Sam Pack is a professor of cultural anthropology at Kenyon. His research interests address the relationship between media and culture and specifically focus on an anthropological approach to the production and reception of television, film, photographs and new media. In this capacity, he has conducted ethnographic studies among school-aged children in inner city Philadelphia, middle-class families in suburban Pennsylvania and New Mexico and adults in two different Native American communities (Navajo Nation and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community).

More recently, he has undertaken research and/or film projects in Central America (Honduras and Costa Rica), the Arctic (Labrador, Canada), the Middle East (West Bank, Palestine), Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines) and East Asia (South Korea and Japan). Dr. Pack has held visiting appointments in universities and research institutes in India, Costa Rica, Palestine, Iceland, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea. He will serve as the resident director of the Japan Study Program at Waseda University in Tokyo during the 2019-20 academic year.

Pack has authored almost fifty articles published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes. He has completed two manuscripts ("Television Through Navajo Eyes: Situating Reception in Everyday Life" and "Vis-à-Vis: The Life History as Dialogue") as well as two films ("Celebrating Semana Santa: Change, Conflict and Continuity in Rural Honduras" (with Said Zagha '11) and "Water Puppetry in Vietnam: An Ancient Tradition in a Modern World" (with Caleb Bissinger '13). Another manuscript titled "Ethnographic Media: History and Practice" (co-authored with Jayasinhji Jhala) is under contract with the University of Toronto Press.

Pack teaches a wide variety of courses in cultural anthropology, visual anthropology, Native American studies, Asian studies and narrative history. He currently serves as the book review editor for Visual Anthropology, the flagship journal in the field. Pack is the grateful recipient of the ASIANetwork Freeman Award for Faculty-Student Collaborative Research (2010 and 2016), Alpha Delta Phi's Outstanding Teaching Award (2011), Next Generation Libraries Grant (2012), GLCA New Directions Initiative Grant (2013), Fulbright Specialists Grant (2013 and 2016), POSCO TJ Park Foundation Research Grant for Asian Studies (2014), Academy of Korean Studies Research Grant (2015) and Ohio Five Digital Scholarship Initiative (2018).

Areas of Expertise

Cultural identity formation and contestation, global and local dynamics of mass media, media ethnography, reception studies, indigenous modes of (self-re)presentation, subject-generated imagery, life history, Native North America, Southeast and East Asia.


— Master of Arts from Temple University

— Doctor of Philosophy from Temple University

— Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College

Courses Recently Taught

This course introduces students to the discipline that studies and compares cultures. Students learn about the main concepts used in anthropology and how anthropologists conduct research, while also discovering how people live in other times and places. They also learn about theories that provide frameworks for understanding and comparing cultures. Ethnographic descriptions of life in particular places give students factual materials with which to apply and critique such theories. Through this introduction to the study of culture in general, and an exposure to specific cultures, students inevitably come to re-examine some of the premises of their own culture. This foundation course is required for upper-level work in cultural anthropology courses. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

This course examines the ways in which Asians have been constituted in popular culture and have constituted themselves through popular culture. As such, it is divided into two halves: the former focuses on "Asians in Popular Culture" while the latter focuses on "Popular Culture in Asia." Thus, we juxtapose the racial representations of Asians and Asian Americans produced from the dominant mainstream with how Asian peoples have chosen to represent themselves to the rest of the world. We begin with the "model minority myth" and explore examples of anti-Asian sentiment, the ignominious legacy of Yellowface, the contrasting gendered depictions of Asian women vis-à-vis Asian men, and cross-racial intersections. Case studies in the second half of the semester include South Korean films, television dramas and popular music; Japanese manga and anime; Indonesian dangdut; and Asian American independent media projects. The primary objective is to challenge students to rethink the very notion of the popular and view popular culture not as something trivial but as a critical mode of production with racial, ethnic, political and economic ramifications. This counts toward an upper-level elective for the major. ANTH 113 is recommended. No prerequisite. Offered every other year.

Within anthropology, the life history has long been recognized as an important vehicle for learning about how culture is experienced and created by individuals. This seminar seeks to develop a better understanding of the research method known as life history, and of its attendant beliefs and limitations in diverse social and cultural contexts. The course also addresses how people experience categories of difference such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, age, religion and geographic location along with their relevance to personal identity. Equally important, this is a learning-by-doing course, as it attempts to bridge theories of self-narrative with cultural anthropological research methods. Students experience firsthand the theoretical, methodological and ethical issues involved in collecting life histories. By undertaking individual projects, each student learns to organize and conduct life history interviews, record them, transcribe them, edit them and present them in written form. The goal is to explore the multiple stages involved in transforming a narrative life into an inscribed text. This counts toward the upper-level cultural anthropology requirement for the major. ANTH 113 is strongly recommended. No prerequisite. Offered every other year.

Why should cultural anthropologists be interested in the study of family albums, travel photography and smartphone videos? How can we understand these pictorial forms as “stories” that are told across generations? Most important, how is “culture” connected to visual communication? This seminar addresses these questions by critically reviewing the anthropological relevance of written forms such as biography and autobiography and then comparing these models to the modern pictorial traditions of still photography, video, and digital media. The goal is to explore how ordinary people use their cameras to convey information about themselves to themselves and how these picture collections are constructed to preserve and remember human lives. This counts toward the upper-level cultural anthropology requirement for the major. ANTH 113 is highly recommended. No prerequisite.

The primary goal of this course is to separate the public perception and mythology of the "Indian" from the divergent experiences and everyday reality of Native Americans. A thematic approach is applied to this study and topics such as history, film, language, spirituality, commercialism, appropriation, subsistence and sovereignty are explored in some detail and from a variety of perspectives. Through a survey of various tribal groups, students analyze some of the major concepts, methods and theories used in anthropological studies of Native American cultures; assess the impact that stereotypes, biological and cultural interaction with non-Indians, and urbanization have had on Indian identity; and appreciate the richness and complexity of Native American life as it was and continues to be lived in diverse ways and in different places in North America. This counts toward the upper-level cultural anthropology requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every third year.