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Sasha Newell

Picture of Sasha Newell

Assistant Professor


Sasha Newell is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology. He has conducted fieldwork in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, amongst Congolese and Ivoirian immigrants in Paris, and the U.S. His research interests revolve around the social life of objects and the role of materiality in the production of culture, but include urban social networks and exchange, consumption and postcolonial identity, witchcraft and magic, semiotics, and ideologies of modernity. His book, The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenship in Côte d’Ivoire, describes how urban African youth consume European and U.S. brands in an effort to perform “modern” success. Such performances, involving dance, slang, and conspicuous consumption, are recognized as bluffing, but imitation is appreciated as an art form rather than scorned as artifice. Newell is currently engaged in a new research project on hoarding, storage space, memory, and role of stored objects in the production of kinship in U.S. culture.


Consumption and Exchange


Postcolonial Identity and "Modernity"

Witchcraft and Magic

Urban Social Networks

Performance, Secrecy, and Deception

Kinship, Storage, and Memory



2012. The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenship in Côte d'Ivoire. University of Chicago Press.


2014. "The Matter of the Unfetish: Hoarding and the Spirit of Possessions" in Hau: The Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4(3): 185-213.

2013. "Brands as Masks: Public Secrecy and the Countefeit in Côte d'Ivoire," in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19(1): 138-154.

2013. "Le Goût des Autres: Ivoirian Fashion and Alterity," in Etnofoor 24(2): 41-57.

2009. “Enregistering Modernity, Bluffing Criminality: How Nouchi Reinvented (and Fractured) the Nation,” in The Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 19(2): 157-184.

2009 “Godrap Girls, Draou Boys, and the Sexual Economy of the Bluff in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire,” Ethnos 74(3): 379-402.

2007.  “Pentecostal Witchcraft: Neoliberal Possession and Demonic Discourse in Ivoirian Pentecostal Churches,” Journal of Religion in Africa 37: 461-490.

2006.  “Estranged Belongings: A Moral Economy of Theft in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire,” Anthropological Theory 6(2): 179-204, editor Joel Robbins.

2005  “Migratory Modernity and the Cosmology of Consumption in Côte d'Ivoire.” In Migration and Economy: Global and Local Dynamics, edited by Lillian Trager, pp. 163-192. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.


  • PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from Cornell University, 2003
  • B.A. in Social Anthropology from Reed College, 1996