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). His research examines intersubjective autonomous worlds — social worlds that appear to obey their own rules, independent from the rules of everyday life — and how violence plays out in those worlds.

He is currently at the beginning stages of a research project about threatening representations. When does a representation become a threat? When, in other words, does evocation lapse into invocation? Who decides? On what criteria?

This project builds on two previous book-length ethnographic works. His first book, published with University of Michigan Press in 2021, examines South African rugby. Rugby fields are treated as autonomous worlds, on which many of the rules of everyday life are thought not to apply. Players pursue arbitrary goals with arbitrary methods. This book takes the autonomy of rugby seriously and explores how the autonomous world of rugby became a terrain for colonization—both by the colonial state and by the militant white masculinity of apartheid—and how anti-apartheid activists and the post-apartheid state attempted to contest this colonization and advance alternative political projects. In this framing, rugby is not a symbolic representation of struggles happening elsewhere. Rather, it is a world of its own, which demands conceptual and embodied adaptations from the humans who encounter it. Rubin’s second book project further extends this interest in colonialism and autonomous worlds. This project, an ethnography of the roles that user research plays in the construction in the virtual worlds of videogames, is under contract with University of Michigan Press.

In addition to these major projects, he has also published on contestations around artistic autonomy in Zimbabwe. His book chapter on the politics of the NFL Rulebook was just released in the edited volume “Not Playing Around: Intersectional Identities, Media Representation, and the Power of Sport” (2022). Additional work has appeared in the journals SAFUNDI, Cultural Anthropology, and Africa.

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.

Current Courses

Short Term 2024

Race, Gender, and the Practices and Politics That Move Videogames From Imagination to Reality

Fall Semester 2024

INDS 457
Interdisciplinary Senior Thesis