- Professorial Lecturer in Anthropology
- Smithsonian Anthropology Department, MRC 112
- [email protected]
Areas of Expertise
Anthropology of material and visual culture, political economy and ecology, museums and cultures of collecting, anthropology of history; Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, Hawai'i.
Joshua Bell is the Curator of Globalization at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. His work includes Papuan ethnography, language preservation, and the culture of cellular phones.
For more on Dr. Bell, visit his webpage.
Dr. Bell has conducted fieldwork since 2000 with communities in the Purari Delta, an ecologically diverse tidal estuary on Papua New Guinea’s south coast. Examining the social, economic and environmental transformations in the wake of regional resource extraction, I am also collaborating with I'ai communities to document aspects of their heritage and traditions. This work is complemented with on-going archival and museum-based research in Australia, Europe, Papua New Guinea, and the United States.
- The Sweetness of the Stone-Age. Examines the narratives found in, and around, the dispersed collections made during the 1928 United States Department of Agriculture's Sugarcane Expedition to New Guinea.
- Melanesian Networks. Survey of NMNH's Melanesian collections (New Caledonia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) to tease out the professional and personal relations, and histories, found in the Smithsonian's collections.
- Recovering Voices: Documenting and Sustaining Endangered Languages and Knowledge. Interdisciplinary project that connects communities with collections to help document and sustain cultural heritage.
- Political Ecologies of Cell Phones. Examines the extraordinary intimate and global relations materialized in cell phones through examining their use by communities in the DC metro region.
Ph.D. 2006, University of Oxford
M.Ph. 1998, University of Oxford
B.A. 1996, Brown University
2018 Bell, J.A. and Kuipers, J (eds). Linguistic and Material Intimacies of Cell Phones. London: Routledge Press.
2015 Bell, J.A. and E. Hasinof (eds). The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2015 Bell, J.A., West, P., Filer, C. (eds). Tropical Forests of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives. Canberra: Australian National University Press.
2013 Bell, J.A., A. Brown and R.J. Gordon, eds. Recreating First Contact: Expeditions, Anthropology and Popular Culture. Book of 13 essays covering expeditions in North and South America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
Selected Articles and Book Chapters
2018 Bell, J.A., Kuipers, J., Kobak, B., and Kemble, A., "Unseen Connections: Introduction." In Unseen Connections: The Materiality of Cell phones Special Issue of Anthropological Quarterly 91(2): 465-484.
2018 Bell, J.A., Kuipers, J., Hazen, J. Kemble, A., Kobak, B. "The Materiality of Cell Phones Repair: Re-making Commodities in Washington, D.C. In Unseen Connections: The Materiality of Cell phones. Anthropological Quarterly 91(2): 603-634.
2018 Kuipers, J and Bell, J.A. “Linguistic and Material Intimacies of Cell Phones: An Introduction.” In Bell, J.A. and Kuipers, J (eds) Linguistic and Material Intimacies of Cell Phones. Pp. 1-30. London: Routledge Press.
2018 Kuipers, J. and Bell J.A with Kobak, B., Kemble, A. and Hazen, J. “Intimate Materialities in Cell Phone Repair: Performance, Anxiety and Trust in DC Repair Shops.” In Bell, J.A. and Kuipers, J (eds) Linguistic and Material Intimacies of Cell Phones. Pp. 237-265. London: Routledge Press.
2017 Bell, J.A., “..you cannot divide a tomahawk as you can a stick of tobacco”: Currencies of Conversion and History in and from the Papuan Gulf of Papua New Guinea.” In R. Foster and K. Leacock (ed.) Art/Artifact/Commodity: Perspectives on the P.G.T. Black Collection. Volume 42, Pp. 25-34. Buffalo: Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.
2017 Bell, J.A. . “A Bundle of Relations: Collections, Collecting and Communities.” Annual Review of Anthropology 46(1): 241-259.
2016 Sholts, SB, Bell, JA. Rick, T. . “Ecce Home: science and society need anthropological collections.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 31(8):580-83.
2016 Bell, J.A. 2016. “Dystopian Realities and Archival Dreams in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea.” Social Anthropology 24: 20-35.
2016 Bell, J.A. . “ ‘Everything will come up like TV, everything will be revealed’: Death in an Age of Uncertainty in the Purari Delta of PNG.” In Mortuary Dialogues: Death Ritual and the Reproduction of Moral Community in Pacific Modernities. Pp. 208-233. Silverman, E. and Lipset, D. (eds). New York: Berghahn Press.
2015 Bell, J.A. “The Sticky After-Lives of “Sweet” Things: Performances and Silences of the 1928 USDA Sugarcane Expedition Collections.” In The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives. Bell, J.A. and E. Hasinof (eds). Pp. 207-241. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2015 Bell, J.A. . “structural violence of resource extraction in the Purari Delta.” In Tropical Forests of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives. Bell, J.A., West, P., Filer, C. (eds). Pp. 127-153. Canberra: Australian National University Press.
2015 Bell, J.A., "‘The Veracity of Form: Transforming Knowledges and their forms in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea’ in Museums as Process: Translating Local and Global Knowledge. R. Silverman (ed). Pp. 105-122. London: Routledge.
2013 Bell, J.A., :‘The Sorcery of Sugar: Intersecting Agencies within collections made by the 1928 USDA Sugarcane Expedition to New Guinea. In R. Harrison, A. Clark, and S. Byrne, Reassembling the Collection: Indigenous Agency and Ethnographic Collections, pp. 117-142. Santa Fe: School of Advanced Research.
2013 Bell, J.A., "‘Expressions of Kindly Feeling’: The London Missionary Society Collections from the Papuan Gulf.” In L. Bolton, N. Thomas, L. Bonshek and J. Adams (eds) Melanesia: Art and Encounter, pp. 57-63. London: British Museum Press.
2013 Bell, J.A., Christen, K. and M. Turin. “Introduction: After the Return.” Museum Anthropology Review, 7(1-2):1-21.
2013 Gershon, I. and Bell, J.A. . “Introduction: The Newness of New Media.” Culture Theory and Critique 54(3):259-264.
2012 Bell, J.A. "Museums as relational entities: The politics and poetics of heritage," Reviews in Anthropology 41(1): 70-92.
2010 Bell, J.A. "Sugar Plant Hunting by Airplane in New Guinea A Cinematic Narrative of Scientific Triumph and Discovery in the ‘Remote Jungles’," Journal of Pacific History, 45(1): 37-56.
2010 Bell, J.A. "Out of the mouth of crocodiles: Eliciting histories in photographs and string-figures," History and Anthropology, 21(4): 351-373.
2009 Bell, J.A. "For scientific purposes a stand camera is essential: Salvaging photographic histories in Papua." In C. Morton and E. Edwards, eds., Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame. Surrey: Ashgate, p. 143-170.
2006 Bell, J.A. "Marijuana, guns, crocodiles and radios: Economies of desire in the Purari Delta," Oceania 76(3): 220-234.