Rubin, Joshua D.

Joshua D. Rubin

Lecturer in Anthropology


B.A., University of Michigan; Ph.D., Yale University

Joshua D. Rubin teaches in Bates College’s Department of Anthropology,
and he is also a member of the program committees for American Studies
and Africana (formerly African American Studies). At Bates, Rubin has
offered courses on art, sport, race and gender, sensory perception,
popular culture in Africa, ethnographic writing, and the discipline of
anthropology and its histories. His courses have been cross-listed with
Art and Visual Culture as well as American Studies and Africana.

Rubin is a sociocultural anthropologist by training, and his research
focuses on the politics of play. (Some relevant questions: Where and
when do activities get called play? Who gets to decide, and what happens
in those moments of recognition? How is play used and structured, and to
what ends?) He is especially interested in forms of emergent play—those
uncertain moments when play exceeds some recognized limit and one no
longer has a stable understanding of how one should play, what one
should play for, and—in some situations—who is playing and who has
started to “get serious.” His first book manuscript, under contract with
University of Michigan press, examines the politics of play in
post-apartheid South African rugby. It takes rugby to be a social actor
in its own right—a practice that comes to life in the openness of play
and subverts the intentions of its players—and it demonstrates how
rugby’s vitality has shaped a range of political projects, including the
militant white masculinity of apartheid, the anti-apartheid struggle,
and the post-apartheid nationalism of the ANC. He has also researched
and written on the administrative incoherence of the apartheid state and
the everyday theorizing of artists and informal natural gas dealers in
Zimbabwe. His next book project studies manifestations of emergent play
in video games and their affiliated communities.

In addition to his interest in play, Rubin is also interested in critical theory as well as
theories of race and gender, sports and video games, art and aesthetics,
and conceptions of state power. His published work has appeared in the
journals SAFUNDI, Cultural Anthropology, and Africa.