Associate Professor

Dr. Jonah Steinberg, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of Global Studies, is a sociocultural anthropologist with a focus on public scholarship and engaged ethnography. He is the author of two books—one with UNC Press and one with Yale—and the winner of two thematically distinct multi-year, single-investigator National Science Foundation grants. Broadly speaking, his research is on the “extreme social edge” and how it is iterated spatially, and on the subjective, affective, local experience of global forms of exclusion. He looks at the ways macrosocial formations—from the movement of empires to the flow of global capital—translate into lived subjectivities, embodied precariousness, and the constraining of choice. Dr. Steinberg is deeply committed to rendering research more widely visible both to publics and to the communities he works with.

Dr. Steinberg’s first book, Isma’ili Modern: Globalization and Identity in a Muslim Community (UNC Press, 2011) looked at ways that the inhabitants of very remote borderlands in Himalayan Pakistan and Tajikistan engage with citizenship as regards their membership in a transnational Islamic structure. In 2013, Isma’ili Modern won the inaugural Citizenship Book Prize from the Center for the Study of Citizenship. Dr. Steinberg’s second book, A Garland of Bones: Child Runaways in India, was published to critical acclaim by Yale University Press in 2019.

The research for A Garland of Bones was supported by Dr. Steinberg’s first National Science Foundation grant (NSF-BCS 0924506), totaling $243,608 between 2009 and 2013), which considered child runaways in postcolonial South Asian contexts from spatial, ethnographic, and historical vantage points, and with a special interest in their place as undesirable subjects in campaigns of urban cleansing and the varied modes of their intimate experience of global histories and forces. In 2016, he was awarded another multi-year, single-investigator NSF grant (NSF-BCS 1660323), totaling $299,710 between 2017 and 2022) for a new but thematically-related project on race, space, and segregation in the intersection of European Roma and other groups in the hyperdiverse conurbation of Marseille and elsewhere in southern Europe. This  fieldwork builds on prior funded research, commenced formally in 2014 and informally in 2011, whose funding through various non-NSF mechanisms has totaled around $50,000. It was in the course of this research that in 2015 Dr. Steinberg approached a major French museum at his fieldsite to propose that the museum enhance their materials and programming on Roma & Sinti people, to the end of greater recognition and representation.

Dr. Steinberg is now Commissaire—a founding co-curator —of the Barvalo exhibition, a participatory, collaborative, and community-centered project at Marseille’s Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Mediterranée (Mucem), a National Tier-1 museum, opening May of 2023, whose original proposal, vision, and conception, stemming from those conversations of nearly a decade earlier, were his. The dynamic exhibition is collaborative and participatory both in its mobilization of a transnational committee of experts, activists, and leaders, and in its imbrication with local communities, including associations, schools, and institutions of culture, across Europe, including in Marseille itself. It represents an incarnation of Dr. Steinberg’s commitment to public engagement and collaborative work, and to mobilizing research in the creation of larger conversations on critical concerns.

Dr. Steinberg is an avid ethnographer and committed to research in difficult, high-pressure settings. With current or former fieldsites in the Pakistan Himalaya, the Tajikistan Pamir, urban India, and Mediterranean Europe, among other locations, he has a fluent command over and maintains literacy in Urdu, Hindi, and French, and is highly proficient in Balkan and Danube varieties of Romani, the Indic language of the Romani people; and proficient and literate in Persian (Iranian, Tajik and Afghan Dari varieties), and Russian. He speaks fragments of a range of interesting smaller languages, from Magyar to Burushaski, Tamil to Khowar.

Dr. Steinberg is the creator of the new and recently-funded Early Roma Archaeologies Project, a collaboration with archaeologists Scott Van Keuren and Vasiliki Koutrafouri, alongside diverse partners in Greece, which will be the first archaeological exploration of an early Roma site anywhere, and the first to explore, through community dialogue and engagement, the potential for a Roma-driven archaeology. He is also engaged in a project, supported by the Miller Center for Holocaust Studies, on the politics of memory, abandonment, and forgetting at uncommemorated Holocaust camps, The Land of Lost Memory, and he is developing a program to document, with community-driven participation, several highly endangered varieties of the Romani language.

Jonah Steinberg Department of Anthropology

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Sociocultural anthropology; public scholarship and engaged ethnography; segregation and marginality; multimodal and imaginative anthropology; Roma & Sinti people; memory and the Holocaust; living histories of early Indic diasporas; endangered languages; humanitarian studies; Mediterranean Rim; South Asia; Race, space, and segregation


  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2006
  • BA, Swarthmore College 1997


  • 802-656-2988
Office Location:

510 Williams Hall