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Anna Skarpelis

Anna Skarpelis


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Anna Skarpelis is a NOMIS Fellow at eikones – Center for the Theory and History of Images at the University of Basel (Switzerland).

Skarpelis is a comparative historical sociologist interested in knowledge, science and state power. Before joining eikones, she was a Weatherhead Scholar and a digital postdoctoral fellow in Japanese Studies, both at Harvard University (Cambridge, US). She also holds a computational postdoctoral fellowship at the Social Science Research Center in Berlin. She received her PhD in sociology from New York University (US), where she completed a dissertation on ethnoracial classification practices and citizenship legislation. Drawing on multilingual archival records, Making the Master Race: Germany, Japan, and the Rise and Fall of Racial States explores how bureaucrats in Japan, Germany and their empires bridged the gap between historical understandings of racial science and their own work in applying legislation on the ground between the 1870s and the 1950s. While conducting research for her PhD, she held positions at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, the German Institute for Japanese Studies, Waseda University and the University of Tokyo. Her work has appeared in the journals Qualitative Sociology and the Bulletin of Comparative Labor Relations, as well as in several edited volumes.

As a NOMIS Fellow, Skarpelis will write a book on pre-histories of facial recognition. Racial Vision: Failed Projects of Human Difference carries forward her concerns with race and epistemology but focuses on questions of perception, representation and classification of the social world and their impact on technological change and state violence. She is also exploring the world of virtual reality to conduct social and behavioral experimental research on racial perception in 2022. Her current collaborations address questions of art price valuation, classification and artificial intelligence: “Untitled,” with Dr. Fiona Rose Greenland (University of Virginia), studies the rise of artwork without titles. A second project with Dr. Yongjun Zhang (Stony Brook University) explores racial bias in artificial intelligence.

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