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Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences
One Discipline, Four Fields

Susan Seizer


Associate Professor, Anthropology Department



(812) 856-1986 | Email | Office Hours

Geographical Areas of Specialization: South Asia, esp. South India (Tamilnadu); U.S.

Topical Interests: Humor in use; Stigma and its effects; Performance (dance, theater, circus); Standup Comedy; South Asian Studies; Ethnographic Writing & Ethnographic Methods; Documentary, Diasporic, and Feminist Film; Disability studies; Gender Studies; Kinship


Special interests include: humor cross-culturally; management of social stigma; and performance in South Asia (live and mediated). Her first ethnographic research project focused on the lives of popular theater artists in Tamilnadu, South India. Her book, Stigmas of the Tamil Stage: An Ethnography of Special Drama artists in South India (Duke University Press 2005) won the prestigious A.K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies in 2007. Her current research turns an anthropological lens on the lives of road comics in the contemporary U.S.

Prior to becoming an anthropologist, Professor Seizer was a performer of dance, theater, and circus. Many of her scholarly interests follow threads she first explored as a performer: improvisation; the way comedy can be used to do just about anything; and the particular exhilaration many women find in transgressing normative gender roles through public performance.

Editor of


  • C333 Stigma: Culture, Deviance and Identity
  • C627 Humor in Use
  • C502 Performance
  • C444 Malls, Museums, and Other Amusements: the public sphere in the modern U.S.
  • C415 South Asia through Performance

Selected Publications

2014 Craft and Magic on the U.S. Comedy Club Stage.”  Humor in America: HA! A blog about American humor and Humor Studies. Access the article at

2013 “Double-Voiced Parody: Stewart Huff Plays a Bigot.”  In English and Chinese. 台閩⺠民間戲劇國際學術研討會論論⽂文集 [Proceedings of International Conference of Taiwan and Fujian folk drama]. Min-Nan, Tainan: Taiwan. pp.73-99.

2013 “Laughing at Domestic Violence: On Viewing Gender Roles and other Comedic Complexities on the Tamil Popular Stage.”  Ch. 7, Gender, Space, and Resistance: Women and Theatre in India. Ed. Anita Singh & Tarun Tapas Mukherjee. New Delhi: D. K. Printworld LTD:123-180.

2011 “On the Uses of Obscenity in Live Stand-Up Comedy.”  Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 84, No. 1, p. 209–234.

2010 “Offstage Negotiations of Stigma by Special Drama Actresses in South India.”  2nd revised edition, Everyday Life in South Asia, ed. D. Mines and S. Lamb. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.        

2009 “Legacies of Discourse: Special Drama and its History,”  In Play-House of Power: Gender and Theatre in Colonial and Postcolonial India. Ed. Lata Singh. Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 70-104.

2008 Gender Plays: Social and Spatial Paradigms on the Tamil Popular Stage."  In Tamil Geographies: Cultural Constructions of Space and Place in South India. Ed. Martha Ann Selby & Indira Viswanathan Peterson. New York: SUNY Press.