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Tarek Elhaik


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


My work is based on intensive participant observation in contemporary art and curatorial worlds. It is a contribution to aesthetic anthropology, the anthropology of contemporary arts, and the anthropology of the contemporary image. I conducted my first fieldwork in Mexico City where I was attentive to the image-work and writings of media artists, as well as to the concept-work of curators who care about them. I've particularly engaged those artists and curators whose inquiries into the contemporary provocatively signaled 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. 

Research Focus

My new book proposes an alternate genealogy of  "aesthetic anthropology" by examining the mode of thought and style of practice of five contemporary artists. These are Raul Ruiz, Mathias Goeritz, Anna Maria Maiolino, Mounir Fatmi, and Adrian Piper.  Their image work and writings foreground both complex philosophico-aesthetic interconnections (between traditions of abstraction, in particular) and an anthropological problem of "cogitation."  Cogitation is a concept I reanimate and reconfigure from the 12th century Cordoban thinker Ibn Rushd (Latin. Averroes). 

Selected Publications

  • 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. (2014) A Bloc of Sensation in Lieu of Geography, in Sweet Sixties: Specters and Spirits of a Parallel Avant-garde. Georg Schöllhammer & Ruben Arevshatyan (Eds.) Sternberg Press (2014): 217-228.
  • Elhaik, T. & Marcus, G. (2010) Curatorial designs in the poetics and politics of ethnography today: A conversation, in Beyond Ethnographic Writing, Ana María Forero Angel and Luca Simeone (Eds.), Armando Publishers.


  • ANT191: Media Anthropology
  • ANT210: Anthropology of the Image
  • ANT201: Graduate Pro-Seminar
  • ANT136: Ethnographic 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.