Dr. Mitra Emad

Professional Title
Associate Professor & Distinguished University Teaching Professor

Mitra Emad received her B.A. with honors in English at DePaul University in 1987, her M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1989, and her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Rice University in 1998. As an interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Emad trained in Cultural Anthropology at Rice University - a program long identified with experimental styles of ethnographic writing and cultural critique of social institutions. In her career at UMD, she fostered a version of Cultural Studies unique in the United States for its focus on public ethnography and civic engagement. Currently Dr. Emad has brought this focus to the Anthropology program where she has co-founded and continues to develop a Participatory Media Lab with Professor David Syring.  She teaches and writes about cultural constructions of the human body, especially in terms of how the body functions as a site for cultural translation.

Mitra Emad has published articles about the American comic book, “Wonder Woman,” about the intersections of early web-based communication forums with health-seeking behavior, and about the cultural constructions of pain. Her work on the body as a site for the cultural translation of American acupuncture has moved into an analysis of reflective practice and hands-on training among acupuncture students, medical students, and somatic trauma therapy students. She is currently conducting participatory and observational research in trauma and resilience around how the human body functions as an often untapped resource in processes of translation, healing, and transformation. 

With a strong interest in engaged pedagogies, her work in the classroom is tied with her research interests, and she regularly teaches courses on Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Constructions of the Body, Medical Anthropology, and Visual Anthropology. Integrating somatic and yoga practices into her classes has become a hallmark of Dr. Emad’s pedagogical approach. In 2018, Dr. Emad received the prestigious Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education

From 2015-2017, Dr. Emad successfully launched and directed the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. In 2018 she worked with collegiate faculty to foster lasting conceptual and bureaucratic changes to an existing interdisciplinary graduate program in order to bring forward a robust new Master in Professional Studies program. The MPS program focuses on Multidisciplinary Research & Creativity, and more information can be found here. Dr. Emad continues to teach the introductory course for this graduate program, MPS 8001: Theories & Methods in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies.

In Fall 2021, Dr. Emad will be returning from a sabbatical during which she trained as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, and began work on her book, Pandiculation Pedagogies: a Somatic Ethnography.

Areas of Focus

  • The Human Body as a Cultural Entity
  • Trauma and Resilience
  • Yoga and Yoga Therapy
  • Intersection of Culture and Somatics
  • Medical and Health Education
  • Comic Books & Popular Culture
  • Naturalized Technology Practices