The Team

Principal Investigators

Sarah E Wagner, Principal Investigator

Dr. Wagner is a social anthropologist who works in the former Yugoslavia and the United States and an Associate Professor at GW. Her research has explored connections between the destructive and creative forces of war, focusing on the identification of missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically victims of the Srebrenica genocide, and the United States military’s attempts to recover and identify service members Missing In Action (MIA) from the past century’s conflicts.

roy richard grinker, co-pi

Dr. Grinker is a cultural anthropologist and Professor at GW, specializing in ethnicity, nationalism, and psychological anthropology, with topical expertise in autism, Korea, and sub-Saharan Africa. He is also the director of GW’s Institute for Ethnographic Research and editor-in-chief of the journal Anthropological Quarterly.

Joel Kuipers, co-pi

Dr. Kuipers is a linguistic anthropologist and Professor at GW interested in the role of language in the description and interpretation of social life, particularly how authoritative discourse shapes institutionally defined activities in clinics, courtrooms, classrooms and religious settings. He is Director of GW’s Discourse Laboratory.

Devin Proctor, Co-pi

Dr. Proctor is a cultural anthropologist and Assistant Professor at Elon University interested social practices in digital spaces. His research has focused on constructions of body-identity among groups such as the Otherkin and within the contemporary rise of white supremacist discourse in Internet spaces.

Jorge Benavides-Rawson, Co-pi

Dr. Benavides is a Medical Doctor and a PhD Candidate in Medical Anthropology at GW. He is interested in understanding how migration, poverty, politics, health care policy, and social construction of illness become part of the cycles of communicable diseases. He has specifically focused on dengue fever in Costa Rica and the Zika virus in American migrant communities.

Special Consultants

Rev. Anthony Evans

President of The National Black Church Initiative

Rev. Sheldon Williams

President of The National Black Religious Broadcasters 

Dr. Ruth E. Toulsen

Socio-cultural anthropologist and mortician

Research assistants


Tariq Adely is a graduate student in sociocultural anthropology at George Washington University. He is interested in how infrastructures and media networks facilitate and shape the production and circulation of expressive culture. He recently completed a master’s degree at Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.

Kai Blevins, Research Assistant

Kai River Blevins is a first-year Anthropology PhD student at GW studying social and linguistic anthropology. They are contributing to the “Rituals in the Making” project through archival and policy research. Kai is currently studying the psychedelic decriminalization movement in the United States, motivated by their interests in consciousness, agency, ethics, mediation, and the interrelatedness of the biological and the social.

Ruth Flynn, Research Assistant

Ruthie Flynn is a graduate student in medical anthropology at George Washington University. After receiving her bachelor’s in anthropology at Catholic University in 2019, she moved in the direction of psychological anthropology with particular research foci in institutional psychiatry, medical neoliberalism, depression, eating disorders, and trauma. Besides grad school, she enjoys teaching yoga and volunteering as a mentor at an eating disorder outpatient clinic.

Soumitra Thorat, Research Assistant

Soumitra Thorat is a second year graduate student in anthropology at George Washington University. He is interested in how social media applications that aid in self-expression take on social significance. He is motivated by interests in political communication, memorialization, and social impact of technology.

Briana Wojcik, Research Assistant

Briana Wojcik is a second year masters student in anthropology at George Washington University. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2018 with her bachelors in French and international studies, with a minor in anthropology. After graduating, she moved to DC to work as a City Year Americorps volunteer. Briana’s current interests center around the intersections of nationalism and feminism, as well as digital media’s role in identity formation. Outside of GW, she enjoys riding scooters on the National Mall, playing with her dog, and trying new desserts.

Ariel Santikarma, Research Assistant

Ariel is a fourth-year undergraduate student in Anthropology, French, and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at GW. She is interested in the ways reconciliation and care for the dead are redefined and reproduced in the aftermath of mass violence, particularly in post-1965 Indonesia. This work informs her broader interest in questions of power, state violence, gender, sexuality, and race. 

Samuel-Mayes Mathews, Research Assistant

Samuel-Mayes Mathews is a second year Anthropology graduate student at George Washington University, currently researching the therapeutic aspects of digital connections for those with chronic illnesses and disabilities as well as digital sociality and its growing relevance at large. He is also interested in museum and education accessibility and diversity within the museum and culture studies fields.

Geoffrey Horvath, Research Assistant

Geoffrey is a first-year Anthropology graduate student focusing on linguistic anthropology. His areas of interest include language policy and planning, political expression and communication, nationalism, and diaspora languages.