Faculty » Susan Ossman

Susan Ossman

Ph.D. 1991 University of California Berkeley

Office: 1303 Watkins Hall
Phone: (951) 827-1264


Susan Ossman’s analyses of globalization developed as she carried out fieldwork on media, mobility, aesthetics, gender and politics in sites that span North Africa, Europe, North America and the Middle East. Her innovative designs for mobile ethnography are related to her life of international migration, her experiences directing international collaborative projects and her practice as an artist.

Her book, Moving Matters: Paths of Serial Migration(Stanford 2013) follows people who lived in several countries to propose a new way of thinking about the relationship of mobility to identity and politics. Serial migrants have much in common, regardless of their birthplace, language, religion or cultural background. This is not because they are cosmopolitans, freed from the gravity of taken for granted social ties, or nomads who are oblivious to borders. Rather, they have all been immigrants several times. Those who repeat immigration struggle with the accumulation of ways of being themselves in each new home. By listening to their stories we come up against the limits of hyphenated identities and conceptions of modern subjects as collections or assemblages.

The Moving Matters Traveling Workshop uses Susan’s book as a stepping off point for further research. Serial migrant artists develop works about their shared experience across several sites: the workshop mirrors their migrations and enables creative dialogue about this form of life. The first workshop on “The Art of Migration” was held at UCR’s Culver Center for the Arts in May 2013. Then, the workshop traveled to the Pavillon Vendome in Clichy, France (November 2013) where they explored notions of Borders and Passage in their performances. In June 2014, the MMTW had the opportunity to interaction with the collection of the Allard Pierson Museum of Mediterranean Antiquities in Amsterdam to develop an exhibition and performance on the topic of“Objects in / of Migration.” The MMTW’s next stop is Bucharest, Romania in July 2015. They will develop an exhibition and performance at the TIPOGRAPHIA Gallery that interrogates the meeting or disjunction of individual memory and collective history from the perspective of serial migrants.

On the Line is another of Ossman’s projects bridging anthropology and the arts. It develops sites for exploring memory, cultural difference and people’s relationships with one another and to the environment through art that references the workaday practice of doing laundry. The project began with an exhibition of Ossman’s work at the Brandstater Gallery in February 2013, continued with the “Second Look” where artists and anthropologist remade that exhibition in March 2013 and continued in February-March 2015 with “Hanging Out,” an exhibition and set of performances designed as a site for research and story collection at the Riverside Art’s Council’s Afterimage Gallery. In 2016 On the Line will move out of the gallery with a series of outdoor pop-up exhibitions and performances. This program benefits from a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Susan continues to work out the theoretical implications of her fieldwork on mobility; most notably by refining the “three world” model she first developed in her comparative study of beauty salons in Casablanca Paris and Cairo and has since used to analyze politics, media events and experiences of migration. Her 2014-15 lectures on this topic as invited Professor at the université Paris IV-Sorbonne focused on how this model enables us to consider processes of socialization and social interaction at a time when differential experiences of mobility are critical to the formation of political subjects. These lectures will be the basis for an upcoming book.

Professor Ossman joined the faculty of UCR in 2007. She is the Director of UCR's Global Studies program. She previously taught at Goldsmith's College, University of London, Rice University, Georgetown University, The American University of Paris and the CELSA-Sorbonne. In 1992 she founded the Rabat center of the Institut de Recherche sur le Maghreb Contemporain (IRMC- now Centre Jacques Berque), where she was research fellow and director until 1996. Her awards include a Guggenheim fellowship and grants from the CNRS (France), The British Academy and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Edited Books

Selected articles and interviews


Exhibitions (selected)