Susan Seizer

Susan Seizer

Professor Emeritus


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Chicago
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Chicago
  • B.A., English, Barnard College, Columbia University

Research Interests

humor in use; stigma and its effects; performance in dance, theater, circus; standup comedy; South Asian studies; ethnographic writing and ethnographic methods; documentary, diasporic, and feminist film; disability studies; gender studies; kinship

About Susan Seizer

Research and Teaching interests include: Performance Studies; Standup comedy; Humor in use; Stigma; Diasporic Feminist Film; Queer studies; Disability studies; Ethnographic Writing/Ethnographic Methods; Anthropology of Parents & Children. Geographical areas: India and the U.S.

Prof. Seizer’s first ethnographic research project focused on the lives of popular theater artists in Tamilnadu, South India. Her book, Stigmas of the Tamil Stage: An Ethnography of Special Drama artists in South India (Duke University Press, 2005) won the prestigious A.K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies in 2007. Her ethnographic documentary film “Road Comic: Big Work on Small Stages” (2012) turns an anthropological lens on the lives of road comics in the contemporary U.S.

Prior to becoming an anthropologist, Seizer was a performer of dance, theater, and circus. Many of her scholarly interests follow threads she first explored as a performer: improvisation; the way comedy can be used to do just about anything; and the particular exhilaration many women find in transgressing normative gender roles through public performance.


  • E203 Stigma & the Expressive Arts: Cultivating Compassion
  • E338/E609 Stigma: Culture, Identity and the Abject
  • E414 Humor in Use
  • E502 Performance Seminar
  • E446/E646 Ethnographic Memoir
  • E454 South Asia through Performance
  • E604 Performance & Politics in South India
  • E200 Introduction to Social-Cultural Anthropology
  • E2XX Anthropology of Parents and Children

Selected Publications

2005. Stigmas of the Tamil Stage: An Ethnography of Special Drama Artists in South India. Durham, NC: Duke University Press

2012. Road Comics: Big Work on Small Stages. Producer, ethnographic documentary film. Streaming at

1997. The Buffoon-Dance Duet. Ethnographic short film (in Tamil). Steaming at