Talia Dan-Cohen

​Assistant Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology
research interests:
  • Sociocultural Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Knowledge
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Social Theory
  • Economic Anthropology
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    • ​Friday 1:00 - 3:00 pm
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1114
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Talia Dan-Cohen's research interests center around the anthropology of knowledge, science and technology studies, social theory and epistemology. Her work has tracked institutional and epistemological aspects of the biosciences and biotech industry. Her current project examines the meanings and uses of complexity in different fields.

    recent courses

    Economies as Cultural System (L48 3391)

    Many contemporary approaches to economics downplay or bracket the importance of culture in the workings of economic systems. In this class we will focus on approaches to distribution and exchange in which culture and social institutions figure prominently, if not pre-eminently. We will sample a diverse array of economies, from gift exchange to the ceremonial destruction of wealth, from Melanesia to Wall Street, in order to evaluate some of the assumptions that undergird market capitalism. These assumptions include the perception of market actors exclusively as calculative, maximizing individuals. Topics to be covered include the Industrial Revolution; utilitarianism; economic anthropology; the formal vs. substantivist debates; ethnography of finance, and Marxist sociology.

      Culture, Power, Knowledge (L48 4367)

      We often think of knowledge as universal and objective. But anthropologists have long studied ways in which knowledge varies in different cultural settings. In this course, we will ask: What is knowledge, how does it arise, and what does it do? Is there such a thing as universal validity or is knowledge always tied to specific cultural practices? What happens when knowledge travels and how does knowledge figure in relations of power? We will approach these questions through works in anthropology, philosophy, and science studies.

        Selected Publications


        A Simpler Life: Synthetic Biological Experiments. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (In Press).

        2005 A Machine to Make A Future: Biotech Chronicles, with Paul Rabinow. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


        "I Heart Complexity." Anthropological Quarterly (accepted).

        2020 "Tracing Complexity: The Case of Archaeology." American Anthropologist (forthcoming).

        2019 "Writing Thin." Anthropological Quarterly 92(3): 903-917.

        2017 “Epistemic Artifacts: On the Uses of Complexity in Anthropology.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 23(2): 285-301.

        2016 “Ignoring Complexity: Epistemic Wagers and Knowledge Practices Among Synthetic Biologists.” Science, Technology and Human Values 41(5): 899-921.