Deborah Matzner

Deborah Matzner
(781) 283-2946
South Asia Studies
Cinema and Media Studies
B.A., Columbia University; M.A., Ph.D., New York University
PNE 344

Deborah C. Matzner

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Cultural anthropologist of media and South Asia specializing in the ethnography of media production and visual culture in India.

I am currently working on a book project exploring creative work behind the scenes of both the satellite television industry and the documentary filmmaking community in Mumbai, India. I analyze the political economy of media making in these two fields; the formulations of gender, class and nation in their production cultures; and the content, distribution, and reception of the representations that result. Tracing social and ideological connections between the mainstream TV industry and the oppositional and activist documentary film work in Mumbai, I analyze the ongoing mediation of India’s neoliberal transformation.

My expertise in the theory, ethnography, and practice of media making comes in large part from my training in New York University’s Culture and Media Program, a joint program between Anthropology and Cinema Studies that combines training in media theory and the history of visual anthropology with practical work in ethnographic video production. This background has enabled me to work closely with documentary filmmakers in New York and Mumbai.

Firmly grounded in cultural anthropology, but with interdisciplinary experience, I enjoy teaching anthropology majors, as well students from other disciplines, particularly the South Asia Studies and Cinema and Media programs with which I’m affiliated. In all of my classes, I introduce students to the key perspectives, methods, and contributions of ethnography and cultural anthropology to the topics at hand. My interests in film and media are also central to my pedagogy. In my teaching, I like using non-fiction films—particularly those of the Indian filmmakers with whom I work—never letting them serve as mere illustrations of social and cultural phenomena, but always as social and cultural artifacts to be analyzed as rigorously as written texts.

I currently teach:

  • Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 104)
  • Ethnographic Methods and Writing (ANTH 300)
  • Anthropology of Media (ANTH 232)
  • Visual Culture of South Asia (ANTH 239)
  • History and Theory of Ethnographic Film (ANTH 305)
  • Ethnography in and of South Asia (ANTH 237)
  • Experimental Ethnography: At the Boundaries of Art and Anthropology (ANTH/ART/CAMS 362), co-taught with Professor David Kelley, who is professor on the Studio Art faculty. This course culminated in a collaboratively-curated exhibit of students' projects, entitled Displace/Display, held in the Jewett Art Gallery. Photographs from the exhibit are available here.


One of things I like best about Wellesley is the way the College enables me to share my diverse background and interests with the Wellesley community through innovative teaching and public events as well as innovative teaching. In the 2012-2013 academic year, I am organizing a major festival of the work of world-renowned documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, which will bring the filmmaker from India to Wellesley. Please stay tuned to this space for more on this event, which will be held in late February, 2012.