Kamala Russell


I am a PhD candidate specializing in linguistic anthropology and the anthropology of Islam and the Middle East. My research focuses on speakers of the Śḥehrēt Modern South Arabian language, located in the Dhofar mountains of the Sultanate of Oman. I am particularly interested in questions of space and ethics as they pertain to face-to-face interaction.

My dissertation examines the practices of concealment that mark the use of built domestic spaces for face-to-face encounters, particularly around hospitality. I treat interaction as actual space, essential to understanding the significance of communicative practices that manage accessibility and exposure between parties and to built space as part of the practice of an Islamic life. As such, I reframe notions of co-presence (the basis of human interaction) away from phenomenological questions, or those revolving around intersubjectivity, and toward habits and dynamics of orientation to built and social space. 

Seeking methodological principles to study the use of and orientation to space in interaction, I have been involved for the past two years in a collaborative reading group and project bringing scholars together from across institutions to work with mathematical topology.  

My broader interests include the Arab grammatical tradition, co-speech gesture, psychoanalysis, and the linguistics of contact and change, all of which constitute interesting challenges to linguistic and semiotic theory.  
M.A. Anthropology, 2015, UC Berkeley 
B.A. with Honors Linguistics, 2012, University of Chicago

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