Faculty Directory

Donald L. Brenneis
  • Pronouns he, him, his, his, himself
  • Title
    • Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Anthropology Department
  • Affiliations South Asia Studies, Legal Studies, Education Department
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Office Location
    • Remote work location, 349
  • Mail Stop Social Sciences 1 Faculty Services
  • Mailing Address
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Anthropology, Linguistics, Ethnomusicology, Sound, Folklore, Folk Music

Research Interests

Linguistic anthropology, folklore, legal anthropology, ethnomusicology, overseas Indians, South Asia, disputing and dispute management, legal language, bureaucratic institutions, knowledge production, improvisation

Biography, Education and Training

Donald Brenneis is a linguistic and social anthropologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  He studied anthropology as an undergraduate at Stanford and received his Ph.D. from Harvard. His work has focused on the social life of communicative practices—linguistic, musical, performative, and textual.  He worked in a South Asian diasporic community in Fiji over a 20-year period, examining the relationships among language, music, conflict, law, and politics—and considering, among other things, children’s arguments, men’s gossip, and the complexities of managing conflict through indirect speech.  More recently he has been doing ethnographic work—both as participant and as observer—on peer review, scholarly publishing, assessment practices, higher education policy, and the ongoing shaping of scholarly and scientific knowledge within and beyond anthropology. 

He taught at Pitzer College from 1973-1996 and has been in the Santa Cruz Department since 1996. He has also served as editor of American Ethnologist (1989-1994) and president of the American Anthropological Association (2001-2003). He co-chaired the editorial committee of the University of California Press (2007-2009) and is currently co-editor of Annual Review of Anthropology. In 2007-2008 he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Selected Publications

  • “Grog and gossip in Bhatgaon: style and substance in Fiji Indian conversation,” American Ethnologist (1984)
  • “Some cases for culture,” Human Development (2002)
  • "A Partial View of Contemporary Anthropology: 2003 Presidential Address, American Anthropological Association," American Anthropologist (2004)
  • "Doing Anthropology in Sound: Steven Feld in conversation with Donald Brenneis" (with Steven Feld), American Ethnologist (2004)
  • "Telling theories," Ethos (2008)
  • "Anthropology in and of the academy," Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale (2009)

Teaching Interests

Performance and Power
Language and Culture
Anthropology of Law
Acoustic Culture