Joshua Rubin

Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology





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

Research and Teaching

Joshua D. Rubin teaches in Bates College’s Department of Anthropology, and he is also a member of the program committee for Africana (formerly African American Studies). He is a theorist and ethnographer of practices and objects that manifest at—and consequently test—the categorical limits of art. His interest in what gets called “art,” by whom, and with what consequences leads him to be interested as well in critical theory, theories of race and gender, sports and video games, design, and machine learning.

His first book, published with University of Michigan Press in 2021, examines post-apartheid South African rugby. It problematizes assumed distinctions between sporting performance and artistic production by taking 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 published work has appeared in the journals SAFUNDI, Cultural Anthropology, and Africa. A book chapter on the politics of the NFL Rulebook was just published in the edited volume “Not Playing Around: Intersectional Identities, Media Representation, and the Power of Sport” (2022). His current book project, under contract with University of Michigan Press as of February 2022, documents the significance of playtesting in videogame development.

At Bates, Rubin has offered courses on art, sport, videogames, 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, Dance, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Philosophy as well as American Studies and Africana.

In 2020, Rubin was a co-winner of the Ruth M. and Robert H. Kroepsch Award for Excellence in Teaching. On the basis of a vote of graduating seniors, he delivered the keynote address at the Baccalaureate Service in 2022. The text of that address, “On Flourishes and Flourishing,” can be found here.


INDS 209 – Pixelated Parts: Race, Gender, Videogames

INDS 305 – Art, Power, and Politics

FYS 484 – Making Sense: The Social Significance of Sensory Perception

ANTH 101 – Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

AMAN125 – Critical Perspectives on Sport and Society

Current Courses

Fall Semester 2022

ANTH 209
Pixelated Parts: Race, Gender, Video Games

ANTH 441
History of Anthropological Theory

DCS 209
Pixelated Parts: Race, Gender, Video Games

GSS 209
Pixelated Parts: Race, Gender, Video Games