Kathryn E. Graber

Kathryn E. Graber

Associate Professor, Anthropology

Associate Professor, Central Eurasian Studies

Director, Qualitative Data Analysis Laboratory


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Michigan
  • M.A., Russian and East European Studies, University of Michigan
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Michigan
  • A.B., Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Chicago

About Kathryn E. Graber

I am a linguistic and sociocultural anthropologist with special interests in language and media in post-Soviet Eurasia. My research lies at the intersection of two clusters of problems. The first is indigenous language shift, endangerment, and reclamation, which I have been studying in Russia’s Buryat territories, a multilingual region of eastern Siberia on the Mongolian border, since 2005. This research was the basis for my first book, Mixed Messages: Mediating Native Belonging in Asian Russia (Cornell University Press, 2020). Mixed Messages shows how language and the production, circulation, and consumption of media are practices by which residents of the Buryat territories perform and negotiate competing possible identities. The book integrates production data from Buryat media institutions with consumption/reception data from audiences and linguistic analyses of texts and transcripts, employing a novel holistic approach to elucidate how the language used in institutional settings circulates from and into other domains of daily life. You can watch me talk about this research here: [on Youtube] or here: [Wilsoncenter.org] or listen to podcasts here (less academic): [slavxradio.com] or here (more academic): [creeca.wisc.edu] and in other places online.

In fieldwork for that project, I was struck by the central role that emotion and affective connections play in language shift and revitalization—a realization that has nuanced my approach to language and political economy. I have recently developed this line of thinking in publications on shame and “kitchen language.”

The second, related cluster concerns materiality, technology, circulation, and notions of property. I am particularly interested in how value is interactionally negotiated across different nodes in a global commodity chain, which I have been studying in the Mongolian cashmere industry since 2014. This project focuses on interactions, such as between herders and their goats, between brokers and herders negotiating prices, in political debates over the future of Mongolia’s economy and environment, and at points of sale to consumers. How, at these different nodes in the circulation of cashmere fiber, is value dynamically produced in interactions? Which systems or regimes of value “travel” from one node to another, and which do not? That research has become a book project, tentatively entitled Textures of Value: Embodiment and Expertise in the Mongolian Cashmere Industry. I am also currently working on a large collaborative project on the cultural afterlives and anticipatory pre-lives of infrastructural projects in Siberia.

At IUB I direct the Qualitative Data Analysis Laboratory and am part of the Russian Studies Workshop, Siberian Studies Working Group, and CaMP Anthropology.

Selected Publications


2020.Mixed Messages: Mediating Native Belonging in Asian Russia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

2019. Falconi, Elizabeth A., and Kathryn E. Graber, eds. Storytelling as Narrative Practice: Ethnographic Approaches to the Tales We Tell. Studies in Pragmatics 19. Leiden: Brill.

Journal Articles & Chapters

2021. A Cline of Enregisterment and Its Erasure: Intersections of Ideology and Technology in Minority-Language News. Language in Society 1-26; read it Open Access here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/language-in-society/article/cline-of-enregisterment-and-its-erasure-intersections-of-ideology-and-technology-in-minoritylanguage-news/7E45E44BD630D75360849EE2EF0C2355

2019. “Syphilis Is Syphilis!”: Purity and Genre in a Buryat-Russian News Story. In Storytelling as Narrative Practice: Ethnographic Approaches to the Tales We Tell (Studies in Pragmatics 19), edited by Elizabeth A. Falconi and Kathryn E. Graber, 226-52. Leiden: Brill.

2017. The Kitchen, the Cat, and the Table: Domestic Affairs in Minority-Language Politics. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, forthcoming in August issue.

2016. The All-Buriat “Ray of Light”: Independence and Identity in Native-Language Media. REGION: Regional Studies of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia 5(2):175–200.

2015. Finding “Their Own”: Revitalizing Buryat Culture Through Shamanic Practices in Ulan-Ude. Problems of Post-Communism 62(5):258–272. Co-authored with Justine B. Quijada and Eric Stephen.

2015. On the Disassembly Line: Linguistic Anthropology in 2014. American Anthropologist 117(2) (June 2015):350–363.

2015. The Local History of an Imperial Category: Language and Religion in Russia’s Eastern Borderlands, 1860s–1930s. Slavic Review 74(1) (Spring 2015):127–152. Co-authored with Jesse D. Murray.

2015. Awarded the Association for the Study of Eastern Christian History and Culture (ASEC) Distinguished Scholar Prize for 2015.

2013. What They Said (She Said) I Said: Attribution and Expertise in Digital Circulation. Culture, Theory and Critique 54(3):285–300.

2012. Public Information: The Shifting Roles of Minority-Language News Media in the Buryat Territories of Russia. Language and Communication 32(2):124–136.

Blog Posts

2020. Racial Politics in Putin’s Russia. Cornell University Press Blog, September 28. https://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/racial-politics-in-putins-russia/

2016. Watching Putin Listen. CaMP Anthropology Blog, November 7. https://campanthropology.org/2016/11/07/watching-putin-listen/