Lindsay Bell

Lindsay Bell 

Assistant Professor -Sociocultural Anthropology

PhD 2013 (University of Toronto)
Office: Social Science Centre 3312
Tel: 519 661-2111  ext. 82541
E-mail:   Twitter:@drlibertybell


Research Interests

My body of scholarship explores intersections between language, political economy, aspiration, and embodied social inequality. I explore these areas in three different global contexts (1) Large scale resource extraction in the arctic (Canada, Alaska, Finland), (2) The transnational governance of extractive industries, and (3) Contemporary wellness and fertility efforts in North America. My engagement with these themes began as I critically analyzed the changing place of Indigenous life and arctic extractive environments in (inter)national public culture. This work culminated in my book, Under Pressure: Diamonds and Everyday Life in a Norther Town. (2023, University of Toronto Press, Teaching Culture Series). Fieldwork in the same region also led to a co-authored book looking at intersections of language, class and extractive driven migration entitled Sustaining the Nation: The Making and Moving of Language and Nation (Oxford University Press 2016). 

My second project looked at the transnational configuration of “transparency” across the gemstone supply chain. Funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropology and the Swiss National Science Foundation, the research linked my ongoing anthropological research on diamond harvesting and corporate ethics in Canada’s arctic to an examination of the enactment of corporate ethics of transparency on a broader scale. Some of our findings culminated in a recent special issue of TSANTSA: Journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association (coedited with Filipe Calvão & Matthieu Bolay) entitled “Dis/connection matters: Natural, Synthetic, and Digital”. In our contribution, “Ashes to Diamonds: Making lab-grown afterlife”, co-author Calvão and I look at the emergence of diamonds made of cremated human remains and the technical and semiotic work involved by those who make and market them. 

Finally, my most recent and ongoing work is interested in people’s experiences with feminized medical problems such as weight gain and infertility—as well as the interventions said to assist with these issues. I have published on the racializing health discourses in pre-diabetes prevention programming on college campuses (Bell 2019). My own experiences of infertility have led to new research on embryo imaging. The project “Picturing Embryos” investigates the social impact and cultural meanings of images of human embryos. Specifically, the research seeks to understand the uses and interpretations of embryo images by those who have undergone InVitro Fertilization (IVF) in Canada or the United States. Technologies that allow us to see parts of the reproductive process often change how we view and understand the process itself. While advances such as still and time lapse microscope photography provide new tools for documenting embryo development, we don’t yet know what effects these technologies have on the patients and related parties who receive them. The research puts the social science of medicine into conversation with theories in semiotic, visual and cultural anthropologies.

Select Publications

2023   Under Pressure: Diamond Mining and Everyday Life in a Northern Town. University of Toronto Press.

2021   (with Filipe Calvão & Matthieu Bolay). “Introduction: Dis/connection matters: Natural, Synthetic, and Digital”. TSANTSA: Journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association. Volume 26. Pages 7-17

2019    Instructing / Improvising Health: Neoliberalism and Pre-diabetes Prevention on a US College Campus. Culture, Theory and Critique. 60:0, 33-49, DOI: 10.1080/14735784.2018.1543606

2017    “Soft skills, hard rocks: Making Diamonds Ethical in Canada’s Northwest Territories” FOCAAL: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. Pp.74-88 

2016    “Searching for Evidence Based-Traditions: Addiction treatment in Canada’s Northwest Territories”. Medicine Anthropology, Theory. 3(1). 

2016    Sustaining the Nation: Natural Resources and the Making of a National Linguistic Minority. Oxford UP. With Monica Heller, Michelle Daveluy, Hubert Noel and Mireille McLaughlin. 

2012    “In Search of Hope: Mobility on the Canadian Frontier” In Lem, W and P Gardiner-Barber (eds.) 21st Century Migration: Eth­nography and Political Economy. Routledge: London, 207-246. 

2011    Heller, Monica & Lindsay Bell “Frontiers and Frenchness: pride and profit in the production of Canada”. In Alexandre Duchêne et Heller, Monica (éd.), Language in Late Capitalism: Pride and Profit. London: Routledge, 254-285. 

2010    “Economic Insecurity as Opportunity: Job Training and the Canadian Diamond Industry” in Daveluy, M, F Lévesque, and J Ferguson (eds.) Humanizing Security in the Arctic. Canadian Circumpolar Institute Press: Edmonton, 293-304. 

Public Anthropology

Mackenzie Place is an immersive installation depicting the near-arctic town of Hay River (Xátł’odehchee) and the K’atl’odeeche First Nation in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It is the outcome of a longstanding collaboration with artist Jesse Colin Jackson that aims to “picture the north” as heterogenous and variable rather than reproducing further cliched images of the arctic as a place of either extreme fragility or boundless opportunity. Mackenzie Place explores the legacies of colonialism through an unlikely lens, by holding the viewer’s attention on the structures of development and how people live within them.


March 23 — June 3, 2023

254 Niagara Street, Toronto,


Recent Research Funding

2022               Research Mobilization, Creation, and Innovation Grant ($7,000)

2017- 2020     Granting agency: Swiss National Science Foundation.

Project Title: Transparency: Qualities and Technologies of Global Gemstone Trading

Role: Co-Investigator

Principal Investigator (PI): Filipe Calvão Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. $550,000 CHF. 

2017-2019       Granting agency: Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropology.

Project Title: Tracing Transparency: Qualities and Technologies of Global Diamond Trading

Role: Principal Investigator, $17,000 

2014-2016       Granting  agency: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Project title: Visualizing Canada’s Urban North.

Role: Principal Investigator, Insight Development Grant, $75,000



My current course repertoire is broad and includes introduction to cultural anthropology, language and culture, anthropological theory, sex and gender, visual anthropology, medical anthropology as well as area courses covering the anthropology of the United States, Indigenous North America and the Circumpolar World. 

I am a regular contributor to the University of Press’ blog Teaching Culture where I write about teaching ethnographic sensibility and methods to undergraduates through hands-on approaches. 

I welcome inquiries from graduate students interested in the following research areas: 

  • The Global Arctic
  • Extractive Industries
  • Literary and Visual Ethnography
  • Medical Anthropology, Disability Studies, Public Health
  • Canada and the United States
  • Education, Informal Learning