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. Bell, Joshua A. and Kuipers, Joel C., editors. 235–263. New York: 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, 90 (1) 277–282. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. https://doi.org/10.1353/anq.2017.0011.
  • 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. Mageo, Jeannette Marie and Hermann, Elfriede, editors. 257–273. New York: Berghahn Books. In ASAO studies in Pacific anthropology .
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2017. "A Bundle of Relations: Collections, Collecting, and Communities." Annual Review of Anthropology, 241–259. 46, (1), Annual Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-anthro-102313-030259.
  • 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, 20–35. 24, (1), Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-8676.12285.
  • 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. Lipset, David and Silverman, Eric, editors. 208–233. New York: Berghahn. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvpj7hc4.16.
  • Sholts, Sabrina B., Bell, Joshua A., and Rick, Torben C. 2016. "Ecce Homo: Science and Society Need Anthropological Collections." Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 580–583. 31, (8), Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2016.05.002.
  • Bell, Joshua A., West, Paige, and Filer, Colin, editors. 2015. Tropical Forests Of Oceania Anthropological Perspectives. Canberra: ANU Press. https://doi.org/10.22459/TFO.08.2015.
  • Bell, Joshua A. and Hasinof, Erin, editors. 2015. The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. "Cargo, Kago and Culture." Parkett, 106–117. 97, https://doi.org/10.5703/educationculture.31.1.97.
  • 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.. Foster, Robert J. and Leacock, Kathryn H., editors. 25–34. Buffalo: Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. "The Structural Violence of Resource Extraction in the Purari Delta." In Tropical Forests Of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives. 127–153. Canberra: ANU Press. https://doi.org/10.22459/TFO.08.2015.06.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. ""Bird Specimen, Papua New Guinea."." In Trophies, Relics and Curios? : Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific. Jacobs, Karen, Knowles, Chantal, and Wingfield, Chris, editors. 57–62. Leiden: Sidestone Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2015. ""A View from the Smithsonian: Connecting Communities to Collections."." Practicing Anthropology, 14–16. 37, (3), Oklahoma City: Society for Applied anthropology. https://doi.org/10.17730/0888-4552-37.3.14.
  • 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.. Bell, Joshua A. and Hasinof, Erin, editors. 207–241. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A., West, Paige, and Filer, Colin. 2015. "Introduction." In Tropical Forests Of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives. 1–21. Canberra: 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.. Bell, Joshua A. and Hasinof, Erin, editors. 1–32. Chicago: 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. Gershorn, Ilana, editor. 179–193. Ithaca: 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. [presentation]. The David Skomp Distinguished Lecture Series in Anthropology, March 2014. Indiana University, Department of Anthropology.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2014. "Fishhook." In Tools: Extending our Reach. McCarty, Cara and McQuaid, Matilda, editors. 49–49. New York: 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. Silverman, Raymond, editor. 105–122. London: Routledge.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2014. "Fish Trap." In Tools: Extending our Reach. McCarty, Cara and McQuaid, Matilda, editors. 54–55. New York: Cooper Hewitt.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2014. "Fishhook." In Tools: Extending our Reach. McCarty, Cara and McQuaid, Matilda, editors. 50–51. New York: Cooper Hewitt.
  • Bell, Joshua A., Brown, Alison, and Gordon, Robert , editors. 2013. Recreating First Contact: Expeditions, Anthropology and Popular Culture. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A., Christen, Kim, and Turin, Mark, editors. 2013. After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge. Bloomington: Indiana University Bloomington Libraries.
  • 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. Bell, Joshua A., Brown, Alison, and Gordon, Robert , editors. 109–128. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
  • 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. Mesenhöller, Peter and Lueb, Oliver, editors. 98–113. Cologne: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum Kultren Der Welt.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2013. ""Expressions of Kindly Feeling": The London Missionary Society Collections from the Papuan Gulf." In Melanesia: Art and Encounter. Bolton, Lissant, Thomas, Nicholas, Bonshek, Liz, and Adams, Julie, editors. 57–63. London: British Museum 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. Harrison, R., Clark, A., and Byrne S., editors. 117–142. Santa Fe: School of Advanced Research.
  • Bell, Joshua A., Christen, Kim, and Turin, Mark. 2013. ""Introduction: After the Return."." Museum Anthropology Review, 1–21. 7, (1-2),
  • 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, 195–203. 1, (1), 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, 259–264. 54, (3), 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. Bell, Joshua A., Brown, Alison, and Gordon, Robert , editors. 1–30. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
  • Isaac, Gwyneira and Bell, Joshua A. 2013. "Smithsonian Institution." In Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology: An Encyclopedia. McGee, R. Jon and Warms, Richard L., editors. 781–785. London: Sage Publications, Inc..
  • 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, 85 (2) 460–461. The University of British Columbia.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2012. "Museums as Relational Entities: The Politics and Poetics of Heritage." Reviews in Anthropology, 70–92. 41, (1), https://doi.org/10.1080/00938157.2012.651072.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2011. "Transforming basketry traditions in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea." In Basketry: Making Human Nature. Heslop, Sandy, editor. 38–43. Norwich: University of East Anglia.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2011. "Recovering Voices: Documenting and Sustaining Endangered Languages and Knowledge." AnthroNotes, 7–9. 32, (2), https://doi.org/10.5479/10088/22460.
  • 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, 37–56. 45, (1), https://doi.org/10.1080/00223344.2010.484166.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2010. "Out of the Mouth of Crocodiles: Eliciting Histories in Photographs and String-Figures." History and Anthropology, 351–373. 21, (4), https://doi.org/10.1080/02757206.2010.521156.
  • 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, 83 (3) 62–63.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2010. "Ensamblando relaciones: la materialización de la jerarquía y el poder en Oceanía." In Moana: Culturas de las Islas del Pacífico. Mondragón, Carlos, editor. 45–56. México: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "Documenting discontent: Struggles for recognition in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea." The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 28–47. 20, (1), https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1757-6547.2009.00002.x.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "Recovering voices: a new Smithsonian initiative." Anthropology News, 45. 50, (8),
  • 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. Morton, Chris and Edwards, Elizabeth, editors. 143–170. Surrey: Ashgate.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "Masque éharo." In Musée du quai Branly. La colletion.. Le Fur, Yves, editor. 232–233. Paris: Skira-Flammarion/Musé du quai Branly.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2009. "Rhombes." In Musée du quai Branly. La colletion.. Le Fur, Yves, editor. 236–237. Paris: Skira-Flammarion/Musé du quai Branly.
  • Bell, Joshua A. and Geismar, Haidy. 2009. "Materialising Oceania: New ethnographies of things in Melanesia and Polynesia." The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 3–27. 20, (1), https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1757-6547.2009.00001.x.
  • 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, 123–139. 15, (2),
  • 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, 43 (1) 129–130.
  • 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, 191–206. 41, (2), https://doi.org/10.1080/00223340600826094.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2006. "Marijuana, Guns, Crocodiles and Radios: Economies of Desire in the Purari Delta." Oceania, 220–234. 76, (3),
  • 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, 79 (2) 357–358.
  • 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. Peltier, P. and Morin, F., editors. 194–217. Paris: Somogy Editions d'Art.
  • 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, 241–244. 17, Hull, England: Museum Ethnographers Group.
  • 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, 176–190. 17, Hull, England: Museum Ethnographers Group.
  • 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, 4 (1) 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. Peers, Laura and Brown, Alison, editors. 111–121. London: Routledge 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. Herle, Anita, Stanley, N., Stevenson, K., and Welsch, R., editors. 114–125. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
  • Bell, Joshua A. 2002. "Center for Hawaiian Studies." In The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Lal, Brij V. and Fortune, Kate, editors. 555–556. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

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