Research Team

Meet the team!

Joel Kuipersjck in 2016 in Indonesia

Joel Kuipers (PhD Yale University 1982) is Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at the George Washington University and a Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History. Most of his research has been guided by an interest in the relation between language and the ethnographic description of social life, particularly authority and its various institutional forms: ceremonies, clinics, classrooms, and courtrooms. Drawing on extensive audio and videotaped recordings collected as part of ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork, and analyzed in their social, cultural and historical context, he has examined ritual speech in Sumba (1990, 1998),  language in medical interviews (1989, 1995), verbal interaction in science classrooms (2006, 2008), and is now focused on cell phones as a communicative media (2014, forthcoming), and Arabic as a sacred speech register in Java Indonesia.


Joshua Bell

Dr. Joshua A. Bell (D.Phil Oxford 2006) is Curator of Globalization at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), and an adjunct professor in George Washington’s Anthropology Department. Combining ethnographic fieldwork with research in museums and archives, through his research he examines the shifting local and global network of relationships between persons, artefacts and the joshphotoenvironment. Since 2000, he has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea where he has worked with communities to document their histories, material culture and oral traditions. At the Smithsonian he helped to found and was the initial director for the Recovering Voices program ( In 2014 he co-curated a photographic show on environmental refugees Unintended Journeys at NMNH ( His most recent books are the co-edited volumes, The Anthropology of Expeditions: Travel, Visualities, Afterlives (2015, BGC), and Tropical Forests of Oceania: Anthropological Perspectives (2015, ANU).


Alexander DentIMG_3446

Alexander Dent is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the George Washington University. He specializes in language, media, intellectual property, confidence, policy, and music — in Latin America (chiefly Brazil) and the United States.  He is also Associate Editor of Anthropological Quarterly, the Director of Graduate Studies for GW’s PhD program, and a Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History.


Emma Backe

Emma Louise Backe is a Master’s student in Medical Anthropology at DSC_0187the George Washington University, where she is also pursuing a certificate in Global Gender Policy. She studied Anthropology and English in undergrad at Vassar College with an emphasis on medical anthropology and creative writing. Apart from serving as the Graduate Research Assistant for the Cellular Connections Research Project, she has worked for the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the health sector of Peace Corps Fiji. In her spare time, Emma helps run a blog called The Geek Anthropologist, which explores the intersections between social science, technology and geek culture.


Brianna Nobles


Brianna Nobles is a combined BA/MA degree student in the American Studies and Sociocultural Anthropology department sat the George Washington University. She majors in anthropology and American studies for undergrad and is getting her Masters in American studies. Apart from being a Research Assistant for the Cellular Connections Project she is also a fellowship winner of this years Luther Rice Undergraduate Fellowship and is currently completing her senior thesis on cultural appropriation and the Kardashian-Jenner family. Brianna also sits on the e-board of REMix, an on-campus cultural club at GWU that brings awareness to, builds community for and advocates for multiracial students on campus. 


Nicole Merullo


Nicole is a junior majoring in Anthropology and International Affairs at George Washington University. She became involved in Cellular Connections following her own small-scale research project on Tinder, digital dating culture, and the way the phone mediates a new kind of communication. She is currently serving as the Vice President of Event Planning for Pi Beta Phi. Following graduation, she plans on getting her masters in Anthropology or Museum Studies.


Isabella Pelegero

isabella-pelegeroIsabella is a Master’s student at GWU in Anthropology, with a concentration in Museum Training, and expects to complete her program May 2017. She has many
research interests including: dark tourism and museum phenomenology, digital publics and their discourse, and issues of gender and sexuality in her favorite game, Magic: the Gathering. Through internships and research projects, Isabella has conducted oral histories, transcribed interviews, and gained an appreciation for critically approaching everyday language. She now applies those skills conducting student interviews (among other tasks) for the Cellular Communications project.