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At Johns Hopkins, Ruth E. Toulson is a lecturer for the Master of Arts in Museum Studies program.

Toulson is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research focuses on the dead body, and death’s material culture in Southeast and East Asia. Trained at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Toulson brings to Johns Hopkins a multi-sited collaborative international research agenda that combines long-term ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth work in museum collections. Toulson brings significant teaching and advising experience at the graduate level in anthropology, material culture studies, and critical museum studies.

As a whole, Toulson’s scholarship explores the intersection of death and the state, particularly in moments of sociopolitical transition. Toulson probes this intersection by focusing particularly on the dead body as a form of highly politicized material culture. Supported through numerous external grants, including those from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and the Hong Kong Research Council, this research program has resulted in published work, including a book and numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed articles, including in Journal of Material Culture.

Toulson recently delivered the keynote address at University of Melbourne, Redesigning Deathcare Conference, and has given invited lectures at the Gatty Lecture Series (Cornell), The Centre for the Study of Death and Society (University of Bath), The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies (Harvard), and at the Council for Southeast Asia (Yale), among other invitations. Toulson is associate editor of the journal Anthropology and Humanism.

Featured Works

  • The Materiality of Mourning: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives, Edited volume, Ruth Toulson and Zahra Newby, Routledge, 2019
  • State of Grief: Dead Bodies and the Body-Politic in Singapore, Ruth Toulson, forthcoming from University of Washington Press

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