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Rethmann Petra, Professor | Director/Graduate Advisor of IGHC

photo of Petra Rethmann

Petra Rethmann

Professor | Director/Graduate Advisor of IGHC

Department of Anthropology

Institute on Globalization & the Human Condition

Area(s) of Interest:


Research & Supervisory Interests

Dr. Petra Rethmann is professor of Anthropology, a faculty member in the Cultural Studies & Critical Theory program, and a member of the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition. She is the author of Tundra Passages (2001) and co-editor ofGlobality: Frictions and Connections (in press), and the author of numerous articles that have appeared in edited volumes and in journals such as American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Anthropologica, Cultural Critique, and Anthropologie et Société. Her research is based in two main areas: Russia and South Africa. Over the past decade, she has devoted her attention to thinking about a number of interrelated issues concerning: cultural creativity and agency; the afterlife of particular historical movements and moments; the production of history and the place of art within it; fetishization and the violence of culture. In her writings on all of these issues she attends to questions of cultural politics and representation.  Petra Rethmann is currently working on two book-length projects. The first one examines the cultural politics of left-wing collectives and movements that emerged in West Germany in the 1980s.  The second project involves a critical interrogation of the South African anti-apartheid struggle, examined from a perspective of the future that never came into being.


PhD McGill, 1996


Search course offerings in Anthropology


Courses (2018-19)


  • ANTHROP 3GG3 - Anthropology of Contemporary Europe
  • ANTHROP 786 - Global Futures


Courses (2017-18)

  • On Research Leave



Selected Publications


2018    Russia: Anthropological Insights. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

2010 Cultural Autonomy: Frictions and Connections. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

2001 Tundra Passages: History and Gender in the Russian Far East University Park, PA.: Pennsylvania University Press.

n.d. Collectivism: The Art of Social Imagination after 1980.

Journal and Book Articles

2017 The Curtain in Room 101. In Pink & Green. Edited by Robyn Lew and Maxine Proctor. Toronto: Toronto Art Book Fair Publications. Pp. 39 – 51. (This is a piece of creative writing).

2017 Zines Hanging from a Wall. In Pink & Green. Edited by Robyn Lew and Maxine Proctor. Toronto: Toronto Art Book Fair Publications. Pp. 27 – 33. (This is a piece of creative writing).

2016 Yugoslavism: History, Temporality, and the Search for Alternative Modes of Political Critique. In Time, Globalization, and the Human Experience. Edited by Paul Huebener, Susie O’Brien, Tony Porter, Liam Stockdale, and Yanquiu Rachel Zhou. New York: Routledge. Pp. 160 – 174.

2016 What Should be Done?: Art and Political Possibility in Russia.  In Impulse to Act: A New Anthropology of Resistance and Social Justice, edited by Othon Alexandrakis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Pp. 152 – 179.

2015 Internationalism, Temporality, and Hope: a View from Eastern Europe and the Left. Social Anthropology 23 (4): 480 – 491.

2014 Wither Left-Wing Nostalgia. In Anthropology and Nostalgia. Edited by Olivia Angé and David Berlinger. Oxford: Berghahn. Pp. 198-213.

2013 Imagining Political Possibility in an Age of Late Liberalism and Cynical Reason. Reviews in Anthropology 42 (4):227-242.

2013 The Discreet Charm of Lenin. Journal for Historical Sociology 26(4): 227-242.

2012 Socialism, Anew?" Russia's New Left, Chevengur, and the Rethinking of Failure. McMaster Institute for Globalization and the Human Condition Working Paper Series 12(2):1-35.

2011 West German Radical History as Seen from the 1980's: Projekt Artur and the Refusal of Political Confiscation. Seminar47(1): 46-63.

2011 A Few Notes on the Question, What is Radical Imagination? Affinities: a Journal on Radical Culture, Thought, and Action 4(2): 48-54.

2010 Domesticity, Gender, and Change in Northern Kamchatka. The Anthropology of East Europe Review 28(2):85-101.

2010 Prizrachnoje vospominanije. Kommentarij k tsiklu Gerharda Richtera "18 Oktjabrja 1977 goda." Sinij Divan 15: 61-81.

2010 Global Activism and the Visual Grammar of Nature. In Cultural Autonomy: Frictions and Connections, edited by Rethmann, Petra, Imre Szeman, and Will Coleman. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

2009 Post-Communist Ironies in an East German Hotel. Anthropology Today 1:19-42.

2009 After the Thrill: Global Capitalism and the Search for South African Autonomy. Globalizations 6(3): 365-377

2008 Nostalgie à Moscou. Anthropologie et Société 32 (1).

2008 Fantasies at the International Whaling Commission. In Institutions, Governance, and Global Ordering. Edited by Pauly, Lou, and William Coleman. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

2007 On Presence. In Extra/Ordinary Anthropology. Edited by Jean-Guy Goulet, Bruce G. Miller. Foreword by Johannes Fabian. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Pp. 36-53.

2006 On Militancy, Sort Of. Cultural Critique 62: 67-92.

2004 Violence and the Politics of Ethnographic Writing. Anthropology News 45(8): 13-14.

2004 Politique et Imaginaire à Tchoukotka. Anthropologie et Société 28(1): 112-134.

2004 A Dream of Democracy in the Russian Far East. In In the Way of Development: Indigenous Peoples, Life Projects, and Globalization, edited by Mario Blaser and Harvey Feit. London: Zed Press. Pp. 256-279.

2003 The Social Uses of History in the Russian Far East. Arctic Anthropology 39 (1-2): 122-155.

2000 Skins of Desire: Poetry and Identity in Koriak Women’s Gift Exchange. American Ethnologist 27 (1): 52-71.

1997  Chto Delat’: Ethnography in the Post-Soviet Cultural Context. American Anthropologist 99 (4): 770-774..