Sabra Thorner

  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology
  • on leave 2022-2023
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.

Recent Grants

Included in a Australian Research Council (Australia) Grant via agreement with the University of Melbourne for the project "Indigenous Storytelling and the Living Archive of Aboriginal Knowledge." The project is for 3 years. (2020)

Received a mini-grant and residency award in the area of Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to redesign undergraduate course – Peoples and Cultures of Indigenous Australia (Anthropology 216 at Mount Holyoke College). The project is for nine months.

Recent Publications

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

Edmonds, F., Khan, R., Thorner, S., and Maree 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.  

Thorner, S., Rive, L., Dallwitz, J., and Inyika, J. (2019). Never Giving Up: Negotiating, Culture-Making, and the Infinity of the Archive. In Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication No. 18. Archival Returns: Central Australia and Beyond, edited by Linda Barwick, Jennifer Green, and Petronella Vaarzon-Morel, 263-284.  Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Thorner, S., F. Edmonds, M. Clarke, K. Thorpe, R. Khan, and S. Huebner (2019). The Living Archive of Aboriginal Art: Maree Clarke and the Circulation of Photographs as Culture-Making. Mapping Meaning, the Journal, 3, 38-63. Retrieved from

Recent Honors

Was named the editor of the special issue of Museum Anthropology, 45(1): Materiality, Belonging, and the Activation of Difference.

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

View More