Laura C. Brown Assistant Professor

3129 WWPH

Laura C. Brown is a sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist whose research examines intersections between language, materiality, and commerce with a geographic focus in South Asia.


Laura Brown has conducted fieldwork in Tamil Nadu, India examining how the owners of small road-side shops manage to reach agreements and preserve relationships with neighbors, customers, and other interlocutors whose roles and interests frequently oppose their own. Her ethnographic focus was on interactions between shopkeepers, product suppliers, and their customers. However, she uses these conversations, as well as engagements with other sites, such as government run ration shops, political rallies, and newspaper accounts of traders’ behavior, to examine the ways in which everyday talk on neighborhood streets may work as a “back-stage” for the organization of activities associated with broader geographic scales and more overtly political domains.

Professor Brown’s current research further explores the relationship between intimate linguistic exchanges and broader political economic transformations through the analysis of typographic design, commodification, and use by South Asian language speakers. Focusing on small-run print media such as wedding invitations, political fliers, and film star fan club posters, she examines debates over the value, meaning, and ownership of South Asian language scripts in India and the US.

Petty Shop, Thanjavur