Alaina Lemon is a socio-cultural, linguistic, and historical anthropologist. She has worked in the Romani diaspora and in Russia. She tracks debates about communication and contact as they relate to material struggles over political and social change.
Divisions of phatic and other communicative meta-labors, access to media infrastructures, and ideologies of rupture, animation, and affect are themes running through writing based on research in theater schools and on film sets, in Moscow's markets and on the Metro, in kitchens and in front of television sets, documenting encounters among living people and animals as well as drawing from archival and media texts.
Her first book (2000 Between Two Fires) examines how Roma in the USSR and Russia have been racialized through ideologies of performance frames.
Her second book (2018 Technologies for Intuition) addresses Cold War anxieties and hopes about communication, through paranoias of enemy mental influence and hopes for global mental communion.
She has co-directed two documentary feature films, acting as cinematographer on the second:
T’an Bakhtale!: Roma in Russia (1996)
Tremors (trailer) (2023)
Selected publications include:
2019 “The matter of race,” In Ideologies of Race: Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union in Global Context. ed. Rainbow, McGill University Press.
2018 “Collective Enchantment: Divisions of textual labor behind the Russian stage,” for Russian Performances, ed. Boris Wolfson and Julie Cassiday, U.Wisconsin Press, 235-244.
2015 “MetroDogs: the Heart in the Machine,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 12:660-679.
2013 “Touching the Gap: Social Qualia and Cold War Contact, Anthropological Theory (special issue on Qualia,13(1/2):67-88.
2009 "Sympathy for the Weary State: Chronotopes, Empathies, and Moscow Others." Comparative Studies in Society and History 51/4:832-64.
2009 “The Emotional Lives of Moscow Things,” Russian History 36:1-18.
2008 “Hermeneutic Algebras: Solving for Love, Time/Space, and Value in Putin-era Personal Ads,” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 18/2: 236-267.
2004 "Dealing Emotional Blows: Realism and verbal terror at the Russian State Theatrical Academy." Language and Communication 24/4:313-337.
2002 with Kesha Fikes, “African Presence in Soviet Spaces,” Annual Review of Anthropology 31: 497-524.
2002 “Without a ‘concept’?: Race as discursive practice.” Slavic Review 61/1 (spring): 54-61.
2002 “ ‘Form’ and ‘Function’ in Soviet Stage Romani: Modeling Metapragmatics through Performanc Institutions,” Language in Society, 31:29-64.
2000 “Talking Transit and Spectating Transition: The Moscow Metro,” in Altering States: Anthropology in Transition, eds. Berdahl, Bunzl, Lampland. UMichigan Press.
1998 “Your Eyes are Green Like Dollars: Counterfeit Cash, National Substance, and Currency Apartheid in 1990s’ Russia,” Cultural Anthropology 13/1: 22-55.
- Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
- Center for World Performance Studies
- Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History
- 2010-11 University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship
- 2008 LSA/OVPR Michigan Humanities Award
- 2002-3 International Research and Exchanges Long-Term Research Fellowship
- 2001 Wayne S. Vucinich BOOK PRIZE
- 2001 Heldt Book Prize (Awarded by the AAASS for best book by a woman)
- 1996-99 Michigan Society of Fellows