Alex Golub

Alex Golub, PhD

Associate Professor

General Interests
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General Interests

Papua New Guinea and Melanesia; World of Warcraft and the Internet; kinship and identity; resource development; political anthropology


I am a Jewish intellectual from northern California. I received a BA in anthropology from Reed College (1995), and my MA (1997) and Ph.D. (2006) from the University of Chicago. I describe myself as a political anthropologist, and I am particularly interested in issues of identity and politics -- broadly, my project involves connecting anthropological theories of kinship and identity with political-philosophical approaches to identity and agency. Within this overall framework I have two and a half field of research.

My main area of expertise is the relationship between grassroots people and the mining and hydrocarbon industries in Papua New Guinea. My book manuscript, "Making The Ipili Feasible: Imagining 'Local' and 'Global' Actors at The Porgera Gold Mine, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea," examines these issues using materials gathered over ten years of engagement with Papua New Guinea, including my dissertation research. Porgera is home to one of the largest gold mines in the world, and the Ipili were among the most successful groups to obtain concessions from the government and mining companies. In the book I use an extended case study of high-stakes negotiations at the mine site to tie a semiotic account of the creation of representations of stakeholder collectivities to a broader political-economic account of power politics within a contemporary Pacific nation.

More recently I have begun additional research on policy elites in Port Moresby, which will result in future publications. This project is designed to complement close studies of the on-site politics of resource development by enabling me to understand how 'global flows' of money and power manifest themselves in particular offices in the national capital.

Racial imagery of white development and black backwardness pervaded my fieldsite. This fact, and my own exposure the Australian culture of many of the mine's employees, led me to examine the notions of American culture that I implicitly used as a comparison with the Ipili. As a result my second main area of interest are American notions of self control, teamwork, and success. I am studying these through the lens of virtual worlds, and I am currently studying medium-core raiders in the massively multiplayer game World of Warcraft.

Finally, I have 'half' an interest in anthropology as a discipline and particularly how it is made 'public' and thus politically relevant. I call this 'half' an interest since my activities in these areas is not scholarly but 'applied': I am a founder and contributor to, the most popular cultural anthropology website on the Internet and one of Science's 'top twenty science blogs'. I also write occasionally for Inside Higher-Ed. Finally, I am an active advocate of open access scholarship.

Overall, however, I am a fox and not a hedgehog -- I am broadly interested in a variety of topics. I have a background in historical anthropology of 'first contact', and an interest in the image of Leviathan as a trope for 'order' in the ancient near east, early modern Europe, and contemporary social theory. I am interested in learning more about China. I am interested in the history of anthropology. So whatever.

I would be interested in working with students who focus on Papua New Guinea, virtual worlds, or wider issues of resource developments, political anthropology, or the politics of identity.


Latest texts at

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Contemporary Anthropological Theory
  • Professional Skills Development
  • Field Methods
  • Political Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Melanesia
  • Anthropology of Virtual Worlds