E. Mara Green

E. Mara Green

Research Interests

Research Concentrations

deaf anthropology, disability, interaction, linguistic anthropology, Nepal, semiotics, South Asia


International Deaf Spaces; South Asia; Nepal


Green is a linguistic and sociocultural anthropologist interested in everyday interaction as a locus for both the reproduction and transformation of sociality and relationality. Fundamentally, her work asks what it means, and what it takes, to understand, and be understood by, others.

This question has emerged through fieldwork both in international deaf spaces and, for more sustained periods of time, in Nepal. With regards to the former, she has argued that International Sign as a mode of signed communication is characterized as much by the affordances of the signed modality as by participants’ moral orientation toward linguistic commensuration across difference. In Nepal, she works in urban and rural spaces with deaf people who use Nepali Sign Language - NSL, a young, conventional language - as well as with deaf and hearing people who use natural sign, which she analyzes as emergent signed communicative practices that draw on a small repertoire of conventional forms and strategies and on the immanence of signs in the convergence of bodies and the socio-material world. In calling this phenomenon natural sign, a term translated from NSL, and in her writing more generally, Green seeks to acknowledge her indebtedness to deaf NSL signers’ own theories of language and sociality. 

Drawing together approaches from the study of communicative practice and ordinary ethics, Green’s articles and in-progress book manuscript, Making Sense, collectively argue that making meaning together depends as much on mutual willingness to do so as on shared linguistic and other semiotic resources. Her work draws attention to the creativity and vulnerability of deaf signers who are not part of robust signing networks, and argues that conventional grammar performs ethical labor on its users’ behalf.

Green's research incorporates short- and long-term participant observation, video recordings of interactions, and (on occasion) linguistic elicitation. She is inspired by queer, trans, and disability studies as well as by young adult fiction.


University of California, Berkeley, PhD in Anthropology, 2014

2022. "Thinking with Signs: Caste, Ethnicity, and the Dual Body in Contemporary Eastern Nepal.” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. 

2017. “Performing Gesture: The Pragmatic Functions of Pantomimic and Lexical Repertoires in a Natural Sign Narrative.” Gesture 16, no. 2: 328-362.

2016. Coauthor with M. Friedner and A Kusters. “Deaf Community: Southern Asia.” In The Deaf Studies Encyclopedia, edited by G. Gertz and P. Boudreault, 55-58. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.

2016. Coauthor with M. Morgan. “Sign Language: Southern Asia.” In The Deaf Studies Encyclopedia, edited by G. Gertz and P. Boudreault, 815-817. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.

2015. “One Language, or Maybe Two: Direct Communication, Understanding, and Informal Interpreting in International Deaf Encounters.” In It’s a Small World: International Deaf Spaces and Encounters, edited by M. Friedner and A. Kusters, 70-82. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press. 

2014. “Building the Tower of Babel: International Sign, Linguistic Commensuration, and Moral Orientation.” Language in Society 43, no. 4: 445-465.

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