Sabra Thorner

  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology
  • on leave spring 2024
Sabra Thorner

Sabra Thorner is a cultural anthropologist who has worked with Indigenous Australians for over 15 years, focusing on photography, digital media and archiving as forms of cultural production and social activism. She is broadly interested in visual/media anthropology, digital cultures, anthropology in/of museums, Indigenous Australia and Indigenous art/media worlds, intellectual property and cultural heritage regimes, ethnographic and documentary film, and art and society. She is currently working on her first monograph, on Indigenous photography in Australia, as well as a collaborative edited collection on the revitalization of Aboriginal arts in southeastern Australia.


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, NYU 2013
  • Advanced Certificate in Culture & Media, NYU 2007
  • M.A., Australian Studies, University of Melbourne 2003
  • B.A., Sociology, Georgetown University 2000

Associated Courses

Decolonizing Museums, Anthropology of Media, Ethnographic Film, Digital Cultures, Anthropology of Indigenous Australia, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Recent Grants

Mellon New Directions Fellowship, 2023-2026

Faculty Fellowship, Mount Holyoke College, 2022-2023

Australian Research Council Indigenous Discovery Project (Partner Investigator), 2020-2023

Australian Research Council Linkage Project (Research Associate), 2021-2024

Five Colleges’ Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS)/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation “Gathering at the Crossroads” Project. $49,660 for artists’ residency and $12,480 for course redesign (2021-22); $10,000 for course redesign (2020-21)

Recent Publications

Thorner, S. (2023) “Indigenous Media: Currents of Engagement” (with K. Dowell and G. Zamorano). In Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology. Ed. John Jackson. New York: Oxford University Press.

Thorner, S. 2022. "Being Called to Action: Contemporary Museum Ethnographies." (Author of this introductory article and Guest Editor of Special Issue) Materiality, Belonging, and the Activation of Difference, Special Issue of Museum Anthropology 45(1). Online/Early view. DOI: 10.1111/muan.12243.

Thorner, S. (2020) “The Photograph as Archive, Reimagining the Archive, the Living Archive of Aboriginal Art,” (a photo-essay, with M. Clarke). AnthroVision, the online journal of the Visual Anthropology Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (VANEASA), Volume 8, Issue 1, Paolo Favero, ed. Launched August 31, 2022; available:

Edmonds, F., Khan, R., Thorner, S., and M. Clarke. 2020. "The Living Archive of Aboriginal Art: Expressions of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Through Collaborative Art-Making." REG/AC: Revista de Estudios Globales & Arte Contemporáneo // Journal of Global Studies and Contemporary Art, 7(1): 267-311.

Recent Honors

Sabra Thorner hosted "Ancestral Memories: Artists in Conversation" at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum on April 7, 2022.  This event featured five Indigenous Australian artists-in-residence as part of Spring 2022 Decolonizing Museums course (Anthropology 316). View the flyer for the event.

Ombretta Frau and Sabra Thorner led a gallery talk in the Mount Holyoke Art Museum on “The Afterlives of Objects” on November 7, 2019.

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