Profile picture of Leah Lowthorp

Leah Lowthorp

Assistant Professor
Anthropology, Folklore Program
Phone: 541-346-5101
Office: 321 Condon Hall
Office Hours: Fall 2023:Wed 12:45-2 and Thurs 1-3


B.A. Anthropology and English, UC Berkeley (2003)

M.A. Folklore, University of Pennsylvania (2005)

M.A. International Studies, Institut Européen des Hautes Etudes Internationales, France (2007)

Ph.D. (dual) Anthropology and Folklore, University of Pennsylvania (2013)


*Not currently accepting students*

Dr. Leah Lowthorp is a cultural anthropologist and folklorist whose work engages art and social change, critical heritage studies, cosmopolitanism(s), post-colonial theory, and the online circulation of biopolitical narratives. She has conducted ethnographic research with the Kutiyattam Sanskrit theater community in Kerala, India, since 2006, and more recently with online communities in an investigation of the digital folklore of human genetic and reproductive technologies. Her work has been funded by the Mellon Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, the American Institute of Indian Studies, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Prior to joining the department, Dr. Lowthorp was a College Fellow in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University (2014-16) and a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow at the Center for Genetics and Society (2016-18). 

Her current book project, Deep Cosmopolitanism: Kutiyattam, Dynamic Tradition, and Globalizing Heritage in Kerala, India, is an ethnographic exploration of India's first UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, Kutiyattam Sanskrit theater, that offers a unique perspective on cosmopolitanism, heritage, and tradition over the longue durée  The project considers how the world’s oldest continuously performed theater has engaged in multiple ways of “thinking and acting beyond the local” over its thousand year history, and in the process pluralizes experiences of cosmopolitanism over time. An ethnography of unprecedented temporal depth, Deep Cosmopolitanism challenges and broadens existing approaches to cosmopolitanism, heritage, and tradition by questioning Eurocentric genealogies and assumptions about what it means to be cosmopolitan, modern, and traditional in the world today.




2021. “Folklorist as Public Policy Analyst.” In What Folklorists Do, ed. Tim Lloyd. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

2020. “Kutiyattam, Heritage, and the Dynamics of Culture: Claiming India’s Place within a Global Paradigm Shift.” Asian Ethnology 79(1): 25-51, Special issue – Intangible Heritage in Asia, eds. Ziying You and Patricia Hardwick.

2020. “Statement on Heritable Human Genome Editing: The Need for Course Correction.” Trends in Biotechnology 38(4): 351-54, with co-authors Roberto Andorno, George Annas, Françoise Baylis, Catherine Bourgain, Marcy Darnovsky, Donna Dickenson, Katherine Drabiak, Sigrid Graumann, Katrin Grüber, Hille Haker, Katie Hasson, Carl Walter Matthias Kaiser, Regine Kollek, Calum MacKellar, Jing-Bao Nie, Osagie K. Obasogie, Mirriam Tyebally, Gabriele Werner-Felmayer, and Jana Zuscinova.

2018. “#CRISPRfacts, Gene Editing, and Joking in the Twittersphere.” Journal of American Folklore 131(522): 482-492, Special issue – Fake News, ed. Tom Mould.

2018. Co-editor (with Frank J. Korom). South Asian Folklore in Transition: Crafting New Horizons. London: Routledge.

2018. (with Jessica Cussins). “Germline Modification and Policymaking: The Relationship between Mitochondrial Replacement and Gene Editing.” New Bioethics 24(1):74-94.

2017. “Folklore, Politics, and the State: Kutiyattam and National/Global Heritage in India.” South Asian History & Culture 8(4):1-18, Special issue – South Asian Folklore in the 21st Century, eds. Leah Lowthorp and Frank J. Korom.

2016.  “Freedom in Performance: Actresses and Creative Agency in the Kutiyattam Theatre Complex.” Samyukta: A Journal of Women’s Studies 16: 83-108, Special issue – Women in Indian Theatre, ed. Arya Madhavan.

2015. “Voices on the Ground: Kutiyattam, UNESCO, and the Heritage of Humanity.” Journal of Folklore Research 52(2/3): 157-180, Special issue – UNESCO on the Ground: Local Perspectives on Global Policy for Intangible Cultural Heritage, eds. Michael Dylan Foster and Lisa Gilman (also published as UNESCO on the Ground: Local Perspectives on Intangible Cultural Heritage (2015), eds. Michael Dylan Foster and Lisa Gilman. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press).

2014. “The Irish Kerryman Joke: Culchies, Cute Hoors, and the Emergence of a Late-Modern Fool Region Joke.” Western Folklore 73(2/3): 297-322, Special issue – Dundes Matters, eds. Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt and Perin Gürel.

Non Peer-Reviewed

2020. “Extending the Concept of Ethnic Genre beyond Folkloristics.” Special issue, Ethnicity and Genres: Essays in Honor of Dan Ben-Amos, ed. Juwen Zhang. Western Folklore 79(1): 131-34.

2018 (with Marcy Darnovsky and Katie Hasson). “Reproductive Gene Editing Imperils Universal Human Rights” (trans. Chinese, Spanish, Russian). Open Global Rights, February 15,

2017 (with Marcy Darnovsky). “Reproductive Genome Editing and the U.S. National Academies Report: Knocking on a Closed Door or Throwing It Wide Open?” Bioethica Forum: Swiss Journal of Biomedical Ethics 10(2): 65-67, Special issue – Genome Editing, ed. Roberto Andorno.

2016. “The UNESCO Impact: Kutiyattam after Global Recognition.” Nartanam: A Quarterly Journal of Indian Dance XVI(3): 75-88, Special issue – 50 Years of Kutiyattam, ed. K.K. Gopalakrishnan.

2013. “The Translation of Kutiyattam into National and World Heritage on the Festival Stage: Some Identity Implications,” in South Asian Festivals on the Move, eds. Ute Hüsken and Axel Michaels, Indo-Ethnology Series, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, pp. 193-225.

2011. “‘Post-UNESCO’ Kutiyattam: Some Methodological Considerations.” Indian Folklife 38:10-13, Special Issue (July 2011) – Kutiyattam: 10 years after the UNESCO-declaration, ed. Heike Moser.

Book Reviews/Reports

2017. Book Review of Heritage Regimes and the State, eds. Regina Bendix, Aditya Eggert and Arnika Peselmann. Asian Ethnology 76(1): 156-157.  

2016. Book Review of Cultural Heritage in Transit: Intangible Rights as Human Rights, ed. Deborah Kapchan. Western Folklore 74(3/4): 408-410.

2015. “Reflections on Zagreb 2015.” SIEF News (Newsletter of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore).

Public Outreach (selected)

2020. “Professor calls for caution around gene editing in human embryos.” UO Matters, March 3,

2016. “ACLS Fellow Leah Lowthorp’s Work at the Center for Genetics and Society.” AFS Newsletter (Newsletter of the American Folklore Society)

2015. Ethnological Sensations Series video, International Society for Ethnology and Folklore,

2013. Interview (Malayalam), Kairali Morning Show Christmas Special, India, Dec 25.

2010. Photography Exhibition, Kutiyattam – Life & Art, Napier Museum, Trivandrum and Kerala Kalamandalam, India.

2008. Interview, Close Encounter with Nangiarkoothu, The Hindu, India, Sept 5.

2008. Interview (Malayalam), Manorama News, India, Aug 18,