Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Joshua A. Bell

Curator of Globalization, Director, Recovering Voices Program and Acting Director of the National Anthropological Archives
Department / Division
Education
  • B.A., Brown University
  • M.Phil., Oxford University
  • D.Phil., Oxford University
Research Interests

As a cultural anthropologist I combine ethnographic fieldwork with research in museums and archive to examine the shifting local and global network of relationships between persons, artefacts and the environment. I am interested in materiality, the politics of representation, transforming political economies and ecologies, as well as issues around the production and understanding of history. To date my interests have involved me in fieldwork since 2000 with communities in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea documenting the social, economic and environmental transformations in the wake of regional resource extraction. Since 2011, I have been doing a collaborative project on the extraordinary intimate and global relations materialized in cell phones in Washington, D.C. and beyond.This work is complemented with on-going archival and museum-based research in Australia, Europe, Papua New Guinea, and the United States. At NMNH, I am carrying out research on our Oceanic collections with a particular emphasis on our Melanesian materials (New Caledonia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanatau) as well as the 8,000 million feet of film that compose the Human Studies Film Archive in the National Anthropological Archive.I am a founding member of the Recovering Voices Program, which connects communities to Smithsonian collections in the effort to support language and knowledge documentation, sustainability and revitalization. As part of Recovering Voices, I co-direct the annual Mother Tongue Film Festival which celebrates language and cultural diversity through showcasing films and filmmakers from around the world. I also am the Director for the Summer Institute of Museum Anthropology (SIMA), a summer course funded by the National Science Foundation which teaches graduate students how to effectively engage with museum collections. I also work with interns and fellows, help supervise PhD theses, and teach at George Washington University.

Publications
  • Kuipers, Joel, Bell, Joshua A., Hazen, Jacqueline, Kemble, Amanda, and Kobak, Briel. 2018. "Intimate Materialities in Cell Phone Repair: Performance, Anxiety and Trust in DC Repair Shops." in Linguistic and material intimacies of cell phones, edited by Bell, Joshua A. and Kuipers, Joel C., 235-263. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315388380-11
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2017. [Book review] "The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by Anna L.Tsing." Anthropological Quarterly. 277-282. https://doi.org/10.1353/anq.2017.0011
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2017. "A Bundle of Relations: Collections, Collecting, and Communities." Annual Review of Anthropology 46 (1):241-259. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-anthro-102313-030259
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2017. "1 Lot Magic Sticks 6 Bundles: Mimetic Technologies, Their Intimacies and Intersecting Histories.." in Mimesis and Pacific transcultural encounters: making likenesses in time, trade, and ritual reconfigurations, edited by Mageo, Jeannette Marie and Hermann, Elfriede., 257-273. Berghahn Books.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2016. ""Everything Will Come Up Like TV, Everything Will Be Revealed: Death in a Age of Uncertainty in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea." In Lipset, D. and Silverman, E. eds. Mortuary Dialogues Death Ritual and the Reproduction of Moral Community in Pacific M." in Mortuary Dialogues Death Ritual and the Reproduction of Moral Community in Pacific Modernities, edited by Lipset, David and Silverman, Eric., 208-233. Berghahn. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvpj7hc4.16
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2016. "The Echo of Things: the lives of photographs in the Solomon Islands." Journal of Pacific History 1-2. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223344.2016.1178898
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2016. "Dystopian realities and archival dreams in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea." Social Anthropology 24 (1):20-35. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-8676.12285
  • Sholts, Sabrina B., Bell, Joshua A., and Rick, Torben C. 2016. "Ecce Homo: Science and Society Need Anthropological Collections." Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31 (8):580-583. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2016.05.002
  • Bell, Joshua A. and Hasinof, Erin. , eds. 2015. The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives. University of Chicago Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A., West, Paige, and Filer, Colin. , eds. 2015. Tropical Forests Of Oceania Anthropological Perspectives. ANU Press. https://doi.org/10.22459/TFO.08.2015
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. ""Bird Specimen, Papua New Guinea."." in Trophies, Relics and Curios? : Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific, edited by Jacobs, Karen, Knowles, Chantal, and Wingfield, Chris., 57-62. Sidestone Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. "The Structural Violence of Resource Extraction in the Purari Delta." in Tropical Forests Of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives, 127-153. ANU Press. https://doi.org/10.22459/TFO.08.2015.06
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. ""You cannot divide a tomahawk as you can a stick of tobacco": Currencies of Conversion and History in and from the Papuan Gulf of Papua New Guinea." in Art, Artifact, Commodity: Perspectives on the P.G.T. Black Collection., edited by Foster, Robert J. and Leacock, Kathryn H., 25-34. Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. ""A View from the Smithsonian: Connecting Communities to Collections."." Practicing Anthropology 37 (3):14-16. https://doi.org/10.17730/0888-4552-37.3.14
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. "Cargo, Kago and Culture." Parkett 97:106-117. https://doi.org/10.5703/educationculture.31.1.97
  • Bell, Joshua A. and Hasinof, Erin. 2015. "“The Sticky After-Lives of “Sweet” Things: Performances and Silences of the 1928 USDA Sugarcane Expedition Collections.”." in The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives., edited by Bell, Joshua A. and Hasinof, Erin., 207-241. University of Chicago Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A., West, Paige, and Filer, Colin. 2015. "Introduction." in Tropical Forests Of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives, 1-21. ANU Press. https://doi.org/10.22459/TFO.08.2015.01
  • Hasinoff, Erin and Bell, Joshua A. 2015. "Introduction. The Anthropology of Expeditions.." in Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives., edited by Bell, Joshua A. and Hasinof, Erin., 1-32. University of Chicago Press.
  • Kemble, Amanda, Kobak, Briel, Bell, Joshua A., and Kuipers, Joel. 2015. ""How to Be a Cell Phone Repair Technician."." in A World of Work: Imagined Manuals for Real Jobs, edited by Gershorn, Ilana., 179-193. University of Cornell Press. https://doi.org/10.7591/9780801456428-014
  • Kuipers, Joel, Bell, Joshua A., Dent, Alexander, Kemble, Amanda, and Briel, Kobak. 2015. "Fixing Connections: Language, Culture and Cell Phone Use among High School and University Students in Washington, D.C.." Given at The David Skomp Distinguished Lecture Series in Anthropology, March 2014.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2014. "Fishhook." in Tools: Extending our Reach, edited by McCarty, Cara and McQuaid, Matilda., 49-49. Cooper Hewitt.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2014. "Fish Trap." in Tools: Extending our Reach, edited by McCarty, Cara and McQuaid, Matilda., 54-55. Cooper Hewitt.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2014. "Fishhook." in Tools: Extending our Reach, edited by McCarty, Cara and McQuaid, Matilda., 50-51. Cooper Hewitt.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2014. ""The Veracity of Form: Transforming Knowledges and their Forms in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea."." in Museum as Process: Translating Local and Global Knowledges, edited by Silverman, Raymond., 105-122. Routledge.
  • Bell, Joshua A., Christen, Kim, and Turin, Mark. , eds. 2013. After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge. Indiana University Bloomington Libraries.
  • Bell, Joshua A., Brown, Alison, and Gordon, Robert . , eds. 2013. Recreating First Contact: Expeditions, Anthropology and Popular Culture. Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2013. "The Sorcery of Sugar: Intersecting Agencies within collections made by the 1928 USDA Sugarcane Expedition to New Guinea." in Reassembling the Collection: Indigenous Agency and Ethnographic Collections, edited by Harrison, R., Clark, A., and Byrne S., 117-142. School of Advanced Research.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2013. "Dancing A Forest of Relations: Barkcloth Masks of the Central Papuan Gulf of Papua New Guinea." in Made in Oceania: Art and Social Landscapes, edited by Mesenhöller, Peter and Lueb, Oliver., 98-113. Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum Kultren Der Welt.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2013. "Mistaken Gods and other Misnomers of First Contact of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 1928 Sugarcane Expedition to New Guinea." in Recreating First Contact: Expeditions, Anthropology and Popular Culture, edited by Bell, Joshua A., Brown, Alison, and Gordon, Robert ., 109-128. Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2013. ""Expressions of Kindly Feeling": The London Missionary Society Collections from the Papuan Gulf." in Melanesia: Art and Encounter, edited by Bolton, Lissant, Thomas, Nicholas, Bonshek, Liz, and Adams, Julie., 57-63. British Museum Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A., Christen, Kim, and Turin, Mark. 2013. ""Introduction: After the Return."." Museum Anthropology Review 7 (1-2):1-21.
  • Bell, Joshua A., Christen, Kimberly, and Turin, Mark. 2013. "After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge Workshop Report." Museum Worlds: Advances in Research 1 (1):195-203. https://doi.org/10.3167/armw.2013.010112
  • Gershorn, Ilana and Bell, Joshua A. 2013. ""Introduction: The Newness of New Media."." Culture, Theory and Critique 54 (3):259-264. https://doi.org/10.1080/14735784.2013.852732
  • Gordon, Robert,, Brown, Alison, and Bell, Joshua A. 2013. "Introduction." in Recreating First Contact: Expeditions, Anthropology and Popular Culture, edited by Bell, Joshua A., Brown, Alison, and Gordon, Robert ., 1-30. Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
  • Isaac, Gwyneira and Bell, Joshua A. 2013. "Smithsonian Institution." in Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology: An Encyclopedia, edited by McGee, R. Jon and Warms, Richard L., 781-785. Sage Publications, Inc..
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2012. "Museums as Relational Entities: The Politics and Poetics of Heritage." Reviews in Anthropology 41 (1):70-92. https://doi.org/10.1080/00938157.2012.651072
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2012. [Book review] "Lines That Connect: Rethinking Pattern and Mind in the Pacific. By Graeme Were." Pacific Affairs: An International Review of Asia and the Pacific. 460-461.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2011. "Transforming basketry traditions in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea." in Basketry: Making Human Nature, edited by Heslop, Sandy., 38-43. University of East Anglia.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2011. "Recovering Voices: Documenting and Sustaining Endangered Languages and Knowledge." AnthroNotes 32 (2):7-9. https://doi.org/10.5479/10088/22460
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2010. "Out of the Mouth of Crocodiles: Eliciting Histories in Photographs and String-Figures." History and Anthropology 21 (4):351-373. https://doi.org/10.1080/02757206.2010.521156
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2010. "Ensamblando relaciones: la materialización de la jerarquía y el poder en Oceanía." in Moana: Culturas de las Islas del Pacífico, edited by Mondragón, Carlos., 45-56. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2010. [Book review] "Photography and Australia. By Helen Ennis. London: Reaktion Books, 2007." Pacific Affairs: An International Review of Asia and the Pacific. 62-63.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2010. "Sugar Plant Hunting by Airplane in New Guinea A Cinematic Narrative of Scientific Triumph and Discovery in the ‘Remote Jungles’." Journal of Pacific History 45 (1):37-56. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223344.2010.484166
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "Recovering voices: a new Smithsonian initiative." Anthropology News 50 (8):45.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "Rhombes." in Musée du quai Branly. La colletion., edited by Le Fur, Yves., 236-237. Skira-Flammarion/Musé du quai Branly.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "Documenting discontent: Struggles for recognition in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea." The Australian Journal of Anthropology 20 (1):28-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1757-6547.2009.00002.x
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "Masque éharo." in Musée du quai Branly. La colletion., edited by Le Fur, Yves., 232-233. Skira-Flammarion/Musé du quai Branly.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "For Scientific Purposes a Stand Camera is Essential: Salvaging Photographic Histories in Papua." in Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame, edited by Morton, Chris and Edwards, Elizabeth., 143-170. Ashgate.
  • Bell, Joshua A. and Geismar, Haidy. 2009. "Materialising Oceania: New ethnographies of things in Melanesia and Polynesia." The Australian Journal of Anthropology 20 (1):3-27. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1757-6547.2009.00001.x
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2008. [Book review] "Clay, Brenda Johnson (2005) Unstable Images: Colonial Discourse on New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, 1875-1935." Journal of Pacific History. 129-130.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2008. "Promiscuous Things: Perspectives on Cultural Property Through Photographs in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea." International Journal of Cultural Property 15 (2):123-139.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2006. "Losing the Forest but not the Stories in the Trees: Contemporary Understandings of the Government Anthropologist F.E. Williams’ 1922 Photographs of the Purari Delta, Papua New Guinea." Journal of Pacific History 41 (2):191-206. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223340600826094
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2006. "Marijuana, Guns, Crocodiles and Radios: Economies of Desire in the Purari Delta." Oceania 76 (3):220-234.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2006. "The Gulf of Papua." in Shadows of New Guinea: Art of the Great Island of Oceania from the Barbier-Mueller Collections, edited by Peltier, P. and Morin, F., 194-217. Somogy Editions d'Art.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2006. [Book review] "Clendinnen, Inga (2005) Dancing with Strangers: Europeans and Australians at First Contact. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press." Pacific Affairs: An International Review of Asia and the Pacific. 357-358.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2005. "Paired Brothers: concealment and revelation (Iatmul ritual art from Sepik, Papua New Guinea), Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology." Journal of Museum Ethnography 17:241-244.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2005. ""A gift of the first importance": A Preliminary Report on the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's Papuan Gulf Photographic Collection." Journal of Museum Ethnography 17:176-190.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2003. [Book review] "Young, Michael W. and Julia Clark (2001) An Anthropologist in Papua: The Photography of F.E. Williams, 1922-39. Hindmarsh and London: Crawford House Publishing in association with the National Archives of Australia." Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology. 169-171.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2003. "Looking to See: Reflections on Visual Repatriation in the Purari Delta, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea." in Museums and Source Communities: A Routledge Reader, edited by Peers, Laura and Brown, Alison., 111-121. Routledge Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2002. "Center for Hawaiian Studies." in The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia, edited by Lal, Brij V. and Fortune, Kate., 555-556. University of Hawai'i Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2002. "A New Hale for the Nation: The Center for Hawaiian Studies, Manoa Campus, University of Hawai’i." in Pacific Art: Persistence, Change and Meaning, edited by Herle, Anita, Stanley, N., Stevenson, K., and Welsch, R., 114-125. University of Hawai'i Press.

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