Faculty » Susan Ossman

Susan Ossman

Ph.D. 1991 University of California Berkeley

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


Susan Ossman developed her analyses of globalization through 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 experience directing international collaborative projects and her practice as an artist. She is currently working on two major projects: the first examines how mobility and movement shape subjectivity. The second focuses on memory, work and gender through the lens of domestic chores. Susan has developed collaborative, long-term programs on these topics that engage artists, scholars and the public.

Susan’s 2014-15 lectures as invited Professor at the Université Paris IV-Sorbonne focused on how different experiences of mobility form subjects and social interactions. These set the groundwork for an upcoming book in which she studies the range of experiences of mobility from people who rarely leave their village or neighborhood to those who have settled in several countries. These last were the topic of her latest book Moving Matters: Paths of Serial Migration (Stanford 2013), which inspired “Sea Seed,” a play by the ovation award winning Son of Semele Theater Ensemble (SOSE) directed by UCR Professor Erith Jaffe-Berg and The Moving Matters Traveling Workshop (MMTW), a collaborative program of art production, research and global outreach.

The MMTW is an evolving collective of serial migrant artists and ethnographers who develop exhibitions, performances and participatory interventions in changing locations. The project format and research process mirrors participants’ migratory path to encourage dialogue among workshop participants and audiences. Meetings focus on specific topic. The MMTW began with a conference in Riverside in 2013  and has since developed projects at the Pavillon Vendôme (Clichy France), The Allard Pierson Museum of Mediterranean Antiquities (Amsterdam, Netherlands) and the Typographia Gallery and Victoria Art Center (Bucharest, Romania). Its collaborations with the University of Amsterdam and the “Non-lieux de l’exil” group at the Maison des Sciences de l’homme in Paris are ongoing. MMTW events and informal gatherings have been extensively documented in videotapes, photographs and participant’s fieldnotes and the project has been the subject of several short films. In March 2016 the MMTW will be the topic of a CIS conference, an exhibition, performances and a screening at the Culver Center.

On the Line also bridges anthropology and the arts. It focuses on the workaday practice of doing laundry to explore memory, cultural difference and people’s changing relationship to the nature. The project began with an exhibition of Ossman’s work at the Brandstater Gallery in Riverside in 2013, continued with the “Second Look” exhibition in March 2013 and then “Hanging Out,” in 2015 at the Riverside Arts Council’s Afterimage Gallery. Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Professor Ossman will move the program out of the gallery in 2016 with a series of pop-up exhibitions developed  in collaboration with the Riverside Public Library. UCR Graduate students, undergraduates and faculty work with local, national and international artists and scholars for this project. Fieldwork and art production feed one another and enable audiences multiple ways of participating in the creative process. Outside scholars, artists and critics offer their critical assessments at seminars that close each exhibition.

The MMTW and On the Line have led Susan to develop her own work, notably three new multi-media series My Mediterranean Archeology, Gather Wood, Gather Words, and In the Arms of Morpheus. Her Lifeworks project uses ethnographic research methods to produce art for individuals based on their life stories. She recently explained the development of her art/ethnography for ‘La Vie des Idées.” In a forthcoming entry on “Lines” for the Encyclopedia of Anthropology she tells the story of the relationship of anthropology to art from the perspective of a no.2 pencil.

Professor Ossman joined the faculty of UCR in 2007. She has directed UCR's Global Studies program since 2008. 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 Institut de Recherche sur le Maghreb Contemporain in Rabat (now the 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)