Maria D. Vesperi

Professor of Anthropology


Phone Number

Email Address



College Hall 233


Social Science 102


Office or Division

Anthropology | Urban Studies | Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies


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, public-facing scholarship, multi-modal representations of culture, performance studies, 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 has offered courses in cultural anthropology, myth and ritual, history of anthropological theory, anthropology and literature, language, culture and society, contemporary U.S. cultures, urban anthropology, the anthropology of performance, anthropological approaches to the study of aging, and visual anthropology. She also established and continues to teach a journalism sequence which includes production of a campus weekly newspaper, The Catalyst.

Professor Vesperi is executive coordinating editor of Anthropology Now, a journal and multi-media platform designed to make anthropological knowledge accessible to the public. She is 2005 recipient of the President’s Award, Society for the Anthropology of North America; 2006 recipient of the President’s Award American Anthropological Association; 2009 recipient of the American Anthropological Association/Oxford University Press Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Anthropology; 2017 recipient of the Anthropological Association’s Anthropology in Media Award; and 2018 recipient of the Society for the Anthropology of North America’s SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America.

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. She has served on the American Anthropological Association Executive Board, Long Range Planning Committee, Nominations Committee, Resource Development Committee, Student Internship Committee, and as a AAA Op-Ed Project mentor. 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 served from 1995-2015 as a trustee of the Poynter Institute, a non-profit school for journalism education and leadership.

Recent Courses

Language, Culture and Society
Urban Anthropology: Past, Present and Future
Cultures of the Contemporary USA
Anthropology and Literature


Selected Publications

2022 “The Urgency of Now: Editing Anthropological Knowledge in Real Time.” In Baines, Kristina and Victoria Costa, eds. Producing Cool Anthropology: a reflective handbook. University of Toronto Press.

2020 “That Generative Space between Anthropology and Journalism.” In McGranahan, Carole Ann, ed. Writing Anthropology: Essays on Craft and Commitment. Duke University Press.

2020 Introduction: “An Anthropology of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Higgins, Rylan, Emily Martin, and Maria D. Vesperi). Anthropology Now (special April 2020 issue). Taylor & Francis.

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.