2021–2023 Postdoctoral Fellow, Communication
PhD in History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz
Isaac Blacksin is a media anthropologist and an ethnographer of military conflict, with interests in the politics and culture of knowledge production. He received his Ph.D. from the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an M.A. in Religious Studies from Stanford University. Operating at the convergence of cultural anthropology, political theory, and media studies, his research examines the practice and poetics of journalism in conditions of violence. A central aim of his work is to challenge dominant conceptions of global conflict by revealing how representational authority comes to be.
Isaac’s book project, Conflicted: Representation from the Warzone, is based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and analyzes journalists’ struggles with the practical, institutional, and epistemic frictions of wartime media labor. The book argues that journalism’s humanitarian frame – now hegemonic in coverage of conflict – serves to de-politicize and re-moralize war, transforming the meaning of war from the effects of policy on populations to the effects of violence on the innocent. Conflicted demonstrates why news coverage of conflict, often presumed to function as a critique of excessive violence, instead serves to sanction official rationales for war.
Isaac has conducted fieldwork with journalists from Afghanistan to Ukraine, with support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American University of Beirut, and the Institute for Humanities Research at the University of California. Isaac’s teaching spans the media history of the war on terror, theories and methods of international journalisms, and the politics of violence. His courses approach media not only as an object of inquiry but as a terrain of struggle and possibility. Isaac’s work appears or is forthcoming in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Media, War & Conflict, Applied Journalism and Media Studies, boundary 2, Viewpoint Magazine, Kyoto Journal, The Handbook of Applied Journalism and Media Studies, and in Worlding Asia. He is currently co-editing a special issue of boundary 2, from Duke University Press.