Don Kulick, Research Director

Don Kulick (photo by Chaos Gao)

I have done long-term anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and Scandinavia, and have published books and articles on topics ranging from language death to fat pornography.

My focus on vulnerability as a resource arose out of my fieldwork with adults with significant disabilities in Denmark and Sweden. The women and men I worked with during that research taught me that the commonplace view of vulnerability as a lack is profoundly misguided. This argument is developed in detail in the book Loneliness and its Opposite: sex, disability, and the ethics of engagement, and is the perspective on vulnerability that anchors the EV program.

A few years ago, I published a memoir of my thirty years of linguistic anthropological work in Papua New Guinea. Titled A Death in the Rainforest: how a language and a way of life came to an end in Papua New Guinea, the book has received many positive reviews.

Anyone interested in the linguistic nitty-gritty of the language discussed in the Death book will want to check out A Grammar and Dictionary of Tayap: the life and death of a Papuan language, written together with Angela Terill. That book also appeared in June 2019, published by Mouton De Gruyter.

My interest in vulnerable others has recently led me to explore human-animal communication. The inability of animals to speak means that they force humans who wish to attempt to discover their subjective states (in order, for example, to improve their welfare), to find ways of communicating with them, and understanding them. My latest article on that topic appeared last year in Anthropology Now.

I recently received an ERC Advanced Grant to lead a 5-year research project on people who are treated as though they aren’t really there. My new project partly overlaps with vulnerability as a productive resource, but it extends it in new directions by including people such as courtroom interpreters, who in many senses are not really there but whose work facilitates interactions and communication; and peer reviewers, whose effacement is essential to the institutions that depend on their labor. How is imperceptibility achieved, and what advantages and rewards does it provide?

Contact information:

Selected publications:


2019monographA Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
Polish translation as Śmierć w lesie deszczowym: Ostatnie spotkanie z językiem i kulturą by Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2020; Japanese translation as 最期の言葉の村へ by Hara Shobo, 2020; Chinese translation SDX Joint Publishing Company as 雨林里的消亡, 2022; Audio book released by HighBridge Audio 2019, narrated by Paul Woodson.
2019monographA Grammar and Dictionary of Tayap: The Life and Death of a Papuan Language. Boston, MA: Mouton De Gruyter.
2015monographLoneliness and its Opposite: Sex, Disability and the Ethics of Engagement, Don Kulick & Jens Rydström. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Swedish translation: Sex och funktionshinder i Danmark och Sverige: hur man hjälper och hur man stjälper (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2022)
2003monographLanguage and Sexuality, Deborah Cameron & Don Kulick. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press (Japanese translation: 言語および性別, Tokyo: Sangen Shah, 2009).
1998monographTravesti: Sex, Gender and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Portuguese translation: Travesti: prostituição, sexo, gênero e cultura no Brasil, Editora Fiocruz, 2008).
1992monographLanguage Shift and Cultural Reproduction: Socialization, Self, and Syncretism in a Papua New Guinean Village. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.


2006The Language and Sexuality Reader, edited by Deborah Cameron & Don Kulick. London and New York: Routledge.
2005Queersverige [Queer Sweden], edited by Don Kulick. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.
2005Fat: The Anthropology of an Obsession, edited by Don Kulick & Anne Meneley. New York: Tarcher/Penguin (Korean translation as 살찐, Seoul, Sodong Publishers, 2011).
1998Transgender in Latin America: Persons, Practices, and Meanings, edited by Don Kulick. Special issue of Sexualities 1 (3).
1996Queer Theory: Vad Är Det och Vad är Det Bra För? [Queer Theory: What is it and What it is Good For?] Special Issue of Lambda Nordica 2(3-4). Republished as independent volume by Scandinavian University Press in 1998.
1995Taboo: Sex, Identity, and Erotic Subjectivity in Anthropological Fieldwork, edited by Don Kulick & Margaret Willson. London and New York: Routledge. (Turkish translation as Tabu: Antropolojik Alan Çalışmasında Seks, Kimlik ve Erotik Öznellik, 2001)
1991Att Begå Kärlek: Om Kroppen, Kärleken och Sexualiteten i Olika Kulturer. [Committing Love: The Body, Love, and Sex in a Cross-Cultural Perspective], edited by Don Kulick. Special Issue of Ottar 11(2).
1987Från Kön till Genus: Kvinnligt och Manligt i ett Kulturellt Perspektiv [From Sex to Gender: Female and Male in a Cultural Perspective], edited by Don Kulick. Borås: Carlssons Bokförlag.


2024“Laughing with” or “laughing at” people
with disabilities? Love on the Spectrum and
Derek. HUMOR, 2024.
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2023The smugness of privilege. American Ethnologist 1–6.
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2022Recension av boken Den Övre Luftens Gudar—hur en grupp nytänkande antropologer förändrade vår syn på ras och kön, av Charles King. Respons 4/5, s. 90-92.
2022Cool hand Don. Cultural Anthropology.
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2022Butler and political (in)correctness. In Philosophy on Fieldwork: case studies in anthropological analysis, edited by Nils Bubandt and Thomas Schwartz Wenter. London: Routledge, pp. 118-137.
2022The sociolinguistics of responsibility. In Struggles for Multilingualism and Linguistic Citizenship, edited by Quentin Williams, Ana Deumert & T Milani. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, pp. 201-217.
2022“Stop thinking you know what to expect”. In Kritiska blickar från marginalen: Reflektioner i spåren av Jens Rydström, edited by Andrés Brink Pinto, Lund University Press, pp. 237-248.
2021When Animals Talk Back. Anthropology Now, 13(2).
2020On the vicissitudes of publishing, and on the riskiness of humor. Hau: Journal of Anthropological Theory, Vol 10 (2): 664-669;
2019Vulnerable erotic subjects. Sexualities. DOI: 10.1177/1363460719861817
2019 The shames of men. Longreads.
2019Foreword to special issue on “Transgender and Language”, edited by Emilia di Martino and Luise von Flotow, International Journal of the Sociology of Language 256: 1-3.
2018New introduction to reprint of the article “The gender of Brazilian transgendered prostitutes”. In Transgender Sex Work and Society, edited by Larry Nuttbrock. New York: Harrington Park Press, 236-240.
2018Why animal orgasm matters to our moral universe. The Conversation.
2017Is it monologic? Is it dialogic? Does it matter? In The Monological Imagination, edited by Matt Tomlinson & Julian Millie. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 81-88.
2017Humorless lesbians. Anthologized in Gender: Laughter. Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks, edited by Bettina Papenburg, Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 229-244.
2017Jouir comme des bêtes. Terrain, 67: 110-127, special issue on “Orgasm”.
2016Humorless lesbians. Reprinted in English and translated into Italian as “La rappresenatzione delle lesbiche prive di senso dell’umorismo” in De Genere: revista di studi letterare, postcoloniali e di genere, 2.
2015When Privacy and Secrecy Collapse into One Another, Bad Things Can Happen. Current Anthropology Volume 56, Supplement 12, S241-50.
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2014Humorless lesbians. In Gender and Humor: interdisciplinary and international perspectives, edited by Delia Chiaro and Raffaella Baccolini. London: Routledge, 85-99.
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2014Language and desire. In The Handbook of Language, Gender and Sexuality, Second Edition, edited by Susan Ehrlich, Miriam Myerhoff and Janet Holmes, Oxford: John Wiley and Sons, 68-84.
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2014Muscle and blood: erotic fantasy in theory and practice. In Selves, Symbols and Sexualities: an Interactionist Anthology, edited by Thomas Weinberg and Staci Newmahr. London and New York: Sage, 17-31.
2012En unken och beklaglig människosyn: män, sex och funktionshinder [A fusty outlook on mankind: men, sex and disabilities]. In Andra män: maskulinitet, normskapande och jämställdhet, edited by Lucas Gottzén and Rickard Jonsson. Gleerups: Malmö, 25-44.
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2009Can there be an anthropology of homophobia? In Homophobias: lust and loathing across time and space, edited by David Murray. Durham: Duke University Press, 19-33.
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2009Sex, soccer and scandal in Brazil. Anthropology Now 1 (3): 32-42.
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2009Gender Politics. Men and Masculinities 11 (2): 186-92. Special issue on “Men Doing the Anthropology of Women”, edited by David Berliner and Douglas Falen.
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2009Fat Pets. In Fat Studies in the UK, edited by Corinna Tomrley and Ann Kaloski Naylor. York: Raw Nerve Books, 35-50.
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2008Cool heads and hot hearts. Sexualities 11 (1-2): 80-86.
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2008Don Kulick om djurporr [Don Kulick on animal porn]. In F-ordet: mot en ny feminism, edited by Petra Östergren. Stockholm: Alfabeta, 75-86.
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2007Anthropologists are talking: about feminism and anthropology. Transcribed and edited interview with Louise Lamphere, Rayna Rapp and Gayle Rubin. Ethnos 72 (3): 408-26.
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2006Theory in furs: masochist anthropology. Current Anthropology 47 (6): 933-52.
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2006Ensamhetens gränser: onani och socialitet [The limits of solitude: masturbation and sociality]. In Den Moderna Ensamheten [Loneliness and Modernity], edited by Maria Karlsson and Sharon Rider. Stockholm: Symposion, 69-92.
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2005Four hundred thousand Swedish perverts. GLQ 11 (2): 205-35.
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2005Identity crisis? (with D. Cameron). Language and Communication 25: 107-25.
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2004Language socialization (with Bambi Schieffelin). In A Companion to Linguistic
, edited by Alessandro Duranti, Oxford: Blackwell, 349-68.
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2003Sex in the new Europe: the criminalization of clients and Swedish fear of
penetration. Anthropological Theory 3 (2):199-218.
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1997A man in the house: the boyfriends of Brazilian travesti prostitutes. Social Text 52/53, 15 (3-4):135-162.
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2003Scandalous acts: the politics of shame among Brazilian travesti prostitutes. (with C. Klein). In Recognition Struggles and Social Movements: Contested Identities, Agency and Power, edited by Barbara Hobson. Cambridge: CUP, 215-238.
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2000Gay & lesbian language. Annual Review of Anthropology 29: 243-85.
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1999Transgender and language: a review of the literature and suggestions for the future. GLQ 5(4):605-622.
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1998Anger, gender, language shift, and the politics of revelation in a Papua New Guinean village. In Language Ideologies: Theory and Practice, edited by Bambi Schieffelin, Kathryn Woolard and Paul Kroskrity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 87-102.
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1998Fe/male trouble: the unsettling place of lesbians in the self images of Brazilian transgendered prostitutes. Sexualities 1(3): 299-312.
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1997The gender of Brazilian transgendered prostitutes. American Anthropologist 99(3): 574-585.
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1996Causing a commotion: public scandal as resistance among Brazilian transgendered prostitutes. Anthropology Today 12(6): 3-7.
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1994Rambo's wife saves the day: subjegating the gaze and subverting the narrative in a New Guinean swamp. (with Margaret Willson). Visual Anthropology Review 10 (2): 1-13.
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1993Conceptions and uses of literacy in a Papua New Guinean village (with Christopher Stroud). In Cross-Cultural Approaches to Literacy, edited by Brian Street, Cambridge: CUP, 30-61.
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1993Heroes from Hell: representations of ‘rascals’ in a Papua New Guinean village. Anthropology Today 9 (3): 9-14.
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1993Speaking as a woman: structure and gender in domestic arguments in a Papua New Guinean village. Cultural Anthropology 8 (3): 99-129.
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1990Christianity, cargo and ideas of self: patterns of literacy in a Papua New Guinean village (with Christopher Stroud). Man 25:286-303.
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Recent book reviews

2022Recension av boken Den Övre Luftens Gudar—hur en grupp nytänkande antropologer förändrade vår syn på ras och kön, av Charles King. Respons 4/5, s. 90-92.
2021Don Kulick. Review of Ethnopornography: sexuality, colonialism and archival knowledge, edited by Pete Sigal, Zeb Tortorici, and Neil L. Whitehead. Journal of Anthropological Research Vol 77 (2): 283-286;
2020Don Kulick. Engaging anthropology: a review of Kenyan, Christian, Queer: religion, LGBT activism and arts of resistance in Africa, Adriaan van Klinken. Hau: Journal of Anthropological Theory, Vol 10 (2): 630-632;