Foto del docente

Aurora Donzelli

Associate Professor

Department of History and Cultures

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


Keywords: Late capitalism and the political economy of language. Political oratory and vernacular theories of action and power. Language and ordinary ethics Language and material culture Graphic design and semiotic ideologies Brands and branding Ethnopoetics and the aesthetics of verbal performance Race, language, and identity. Evangelization and colonial genres of discourse

1. The ethnography of late capitalism and the political economy of language.

2. Political oratory and vernacular theories of action and power.

3. Language and ordinary ethics.

4. Language and material culture

5. Graphic design and semiotic ideologies.

6. The role of brands and branding in contemporary global capitalism.

7. Ethnopoetics and the aesthetics of verbal performance.

8. Race, language, and identity.

9. Evangelization and new discursive genres ensuing from the colonial encounter.


My primary field site is the Toraja highlands of Sulawesi (in Indonesia), where I have conducted long-term fieldwork since the late 1990s. My work, however, is international and interdisciplinary in scope and focuses on the intersection between language, politics, and morality in different geographic and cultural contexts. 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.


My published work concerns language and neoliberalism (UHP 2019 and Discourse and Society 2020); graphic design and American political discourse in the Trump’s era (Signs and Society 2019); language and the politics of indigeneity in Indonesia (NUS Press 2020); the intersection between social theory, grammar, and local theories of moral and political agency (Anthropological Linguistics 2016 and Applied Linguistics Review 2010); the semiotics of place rebranding in Italy (Routledge 2020); language, material culture, and the aesthetics of verbal and visual arts (Journal of Material Culture 2020, Text and Talk 2007 and Con-fine Editore 2017); ideologies of race and language in the Portuguese colonial empire (Routledge 2016); the aesthetics of persuasion in political and marketing practices (Wiley 2020); the political economy of commensality in Southeast Asia agrarian societies (Archiv für Völkerkunde 2010 and Oxford 2020); ritual language, linguistic markets, and religious conversion (Berghahn 2008); code-switching, ethnicity, and bilingualism in Indonesia (Journal of Applied Psycholinguistics 2008).

My co-edited (with Alessandra Fasulo) volume on Language and Agency, published in Italian by Meltemi Press (2007), explored how moral and semantic agency is encoded and performed in different grammatical systems and speech communities across the world.


My first monograph—Methods of Desire (University of Hawaii Press, 2019)—examines the intersection between language and capitalism. Building on almost two decades of fieldwork in the Toraja highlands of Sulawesi, the volume describes how the growing influence of transnational lending agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank is transforming the ways in which people desire and voice their expectations, intentions, and entitlements.

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 complex forms of cosmopolitan indigeneity that have emerged in the Toraja highlands during several decades of encounters with a variety of local and international interlocutors.

I am currently developing a new research project on language, capitalism, and rural revival in Italy.