MacArthur Fellows Program

Shelly Errington

Cultural Anthropologist | Class of June 1981

Cultural Anthropologist
Santa Cruz, California
37 at time of award
Area of Focus
Cultural Anthropology
Published June 1, 1981

About Shelly's Work

Shelly Errington is a cultural anthropologist whose interdisciplinary work focuses on various junctures among power, aesthetics, and narrative.

Errington has done anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea and in Indonesia, and has research interests in Mexico.  Her earlier work was on narrative form and subjectivity in Malay court literature, on political forms and consciousness in Southeast Asia, and on the social construction of gender; relevant to those were her books, Meaning and Power in a Southeast Asian Realm (1989) and Power and Difference: Gender in Island Southeast Asia (co-edited, 1990).  Her book, The Death of Authentic Primitive Art and Other Tales of Progress (1998), concerns the display of notions of the “primitive” via High Primitive Art, crafts, kitsch, and rubbish, and their institutionalization in national and market contexts.  Her recent work focuses on documentary film, photography, arts, and multimedia.


A professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Errington is also a published cartoonist.  She has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Stanford, California (1989), and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (1977).

Errington received a B.A. (1966) from the Newcomb College of Tulane University and a Ph.D. (1975) from Cornell University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

Select News Coverage of Shelly Errington
April 1, 2018
"Lissa and the Graphic Novel Form: An Appreciation"
Anthropology Now
Shelly Errington , 1981 MacArthur Fellow
March 6, 1999
"Faux Primitif"
New Scientist
Shelly Errington , 1981 MacArthur Fellow
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