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Tarek Elhaik


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, UC Berkeley, 2007


My work is based on participant observation in several domains of practice: visual arts, curatorial practice, cinematic arts, and experimental media. It is a contribution to the anthropology of contemporary art and contemporary images. I conducted my first fieldwork in Mexico City where I was attentive to the image-work and writings of artists, as well as to the concept-work of curators who care about them. I've particularly engaged those artists and curators whose practice provocatively signals an ongoing breakdown and rethinking of modernist cultural forms and historical figurations of the New Man in Mexico (eg. Mestizaje, Mexicanidad, cosmopolitan-nationalist modes of existence, avant-garde aesthetics).  The outcome of this fieldwork experience and experiment is a book length study titled The Incurable Image: Curating Post-Mexican Film & Media Arts (Edinburgh University Press, February 2016).
I've also collaborated on various public programssymposia, and editorial projects that examine what I call the "zone of mutual intrusion" between anthropology, art, and philosophy.  I also direct AIL: the Anthropology of the Image Lab in Young Hall 226,  a space for conversations with interlocutors in adjacent disciplines committed to fostering inquiries through the curation of images and concepts. I'm also the host of the radio program "Cogitations". 

Research Focus

The title of my new book is Cogitations: Anthropology & Aesthetics (Routledge, 2021). It is an inquiry based on fieldwork in an ecology of sites and practices: conceptual art, cinematic fragments, architectural environments, photographic montages, artistic interventions in natural history museums, and more.  The juxtaposition of these practices generates intriguing patterns of relation and reconfigures the "aesthetic experience" into an anthropological problem of "cogitation."   

Selected Publications

  • Elhaik, T. & Marcus, G. (2019) "Curatorial Designs" in The Anthropologist As Curator, Ed. Roger Sansi, Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 17-34.
  • Elhaik, T. (2016) The Incurable-Image: Curating Post-Mexican Film & Media Arts, Edinburgh University Press.
  • Elhaik, T. "What is Contemporary Anthropology?" (2013) in Critical Arts: Journal of Media & Culture Studies vol. 27.6. London: Routledge: 784-798.
  • Elhaik, T. "A Bloc of Sensation In Lieu of Geography" in Sweet Sixties: Specters and Spirits of a Parallel Avant-garde; Editors: Georg Schöllhammer & Ruben Arevshatyan (Sternberg Press, 2014), p. 217-228.


  • ANT191: Media Anthropology
  • ANT210: Aesthetic Anthropology
  • ANT201: Graduate Pro-Seminar
  • ANT136: Anthropological Cinema


Between 2014-2017 I was part of a collaborative team of researchers, hosted by the Los Angeles Film Forum and funded by the Getty Foundation, that edited an anthology and curated several platforms on experimental cinema in Latin America. The outcome of my individual research was both an article on the anthropological film work of Raul Ruiz and a companion program at MOCA, Los Angeles.