Title: Associate Professor, Co-Director of the Critical Visions Certificate Program
Office: 448 Braunstein Hall
Stephanie Sadre-Orafai is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research focuses on the production of difference and types among expert communities in the United States. Her ethnographic work examines media and cultural producers, emerging forms of expertise, the intersection of race, language, and visual practices in aesthetic industries, and forms of evidence and the body. She studied anthropology with a minor in African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (BA, 2000) and received her Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at New York University in 2010, when she also joined the faculty at UC.
Her essays on casting, model development, and fashion reality television have appeared in several edited volumes (PDFs). She is currently working on her first book, tentatively titled Real People, Real Models: Casting Race and Fashion in 21st Century America, which examines the history of casting in the New York fashion industry, the rise of non-professional or "real people" models, and how modeling and casting agents produce models' bodies as forms of media, creating new articulations of mediation, visibility, and difference in the process. Building on four years of ethnographic fieldwork in the New York fashion industry, the book explores the political implications of how these new articulations are refracted through idioms of beauty, desirability, and justice.
She is on sabbatical for AY16-17 researching a new comparative project that explores the overlapping concerns of inanimate (typefaces) and animate (models) type production in the commercial font and high fashion modeling industries. In both sites, there are tensions between visibility and invisibility, legibility and aesthetic nuance, and the management of lay and expert visions in producing culturally recognizable types and individual faces. Joining together ethnographic and archival research, she will explore the mutually vivifying and dehumanizing dimensions of type production and what their professional practices can reveal about underlying changes in cultural ideas of “difference” and how they are visually encoded across time, technologies, and markets. This project extends her earlier comparative work on fashion and policing, where she examined the temporal dimensions of mug shots alongside casting photographs, and the spatial dimensions of street scouting and stop-and-frisk practices.
She co-directs the Critical Visions Certificate, a joint effort between faculty in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning and the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, which she established with Jordan Tate in 2011. The program is aimed at teaching students how to effectively combine critical theory and social analysis with art, media, and design practice. She co-edits CVSN, the experimental publication of student work from the program, made possible with funding from UC Forward. Themes have included "space" (2013), "the future," and "color" (2016). She is also core faculty for the Graduate Certificate in Film & Media Studies, a founding member of the Taft Visual Studies Research Group, and affiliate faculty in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
race and visual culture; social, cultural, and institutional practices of typification; professional communities; media, design, and aesthetic industries; language and expertise; evidence and the body; practice-based social theory; the United States