Dr Thomas Strong

Anthropology

Lecturer

Rowan House
1st Floor
AN1.05
(01) 708 6719

Biography

I received my BA in anthropology from Reed College in 1994.  My BA thesis analysed the sociocultural significance of blood supplies, focusing especially on HIV risk and blood donor eligibility guidelines.  As a staff research associate at the University of California in the 1990s, I conducted two years of ethnographic fieldwork with gay youth on the streets of San Francisco, looking closely at social knowledge related to sex and HIV.  An abiding interest in the sociocultural symbolism of blood and body drew me to the ethnography of Melanesia.  Fieldwork in 2000-01 & 2003 in highland Papua New Guinea focused on changing forms of gender, personhood, and exchange in the context of modernity.  Highlanders often interpret their experience of colonialism and Christian conversion through images bodily diminishment, decaying vitality, and the increased danger of witchcraft, changes summed up in a powerful contemporary cultural motif:  the idea that men's bodies are shrinking.  I completed a PhD in anthropology at Princeton University in 2004.  After lecturing for two years at the University of Helsinki, I came to Maynooth in 2008.  For three years I worked closely with the Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium and with East African students and colleagues to build capacity for social research on health and illness in the developing world.  I have since returned to a sustained focus on highland Papua New Guinea, conducting major fieldwork in 2013 and 2014 on contemporary witchcraft phenomena and how these express the disappointed promises of modernity.

Since 2009 I have been active in NGO and activist organisations in Dublin responding to the HIV crisis in Ireland.

Research Interests

Witchcraft, the body, HIV/AIDS, risk, misfortune, queer theory and LGBT studies; Papua New Guinea, the United States, East Africa

Current Project:  "Culture and Sexual Risk:  An Ethnographic Analysis of Gay Male Sexual Worlds in Ireland Today"  Irish Research Council COALESCE Research Fund (2019/125), Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme research strand

Peer Reviewed Journals

  Year Publication
2021 '“L'ENFER, C'EST LES AUTRES”: Proximity as an Ethical Problem during COVID‐19'
STRONG T.; TRNKA S.; WYNN L.L. (2021) '“L'ENFER, C'EST LES AUTRES”: Proximity as an Ethical Problem during COVID‐19'. Cultural Anthropology, 36 (3):341-349 [DOI] [Details]
2021 'THE END OF INTIMACY'
Strong, T (2021) 'THE END OF INTIMACY'. Cultural Anthropology, 36 :381-390 [DOI] [Details]
2020 'Repealing Ireland's Eighth Amendment: abortion rights and democracy today'
Drazkiewicz, E;Strong, T;Scheper-Hughes, N;Turpin, H;Murphy, F;Saris, AJ;Garvey, P;Mishtal, J;Wulff, H;French, B;Miller, D;Maguire, L;Mhordha, MN (2020) 'Repealing Ireland's Eighth Amendment: abortion rights and democracy today'. Social Anthropology, [DOI] [Details]
2009 'Vital Publics of Pure Blood'
Strong, T (2009) 'Vital Publics of Pure Blood'. Body and Society, 15 :169-191 [DOI] [Details]
2007 'Romantic relationships and their social context among gay/bisexual male youth in the Castro District of San Francisco'
S.L. Eyre, E. Arnold, E. Peterson and T. Strong (2007) 'Romantic relationships and their social context among gay/bisexual male youth in the Castro District of San Francisco'. JOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY, 53 :1-29 [DOI] [full-text] [Details]
2006 'Land and Life: Some Terrains of Sovereignty in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea'
Strong, Thomas (2006) 'Land and Life: Some Terrains of Sovereignty in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea'. SUOMEN ANTROPOLOGI, 31 :37-52 [full-text] [Details]
2002 'Kinship Between Judith Butler and Anthropology?'
Strong, Thomas (2002) 'Kinship Between Judith Butler and Anthropology?'. ETHNOS, 67 :401-418 [DOI] [full-text] [Details]
1997 'Blood/Money'
Strong, Thomas (1997) 'Blood/Money'. CRITICAL MATRIX, 6 :20-37 [full-text] [Details]
1996 'Plastic Heart, Black Box, Iron Cage: Instrumental Reason and the Artificial Heart Experiment'
Strong, Thomas (1996) 'Plastic Heart, Black Box, Iron Cage: Instrumental Reason and the Artificial Heart Experiment'. DISCLOSURE, 5 :25-53 [full-text] [Details]

Book Chapters

  Year Publication
2018 'Mary Douglas'
Strong, Thomas (2018) 'Mary Douglas' In: Hilary Callan (eds). International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. [Details]
2017 'Becoming Witches: Sight, Sin, and Social Change in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea'
Strong, Thomas (2017) 'Becoming Witches: Sight, Sin, and Social Change in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea' In: Knut Rio, Michelle MacCarthy and Ruy Blanes (eds). Pentecostalism and Witchcraft in Melanesia and Africa. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave. [full-text] [Details]
2013 'Judith Butler'
Strong, Thomas (2013) 'Judith Butler' In: Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. [Details]
2008 'Kinship between Judith Butler and Anthropology'
Strong, Thomas (2008) 'Kinship between Judith Butler and Anthropology' In: Gender and Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. [Details]
2006 '’Dying Culture’ and Decaying Bodies'
Strong, Thomas (2006) '’Dying Culture’ and Decaying Bodies' In: Embodying Modernity and Postmodernity: Ritual, Praxis, and Social Change in the South Pacific. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press. [Details]

Other Journals

  Year Publication
2013 'Ethical Currents: The Place of Ethics in Ireland and Elsewhere''
Gray, Patty and Thomas Strong (2013) 'Ethical Currents: The Place of Ethics in Ireland and Elsewhere'' Anthropology News, 52 . [full-text] [Details]
2002 'Deceptive Faces'
Strong, Thomas (2002) 'Deceptive Faces' Letter to The New Yorker, 2002 . [Details]

Published Reports

  Year Publication
2019 KUSWA: A case-study of indigenous participatory film-making in addressing gender violence and sorcery accusations, Papua New Guinea.
Crook, Fufurefa, Hukula, MacLeod, Munau, Sar, Strong (2019) KUSWA: A case-study of indigenous participatory film-making in addressing gender violence and sorcery accusations, Papua New Guinea. Centre for Pacific Studies, St. Andrews. [Details]

Blog

  Year Publication
2018 Dispossession as historical allegory: Observing Dublin’s housing crisis.
Strong, Thomas (2018) Dispossession as historical allegory: Observing Dublin’s housing crisis. New York: Blog [Details]

Conference Contributions

  Year Publication
2020 Anthropological Association of Ireland annual conference.
Thomas Strong (2020) Anthropological Association of Ireland annual conference. [Conference Organising Committee Chairperson], Ending, Zoom / DCU , 26-NOV-20 - 27-NOV-20 [Details]
2021 Attributions of responsibility and modes of crisis response.
Thomas Strong (2021) Attributions of responsibility and modes of crisis response. [Oral Presentation], RESPONSIBILITY, St.Andrews [Details]
2021 Social Death from Martyrdom to Pharmakoi: A Goat Herder’s Menagerie.
Pranav Kohli and Thomas Strong (2021) Social Death from Martyrdom to Pharmakoi: A Goat Herder’s Menagerie. [Oral Presentation], Pandemic Imaginaries: Making Sense of Covid-19, Maynooth University , 27-OCT-21 - 27-OCT-21 [Details]
2019 Culture and Sexual Risk: An Ethnography of Gay Male Sexual Worlds Today.
Thomas Strong (2019) Culture and Sexual Risk: An Ethnography of Gay Male Sexual Worlds Today. [Invited Oral Presentation], Irish Research Council COALESCE Launch, Dublin [Details]
2019 Unmet Needs: HIV.
Thomas Strong (2019) Unmet Needs: HIV. [Plenary Lecture], Ireland’s Unfinished Business Civil Society Dialogue: Achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, Dublin [Details]
2019 Cambridge Social Anthropology.
Thomas Strong (2019) Cambridge Social Anthropology. [Invited Oral Presentation], Do Witches Have Human Rights?, Cambridge University [Details]
2019 Pacific Interest Group, Cambridge.
Thomas Strong (2019) Pacific Interest Group, Cambridge. [Invited Oral Presentation], Michael Somare is a Snake: Ideas and Images of Occult Government in Papua New Guinea, Cambridge University [Details]
2019 Do Witches Have Human Rights?.
Thomas Strong (2019) Do Witches Have Human Rights?. [Oral Presentation], Social Anthropology Senior Seminar, Cambridge University [Details]
2019 Extra Virgin: The Madonna Symposium.
Thomas Strong (2019) Extra Virgin: The Madonna Symposium. [Invited Lecture], Is Madonna a White Woman?, Sutton House, London [Details]
2019 American Anthropological Association.
Thomas Strong (2019) American Anthropological Association. [Chaired Session], Making the Occult Public, Vancouver [Details]
2019 Irish Sexual Practices Symposium.
Thomas Strong (2019) Irish Sexual Practices Symposium. [Oral Presentation], The Trouble with Men who Have Sex with Men, University College Dublin [Details]
2018 European Society of Oceanists.
Thomas Strong (2018) European Society of Oceanists. [Invited Oral Presentation], Life's Errors: Witches, For Example, Cambridge [Details]
2018 University of Helsinki.
Thomas Strong (2018) University of Helsinki. [Oral Presentation], Errors in Kinship: Witches, For Example, Helsinki [Details]
2016 American Anthropological Association.
Thomas Strong (2016) American Anthropological Association. [Oral Presentation], The Axiom of Enmity: A Papua New Guinea Example, Minneapolis [Details]
2012 European Association for Socail Anthropology Conference.
(2012) European Association for Socail Anthropology Conference. [Oral Presentation], Who's Responsible, Paris [Details]
2010 Nordic Africa Days.
(2010) Nordic Africa Days. [Oral Presentation], Translation as Domination/Translating Domination: Problems in the Grammar and Vocabulary of Same-Sex, Turku, Finland [Details]
2010 European Science Foundation Workshop.
(2010) European Science Foundation Workshop. [Oral Presentation], The Subject of Sex in Melanesia: Notes on Comparisons Here and There, Philadelphia [Details]
2008 Washington and Lee University.
Strong, Thomas (2008) Washington and Lee University. [Oral Presentation], Why are Men in the Papua New Guinea Highlands Shrinking?, Virgina [Details]
2007 Melancholic States.
(2007) Melancholic States. [Oral Presentation], Structural Loss: Some Papua New Guinea Examples, Lancaster University [Details]
2007 Memory from Transdisciplinary.
(2007) Memory from Transdisciplinary. [Oral Presentation], “Colonial Nostalgia: A Papua New Guinea Example, University of Tartu, Estonia [Details]
2006 American Anthropological Association.
(2006) American Anthropological Association. [Oral Presentation], Modernity’s Mood: Sorrow and Social Life in Melane, San Jose [Details]
2006 Society for Cultural Anthropology.
(2006) Society for Cultural Anthropology. [Oral Presentation], Celebrity Interpellation and the Qualities of Bran, Milwaukee [Details]
2005 Reed College, “Fashioning Anthropology.
(2005) Reed College, “Fashioning Anthropology. [Oral Presentation], Some Muddles in the (Super) Models: Brands In Betw, Portland, Oregon [Details]
2004 Association for the Social Anthropology of Oceania.
(2004) Association for the Social Anthropology of Oceania. [Oral Presentation], Negative Connections: Town Life Haunted by the Vil, Salem, MA [Details]
2015 American Anthropological Association.
Thomas Strong (2015) American Anthropological Association. [Oral Presentation], Policing Witchcraft: Quandaries of Law and Justice in Papua New Guinea Today, Denver [Details]
2013 State, Society, and Governance Program, Australian National University.
(2013) State, Society, and Governance Program, Australian National University. [Oral Presentation], Disagreeing with Witchcraft: Steps Toward Making Local Criticisms Heard, Canberra, Australia [Details]
2012 European Association for Socail Anthropology Conference.
(2012) European Association for Socail Anthropology Conference. [Oral Presentation], Criminal Meanings: Infection, Intimacy, and the Law, Paris [Details]
2012 American Anthropological Association Annual Conference.
(2012) American Anthropological Association Annual Conference. [Oral Presentation], Gay Sex Now, San Francisco, California [Details]
2012 American Anthropological Association Annual Conference.
(2012) American Anthropological Association Annual Conference. [Oral Presentation], Size and Sociality: The Genders of Social Change in Papua New Guinea, San Francisco, California [Details]
2012 Department of Anthropology, St. Andrews University.
(2012) Department of Anthropology, St. Andrews University. [Oral Presentation], Size and Sociality: The Genders of Social Change in Papua New Guinea, St. Andrews Scotland [Details]
2011 Finnish Anthropological Society.
(2011) Finnish Anthropological Society. [Oral Presentation], Everybody's Mad, Everbody's Sad: Epidemic Affect in Culture and Cultural Theory, Helsinki [Details]
2011 American Anthropological Association Annual Conference.
(2011) American Anthropological Association Annual Conference. [Oral Presentation], On Mrs. Robinson, Montreal [Details]
2010 Lecture at Abo Academy.
(2010) Lecture at Abo Academy. [Oral Presentation], Beyond Europe: Social science research in Non-Western settings, Turku, Finland [Details]
2008 American Anthropological Association Annual Conference.
(2008) American Anthropological Association Annual Conference. [Oral Presentation], Infection as a Social Relation, San Francisco, California [Details]
2008 American Anthropological Association.
(2008) American Anthropological Association. [Oral Presentation], Infection as a Social Relation, San Francisco [Details]
2008 American Anthropological Association Annual Conference.
(2008) American Anthropological Association Annual Conference. [Oral Presentation], Privates and Counterprivates, San Francisco, California [Details]

Book Review

  Year Publication
2009 Mika Aaltola, Western Spectacle of Governance and the Emergence of Humanitarian World Politics .
Strong, Thomas (2009) Mika Aaltola, Western Spectacle of Governance and the Emergence of Humanitarian World Politics . Book Review [Details]
2008 Sandra Bamford, Biology Unmoored: Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology.
Strong, Thomas (2008) Sandra Bamford, Biology Unmoored: Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology. Book Review [Details]
2005 Adam Reed, Papua New Guinea’s Last Place.
Strong, Thomas (2005) Adam Reed, Papua New Guinea’s Last Place. Book Review [Details]
2004 Gilbert Herdt, Secrecy and Cultural Reality: Utopian Ideologies of the New Guinea Men’s House. .
Strong, Thomas (2004) Gilbert Herdt, Secrecy and Cultural Reality: Utopian Ideologies of the New Guinea Men’s House. . Book Review [Details]
2002 Eric Silverman, Masculinity, Motherhood, and Mockery: Psychoanalyzing Culture and the Iatmul Naven Rite in New Guinea. .
Strong, Thomas (2002) Eric Silverman, Masculinity, Motherhood, and Mockery: Psychoanalyzing Culture and the Iatmul Naven Rite in New Guinea. . Book Review [Details]
2002 Paul Sillitoe, An Introduction to the Anthropology of Melanesia, Social Change in Melanesia .
Strong, Thomas (2002) Paul Sillitoe, An Introduction to the Anthropology of Melanesia, Social Change in Melanesia . Book Review [Details]

Gov. Report or Document

  Year Publication
2010 Living with HIV: All-Ireland findings from the 2010 European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS).
McCartney, D.; Quinlan, M.; Donlon, S.; Strong, T.; McAnulty, H. (2010) Living with HIV: All-Ireland findings from the 2010 European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS). Gov. Report or Document [Details]

Conference Hosted

  Year Publication
2012 Ethnography Margin to Center: Celebrating 25 Years of the AAI.
Department of Anthropology (2012) Ethnography Margin to Center: Celebrating 25 Years of the AAI. Conference Hosted [Details]

Professional Associations

  Association Function From / To
European Society of Oceanists Member 12-DEC-18 /
Anthropological Association of Ireland Member /
American Anthropological Association Member /
Finnish Anthropological Society Member /
Association for Social Anthropology of Oceania Member /

Education

  Year Institution Qualification Subject
2004 Princeton University Ph.D.
1994 Reed College B.A.

Teaching Interests

I have been blessed with opportunities to conduct substantial fieldwork and research in very different places.  Between 1998 and 2015 I made several field trips to highland Papua New Guinea, initially focusing on ways in which the body mediates sociality and symbolism, and therefore also history and transformation, for the Dano-speakers of the upper Asaro valley.  In the course of fieldwork, I unexpectedly learned that the upper Asaro is an epicentre in a wave of witchcraft violence that has overtaken the country in the last many years. As a result, I am one of a handful of anthropologists to have witnessed a witch hunt in real time:  a fascinating and terrible thing to experience.  Analysis of the social dynamics of such outbursts of violence informs my teaching in classes such as Magic and Witchcraft, Medical Anthropology, Misfortune and Meaning, and Troubling Identities.

In a very different mode, I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork on gay male sexual culture since 1996, first as a young graduate student ethnographer working with young gay men on the streets of San Francisco as a research associate with the University of California, and most recently as a middle-aged American puzzling his way through the often furtive social worlds of gay male sexuality in contemporary Ireland.  Though the watershed in conceptions of sexual morality (as well as reproductive freedom, gender equality, transgender rights, and more) Ireland has witnessed makes this an especially fascinating time to do research here, it has also afforded insight into how sentiments we thought might have been superseded continue to structure the experience of sexuality for gay men (and everyone):  above all, sex is always shadowed by shame, much as the past is ever-present.  My research on gay men, sexuality, HIV, and more informs modules I offer on topic such as:  Ireland in the World, Medical Anthropology, Troubling Identities, and (in the postgraduate programme) Privates and Counterprivates.

The Ethnographer's Magic

With a bit of cheek, I teach anthropology as a kind of wizardry, or sorcery:  Anthropology puts a spell on you.  Once the spell takes hold, the student of anthropology can't fail to feel its effect:  it elicits (or imposes) the capacity to 'think otherwise.'  The basic principle of this form of magic is deceptively simple — it is to approach one’s own way of life as strange by becoming familiar with the ways of life of others. Familiarity, however, should not be confused with comfort or indifference; in learning about the lives of others, anthropologists wish to recognise difference, to value Otherness, without making it disappear.  Making difference vanish is the trickery (the illusionism) of other disciplines built on universalist theories of the nature of human beings (as rational economic actors, or as fragile subjects fated to this or that psychodynamic anxiety).  To appreciate Otherness without making it vanish, anthropology counsels an elementary equation:  we too are an Other.  The principle adheres to a law of magic on the order of those adumbrated by Frazer in The Golden Bough.  It is the Law of the Familiarstrange.  Anthropology shows the wonders to be created when we are able to yoke the power of the familiarstrange in order to think otherwise.