Ruth Benedict Prize.) 

1997. The Not So Pacific: Pacific Islander Films at the 1996 Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, New York. Pacific Studies 20(1):150-161.

1995. Erotic Anthropology: “Ritualized Homosexuality” in Melanesia and Beyond. American Ethnologist 22(4):848-867. Reprinted in Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion, edited by Morton Klass and Maxine Weisgrau, pp. 133-158 (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999); and in Same-Sex Cultures and Sexualities: An Anthropological Reader, edited by Jennifer Robertson, pp. 91-115 (London: Blackwell Publishers, 2005).


Last Updated: 6/23/15