Maria Vesperi

Professor of Anthropology - Anthropology - Interdisciplinary Programs - Social Sciences - Theater, Dance & Performance Studies - Urban Studies

Maria Vesperi
  • Phone: (941) 487-4358
  • Email:
  • Office Location: CHL 233
  • Mail Location: SSC 102

Professor of Anthropology

M.A., Ph.D., Princeton University
B.A., University of Massachusetts

Maria D. Vesperi is a cultural anthropologist with research interests in urban issues, anthropology and journalism, social welfare policy, cultural constructions of aging and race, representations through visual media and performance and early industrial history. She left her first teaching position in 1981 to work at the Tampa Bay Times, where she wrote features and columns and contributed to investigative series on welfare, home health care, community mental health care and aging. She joined the newspaper’s editorial board in 1986, working in Florida and Washington, D.C. until returning to full-time teaching and research in 1993. At New College she offers courses in cultural anthropology, myth and ritual, history of anthropological theory, anthropology and literature, language, culture and society, contemporary U.S. cultures, the anthropology of performance, anthropological approaches to the study of aging and group tutorial work in visual anthropology. She also established and continues to teach a journalism sequence which includes production of a campus weekly, The Catalyst. Professor Vesperi is incoming editor of Anthropology Now, a multi-media platform designed to make anthropological knowledge accessible to the public. She is 2009 recipient of the American Anthropological Association/Oxford University Press Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Anthropology.

Professor Vesperi presents her work regularly at national and international meetings and serves actively in professional associations. She is a past president of the Society for the Anthropology of North America and the Association for Anthropology and Gerontology, and has served on the American Anthropological Association Executive Board and Long Range Planning Committee. She developed the theme and served as Executive Program Committee Chair for “Critical Intersections/Dangerous Issues,” the Association’s 2006 annual meeting. She is founding editor of North American Dialogue, the publication of the Society for the Anthropology of North America, a former contributing editor for Transforming Anthropology, the journal of the Association of Black Anthropologists, former editor of the Association for Anthropology and Gerontology Newsletter and a former Section News Editor and column contributor to Anthropology News. She is a trustee of the Poynter Institute, a non-profit school for journalism education and leadership.

Professor Vesperi’s recent publications include Anthropology off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing, a co-edited volume of commentaries on how anthropologists craft their work, and chapters in anthologies on anthropology and journalism, aging, and the impact of the baby boom generation on US society. Her current project is a manuscript on the relationship between ethnography and narrative journalism.

Recent Courses
History of Anthropological Theory
Language, Culture and Society
The Anthropology of Performance

Selected Publications
2011 “Encore: A Performance Studies Approach to Age and Secular Ritual.” Generations (Journal of the American Society on Aging) special issue, “Not New Age, but for Older Age: Ritual for Later Life.” October 2011.

2010 “Attend to the Differences First: Conflict and Collaboration in Anthropology and Journalism.” Anthropology News, 51 (4) 7-9.

2009 Anthropology off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing. Waterston, Alisse and Maria D. Vesperi, eds. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

—“Taking Chances.”In Waterston, Alisse and Maria D. Vesperi, eds. Anthropology off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

—“Introduction: The Writer in the Anthropologist” with Alisse Waterston. In Waterston, Alisse and Maria D. Vesperi, eds. Anthropology off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

2009 “Integrating Aging into Anthropology Curricula.” Anthropology News, Vol. 50 (8) 21.

2009 “When Common Sense No Longer Holds: The Shifting Locus of News Production in the United States.” In Bird, Elizabeth, ed. The Anthropology of News and Journalism: Global Perspectives. Indiana University Press.

2009 “The Media and Promoting Positive Images of Aging.” In Hudson, Robert, ed. Boomer Bust? Economic and Political Dynamics of the Graying Society. Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood.

2004 “Forty-nine Plus: Shifting Images of Aging in the Media.” In Reinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement. Monograph, Harvard School of Public Health and MetLife Foundation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

2004 “New Horizons on Home.” In Rowles, Graham and Habib Chaudhury, eds. Coming Home: International Perspectives on Place, Time and Identity in Old Age. New York: Springer.

2003 “A Use of Irony in Contemporary Ethnographic Narrative.” In Stafford, Philip J., ed. Gray Areas: Ethnographic Encounters with Nursing Home Culture. School of American Research Press.

2001 “Seeing the Unseen: Literary Interpretations in Qualitative Gerontology.” In Rowles, Graham and Nancy Schoenberg, eds. Qualitative Gerontology (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.

2001 “Aging in the United States: Cultural Diversity as a Life Course Concern.” In Susser, Ida, and Thomas Patterson, eds. America Reconsidered: Anthropological Perspectives on Diversity. American Anthropological Association and Blackwell Press.

1999 “Expanding a Cross-Cultural Perspective on Aging through Fiction, Drama and the Visual Arts” in Shenk, Dena and Jay Sokolovsky, eds. Teaching About Aging: International and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Monograph, Association for Anthropology and Gerontology.

1998 (1985) City of Green Benches: Growing Old in a New Downtown. with new afterword by the author Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

1997 “Without Parents: Multigenerational Strategies for the Survival of Community” in Jay Sokolovsky, ed. The Cultural Context of Aging Worldwide Perspectives, 2nd edition. New York: Greenwood.

1995 The Culture of Long Term Care: Nursing Home Ethnography. Henderson, J. Neil and Maria D. Vesperi, eds. New York: Greenwood.