Foto del docente

Aurora Donzelli

Associate Professor

Department of History and Cultures

Academic discipline: M-DEA/01 Demology, Ethnology and Anthropology

Curriculum vitae

Download Curriculum Vitae (.pdf 347KB )

I am a linguistic and sociocultural anthropologist with an expertise in Southeast Asia.

I am Associate Editor of Language in Society (Cambridge University Press) and member of the Editorial Board of Signs and Society (University of Chicago Press).

I received my PhD in anthropology from the University of Milan-Bicocca and held teaching and research affiliations at the Department of Anthropology at UCLA (as visiting PhD student); at the Endangered Languages Academic Programme and at the Linguistics Department at SOAS in London (as visiting post-doctoral researcher); and at the Asian Civilizations Museum (ACM) in Singapore (as research fellow).


Prior to joining the Department of History, Cultures, and Civilizations, I taught for twelve years in the United States (at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York), I was adjunct professor of the graduate course in Cultures and Societies of Southeast Asia (at the University of Milan-Bicocca), and held positions as associate researcher and senior associate researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences (ICS) and Institute of Theoretical and Computational Linguistics (ILTEC), in Lisbon.


Aside from my long-term interest in Indonesia, I undertook a multi-sited (in Portugal and East Timor) research project on the postcolonial Lusophonic imagination, and, more recently, I have examined how graphic artifacts (specifically brands, typefaces, and memes) shape moral, political, and aesthetic practices in Italy and in the US. The outputs of my research have appeared in Italian and international peer-reviewed journals and in books published by Oxford University Press, University of Hawaii Press, National University of Singapore Press, Routledge, Wiley-Blackwell, Berghahn Books, Palgrave. I also co-edited (with Alessandra Fasulo) a volume in Italian (entitled Agency e Linguaggio, Meltemi 2007) devoted to the study of theories of agency from a linguistic, pragmatic, and philosophical standpoint.


My first monograph—Methods of Desire (University of Hawaii Press, 2019)—examines the intersection between language and capitalism among the inhabitants of the Toraja highlands of Sulawesi, in Indonesia and discusses how the growing influence of transnational lending agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank is transforming the ways in which people desire, voice their entitlements, and imagine the future. My second monograph—One or Two Words (NUS Press, 2020)—analyzes the transformations in political talk ensuing from Indonesia’s administrative restructuring and describes the emerging forms of cosmopolitan indigeneity and the novel ways of imagining the nation-state in the Indonesian peripheries.


Entitled Back to the Roots, my manuscript-in-progress furthers the understanding of rural revivals in Italy and beyond through a new focus on the poetic (i.e. world-making) role of language in envisioning utopian alternatives to global capitalism. On the basis of audiovisual and ethnographic data collected by participating in the lives of hobby-farmers, neo-rural entrepreneurs, and food activists, my monograph-in-progress argues that neo-rurality is an existential and political project that draws on creative linguistic and semiotic practices as a way to respond to the ongoing standardization of both agricultural labor and human interaction.


I am the recipient of research grants as Principal Investigator from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).