Mark Auslander

Mark Auslander

Director, Michigan State University Museum
Associate Professor, Department of History and Department of Anthropology


Department Web page:

Mark Auslander, Ph.D., serves as director of the Michigan State University Museum and is an associate professor of Anthropology and History at Michigan State University.  A sociocultural and historical anthropologist, he works at the intersection of ritual practice, aesthetics, environmental transformation, kinship, and political consciousness in sub-saharan Africa and the African Diaspora. As an Africanist, he has published on such topics as grassroots debates over green revolution technologies, land tenure transformations and the etiology of HIV/AIDS, modern mass witch-cleansing movements, the revitalization of precolonial political ceremonies, and creative re-readings of tradition-based African art by contemporary multimedia artists.  

Dr. Auslander’s Africanist work on kinship, aesthetics, place-making, and political cosmology informs his scholarship on race and cultural politics in the African Diaspora and North America. His award winning book, The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding an American Family (University of Georgia Press, 2011) re-reads American racial politics under slavery and post-slavery through structuralist approaches to mythology and kinship.  His extensive curatorial experience includes exhibitions on topics ranging from slavery, liberation, and memory in university settings to contemporary African Diaspora art to explorations of heroin and homelessness, among many others. 

From 2011-17, Dr. Auslander served as director of the Museum of Culture and Environment at Central Washington University, where he oversaw the academic program in Museum Studies. He also co-chairs, with Nana Akua Anyidoho (University of Ghana), the African Studies Association annual meetings (Atlanta, Georgia in November 2018) and serves on the board of directors of the Consequences of Radiation Exposure (CORE) Museum.

With his students, Dr. Auslander has led numerous community engaged/service learning courses, partnering with vulnerable communities in developing collaborative exhibitions, documentary projects, and social justice initiatives, such as restoring and documenting historically African American cemeteries; collaboratively curating art exhibitions with African refugee communities; and co-curating poetry performances with incarcerated youth in correctional facilities.


Recent Publications

Auslander, M. (2017). Rose’s gift: Slavery, kinship, and the fabric of memory. Present Pasts, 8(1), 78. doi:   

Auslander, M. (with Renteria-Valencia, R., Schattschneider, E., and Amason, J., et al.). (2017). In search of the plaza: Threatened mass evictions, a precarious public sphere, and a museum-community partnership. Centre for Imaginative Ethnography. Retrieved from

Auslander, M. (2017). Objects of kinship: Reconstituting descent in the shadow of slavery. Transition, 122, 206-216. Retrieved from

Auslander, M. (2016, November 29). Slavery’s traces: In search of Ashley’s sack [Web log post]. Southern Spaces. Retrieved from

Auslander, M. (2016). [Review of the exhibition Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts]. African Arts, 49(1), 88-91. Retrieved from

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