Stephen Chrisomalis

projects

Faculty Profile

Professor
dz6179@wayne.edu

Office

3019 F/AB

Biography

My name is Dr. Stephen Chrisomalis, and I am a linguistic anthropologist who specializes in the anthropology of mathematics and the interaction of language, cognition, and culture. My four-field anthropological training includes work in cultural, cognitive, archaeological, and linguistic anthropology.

My new book, Reckonings: Numerals, Cognition, and History, published by MIT Press in 2020, investigates numbers and mathematics as both sociocultural and cognitive phenomena.  Numbers are not just mathematical objects - they are ways of representing, understanding, and manipulating aspects of the world.  My previous book, Numerical Notation: A Comparative History, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010, is a cross-cultural cognitive analysis of written numerals over the past 5000 years. I investigate the relationship between individual cognition and broader social, political, and economic processes. Understanding how number words and number symbols interact in specific contexts - how they are used rather than simply how they are structured - helps us to rethink assumptions such as the widely-held belief that we are now at the 'end of history' of numbers. I also publish and supervise work on cross-cultural methods and theories in anthropology, the anthropology of writing, literacy, and numeracy, and the history of anthropology. I am the author of the academic blog, Glossographia.

Since 2008, I have been undertaking linguistic and ethnographic research with the Math Corps at WSU, aiming to understand how Detroit middle school students acquire and use mathematical concepts.  I am working under a National Science Foundation grant to support this research along with colleagues at four institutions. My other new research projects include a sociolinguistic investigation of changes in the English numeral system since 1800.

I am actively recruiting MA and PhD students who are interested in linguistic anthropology, the anthropology of science and mathematics, cognitive anthropology, writing and literacy, and the anthropology of education. Contact the department for more information about our graduate programs, or email me to discuss the possibility of coming to study with me at Wayne State.

Selected Publications

Courses taught

  • ANT/LIN 3310 - Language and Culture
  • ANT/LIN 5320 - Language and Societies
  • ANT/LIN/PSY 5900 - Culture, Language, and Cognition
  • ANT7030 - Debates in Anthropology
  • ANT7900 - Synthesis

Research Description

I am a linguistic anthropologist who specializes in the anthropology of mathematics and the interaction of language, cognition and culture. My four-field anthropological training includes work in cultural, cognitive, archaeological, and linguistic anthropology. My book, Numerical Notation: A Comparative History, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010, is a cross-cultural cognitive analysis of systems of written numerals as used over the past 5000 years. My work focuses on the relationship between individual cognition and broader social, political, and economic processes. Understanding how systems of number words and number symbols interact in specific contexts - how they are used rather than simply how they are structured - helps us to rethink assumptions such as the widely-held belief that we are now at the 'end of history' of number systems.

In addition to this work, I publish and supervise work on cross-cultural methods and theories in anthropology, the relationship between linguistic and archaeological anthropology, the anthropology of literacy and writing systems, and the history of anthropology. I am also the author of the academic blog, Glossographia.

Since 2008, I have been undertaking linguistic and ethnographic research with the Math Corps at WSU, aiming to understand the social and cognitive processes by which Detroit middle school students acquire and use mathematical concepts. I am also the director of the Stop: Toutes Directions project, which looks at language ideologies in the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada through its stop signs, which are important objects of linguistic and political discourse. My new research projects include a sociolinguistic investigation of changes in the English numeral system since 1800, and a multidisciplinary project on quantification and uncertainty in prostate cancer diagnosis.

I am interested in working with students who are interested in the anthropology of science and mathematics, cognitive anthropology, linguistic anthropology, cross-cultural comparison, or writing and literacy.

Affiliated Departments

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