Stuart J McLean

Photo of Stuart J McLean

Contact Me

375 HHH Ctr

301 19th Ave S

My work mobilizes anthropology, art, literature and philosophy to ask: what new possibilities for thinking and living might result from extending the notion of creativity beyond the human realm? As the biological and physical sciences no less than the various ‘new materialisms’ current across humanities disciplines serve to remind us, the worlds that humans often pride themselves on creating are not and have never been exclusively human but are dependent upon and inflected by a multitude of other than human powers and presences, including animals, plants, geological formations, weather systems and a range of humanly manufactured artifacts fashioned from a variety of materials. I argue that paying closer attention and giving explicit recognition to such presences involves taking seriously not only the findings of contemporary science but also art and literature as sources of knowledge and understanding of the world. To this end my work seeks to blur accredited boundaries not only between academic and creative writing (including prose fiction and poetry) but also between writing and other expressive genres (audio-visual and performative). I approach anthropology not as the study of an objectified humanity but as the immanent exploration of alternative possibilities of collective existence, new ways of being human and other than human. I seek to learn both from anthropology’s history of engagements with other, non-Western traditions of human world making, in which agency, personhood and sentience, along with distinctions between humans and other beings, may be configured and distributed in radically different ways, and from art and literature as engagements with the materiality of media that always have the capacity to exceed or disrupt the human projects enacted through them. These might include paint, stone, celluloid, the body of the performer or - most strikingly in the case of poetry - the rhythmic and phonic ‘substance’ of language. My work asks – and attempts to show -what might happen to anthropology and to the humans it purports to study if this other then human life of the materials of ‘culture’ (with which humans are inextricably entangled yet which remains irreducible to their intentions and purposes) were given its due.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Sociocultural Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, 1999.
  • M. Phil.: Sociocultural Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, 1994.
  • M.A.: Sociocultural Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, 1992.
  • B.A.: English Literature, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K., 1986.


  • Philosophical anthropology
  • Anthropology of Art
  • Landscape and environment
  • Experimental writing
  • North Atlantic region
Courses Taught
  • Other(s') Wor(l)ds: Anthropology, Ontology and the Question of Writing
  • Fictionalizing Anthropology
  • Making the Dead Matter
  • "Europe": Writing in the Margins
  • Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Anthropology
  • Humans and Non-Humans
  • Fictionalizing Anthropology: Encounters and Fabulations at the Edges of the Human. McLean, Stuart, University of Minnesota Press, Author, 2017. Image
  • Crumpled Paper Boat: Experiments in Ethnographic Writing. McLean, Stuart, Anand Pandian, Duke University Press, Co-Editor, 2017. Image
  • Materiality and Culture: McLean, Stuart, International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 14, 765-771, 2015. Download
  • All the Difference in the World: Liminality, Montage and the Reinvention of Comparative Anthropology: McLean, Stuart, Berghahn Books, Transcultural Montage, 58-75, 2013. Download
  • Other Shores: Insularity, Contingency and the Making and Unmaking of "Europe": McLean, Stuart, Edinburgh University Press, Europe After Derrida: Crisis and Potentiality, 61-79, 2013. Download
  • "Seaweeds and Limpets will grow on our Gravestones": On Islands, Time, Death and Inhuman Materialities: McLean, Stuart, Ashgate Publishing, Taming Time, Timing Death: Social Technologies and Ritual, 17-39, 2013. Download
  • Black Goo: Forceful Encounters with matter in Europe's Muddy Margins: McLean, Stuart, Cultural Anthropology, 26 (4) 589-619, 2011. Download
  • Stories and Cosmogonies: Imagining Creativity Beyond "Nature" and "Culture": McLean, Stuart, Cultural Anthropology, 213-245, 2009. Download
  • Bodies From the Bog: Metamorphosis, Non-Human Agency and the making of Collective Memory: McLean, Stuart, Trames, 12 (62/57) 299-308, 2008. Download
  • "To Dream Profoundly": Irish Boglands and the Imagination of Matter: McLean, Stuart, Irish Journal of Anthropology. special issue, Engaging Imagination: Anthropological Explorations in Creativity, 10 (2) 61-68, 2007.
  • Introduction: Why Imagination: McLean, Stuart, Irish Journal of Anthropology, special issue, Engaging Imagination: Anthropological Explorations in Creativity, 10 (2) 5-9, 2007.
  • Engaging Imagination: Anthropological Explorations in Creativity. McLean, Stuart, Steve Coleman, Anthropological Association of Ireland, Co-Editor, 2007. Download
  • The Event and its Terrors: Ireland, Famine, Modernity. McLean, Stuart, Stanford University Press, Author, 2004.
  • Ceide Fields: Natural Histories of a Buried landscape: McLean, Stuart, Andrew Strathern and Pamela Stewart, Pluto Press, Landscape, Memory and History: Anthropological Perspectives, 47-70, 2003.
  • "With Death Looking Out of Their Eyes": The Spectropoetics of Hunger in Accounts of the Irish Famine: McLean, Stuart, Social Analysis, 43 (3) 40-63, 1999.
  • Touching Death: Tellurian Seduction and the Spaces of memory in Famine Ireland: McLean, Stuart, Irish Journal of Anthropology, 4 61-72, 1999.