Sean Dowdy

Postdoctoral Fellow - Department of Social Anthropology
Image of Sean Dowdy
Norwegian version of this page
Available hours By appointment
Visiting address Gullhaug torg 1 0484 Oslo
Postal address Postboks 1091 Blindern 0317 Oslo

Academic interests

Topics: Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy, Ritual, Political Communication, Oracular Speech, Semiotics, Social Organization, Kinship, Cosmology/Religion, Vernacular Political Systems, Human Development, Value Transformation, Economic Anthropology, Social Theory, Intellectual Commons, Humor, Taboo and the Unsayable

Regional interests: South Asia (Northeast India, Himalayas, South India); Highland Southeast Asia


I am a psychoanalytic anthropologist and an anthropological psychoanalyst with a stubborn resistance to disciplinary specialization. I completed my PhD in socio-cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2017 with a dissertation focused on public vs. secret genres of political and economic communication (referred to locally as "accounts" or hisap) in Mayong, a small kingdom in Central Assam. My work with Mayongians brought me—in ever-increasing and almost obsessive returns—to Freudian and Object-Relations Psychoanalysis. After finishing my PhD, I continued on at the University of Chicago as a Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences and a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. While teaching undergraduate courses on social theory and chipping away at my book manuscript and other publications, I began formal training in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and am currently a candidate at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute. 

I have joined the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo as a post-doctoral fellow to work on the RCN-funded project “Shrinking the Planet.” Under the direction of Dr. Keir Martin (PI), I will conduct ethnographic research in India (Bangalore, Kolkata, and Shillong) to investigate how psychotherapeutic practice and its forms of knowledge are re-shaping subjectivity and values among the Indian middle class. 


  • Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 2015
  • Institute for Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion Research Fellowship, 2013-14
  • Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Fellowship, 2013-14
  • I.I.E. Mellon Research Fellowship (Emergency grant given for a successful Fulbright-Hays DDRA fellowship received during a year of no federal funding), 2012-13


Positions held

  • Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences and Harper-Schmidt Fellow (Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts), University of Chicago, 2017-2021
Tags: Psychoanalysis, Kinship, Political communication, Rituals, Semiotics, Value, Social organisation, Social theory, India, Human development

Selected publications

Articles, Essays, and Book Chapters

  • Forthcoming (2021). “Kingship.” Entry for The Routledge Companion to Northeast India, edited by T.B. Subba and J.J.P. Wouters. London and New Delhi: Routledge.
  • Forthcoming (2021). “The Bronze Sandal.” Political Theology.
  • In Press (2021). “What is a Raij? Translating Counter-Sovereignties in Twenty-First-Century Assam.” In Vernacular Politics in Northeast India: Tribal Democracies, Ethno-Talk, and Political Prophecy, edited by Jelle Wouters, Oxford University Press. 
  • 2017. “Ichthyonomics, or Fish and Humans in the Time of Floods: Rethinking Speciation in Assam.” In Northeast India: A Place of Relations, edited by Yasmin Saikia and Amit Rahul Baishya. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2015. “Reflections on a Shared Name: Taboo and Destiny in Mayong (Assam).” Special Issue, “Names and Naming in South Asia,” edited by Veena Das and Jacob Copeman. South Asia Multidisciplinary Journal 12. 
  • 2011. “Adorning the Margins.” Margins: A Journal in Literature and Culture. 1 (1): 11-64. 

Edited Volumes


Book Reviews

  • 2021. Review of Pinto, Sarah. 2020. The Doctor & Mrs. A.: Ethics and Counter-Ethics in an Indian Dream Analysis. New York: Fordham University Press. Anthropological Quarterly 94 (1): 787–792.
  • 2010. Review of Birla, Ritu. 2008. Stages of Capital: Law, Culture and Market Governance in Late Colonial India. Durham and London: Duke University Press. University of Chicago Committee on Southern Asian Studies Newsletter, Fall Issue.
  • 2006. Review of Gandhi, Leela. 2006. Affective Communities: Anti-Colonial Thought and Fin-de-Siecle Radicalism.  Durham and London: Duke University Press. University of Chicago Committee on Southern Asian Studies Newsletter, Summer Issue.
Published Sep. 8, 2021 9:09 AM - Last modified Oct. 12, 2021 2:58 PM