Joshua Babcock

Josh completed his PhD in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology at the University of Chicago in 2022. His research examines the coloniality of images in Singapore—not only visual images, but images that get materialized multimodally through talk, narrative, performance, institutions, and figures of personhood. The research explores competing efforts at claiming and blocking group-based belonging in Singapore amid rising anxieties over migration, specters of foreign interference, and Singapore’s uneasy position in a changing global-geopolitical order.

Recently, Josh has also begun researching various side interests, from an exploration of Singapore’s craft cocktail culture to consider the enforced necessity and impossibility of commoditized forms of national “distinctiveness”; to early 20th-century media representations of Malay funerary practices in the Mississippi Delta and homogenizing images of Indigeneity; to the fraught, white-settler-colonial afterlives of a 19th-century Michigan ghost town named Singapore. He is also in the early stages of a multi-sited, community-engaged participatory ethnography, Doing Being Other, focused on the intersectional experiences of otherness among Southeast Asians who, ironically, are erased by dominant framings of the region as racially, culturally, and linguistically rojak (a Malay term meaning ‘eclectic mix’). By studying boundary-making processes at marginalized social locations, this research seeks to understand more broadly how images mediate the making and crossing of boundaries at both the peripheries and the ritual, institutional, and ideological centers of power—not just in Singapore, but across the modern world. 

Josh’s written work and edited thematic collections have appeared (or will appear) in the Journal of Linguistic AnthropologyAmerican AnthropologistSigns & Society, the Journal of Southeast Asian Media StudiesMediaTropesAsian Studies, the Blackwell Handbook of Urban and Regional StudiesNew Directions in Linguistic GeographyAnthropology News, and anthro{dendum}, among others. He has taught at the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.