Thomas Blakely, Ph.D. – Albright College

Thomas Blakely, Ph.D.

Thomas Blakely, Ph.D.

Adjunct Lecturer in Anthropology
Selwyn 211


Dr. Blakely grew up in northeastern Kansas, earned his B.A. degree in Social Relations (Sociology, Anthropology, Clinical and Social Psychology), from Harvard University and his M.A. in Anthropology, Certificate in African Studies, and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Northwestern University. He also completed a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship (in Anthropology, Linguistics, and Folklore) at the University of Pennsylvania.

During forty-one years, Dr. Blakely has taught at Northwestern University, University of South Carolina, Brigham Young University, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University (linguistic anthropologist teaching Ph.D. graduate students), Kutztown University, Penn State University, and Albright College. He has organized and chaired the international Visual Research Conference for thirty-five years, and he specializes in researching and teaching with visual and multimodal media.

Dr. Blakely and his wife and colleague, Dr. Pamela Blakely lived and worked as ethnographers for six years among Báhêmbá farmers in southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaïre), actively participating in daily and ritual life in a rural farming community. They first communicated with Báhêmbá in Kiswahili and also learned to speak Kíhêmbá (a tonal Bantu language for which he developed its first tonal orthography).

While in the Congo, the Blakelys also worked on the design team that created a large agricultural development project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that facilitated significant increases in maize production and real income for Báhêmbá and nearby Baluba farmers. The Blakelys also served as anthropological consultants during the several-year project implementation. Albright students in Dr. Blakely’s Food and Culture synthesis course read documents from this North Shaba Project, hailed by a British historian as “the best grassroots development project done by the United States in Africa”.

Dr. Blakely edited Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression and co-authored the textbook Seeing Anthropology: Cultural Anthropology through Film, 4th edition, which Albright students utilize in the Peoples of Africa and Cultural Anthropology courses. Students also view Dr. Blakely’s ethnographic film, African Carving: A Dogon Kanaga Mask, about a West African people’s philosophy, arts, and religion.

Areas of Expertise

African Peoples and Cultures

Applied Anthropology

Comparative Religion

Ethnographic Research Methods

Ethnographic Film

Intercultural Communication

Nutritional Anthropology

Political and Legal Anthropology


Visual Anthropology

Areas of Research

Selected Publications

Blakely, Thomas D. and Eliot Elisofon 1974. African Carving: A Dogon Kanaga Mask [film]. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Film Study Center. Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources.

Thomas D. Blakely and Pamela A. R. Blakely 1977. Working Toward Self-Sustaining Increases in Small Farmer Maize Production and Real Income: Case Studies of Selected North Shaba Project ‘Farmers’ Centers’. Kinshasa: Development Alternatives, Inc. and USAID- Zaïre.

Pamela A. R. Blakely and Thomas D. Blakely 1987. “Só’ó Masks and Hêmbá Funerary Festival”, African Arts, vol. XXI (no. 1): 30-37, 84-86.

Blakely, Thomas D., Walter E. A. van Beek, and Dennis L Thomson, eds. 1994. Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression. London: James Currey and Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.

Pamela A. R. Blakely and Thomas D. Blakely 1994. “Ancestors, ‘Witchcraft’ and Foregrounding the Poetic: Men’s Oratory and Women’s Song-dance in Hêmbá Funerary Performance”, pp. 398-442 in Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression. London: James Currey and Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.

Thomas D. Blakely and Joan Swayze Williams, eds. Anthropological Excellence in Film 1995. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association/Society for Visual Anthropology.

Heider, Karl G., Pamela A. R. Blakely, and Thomas D. Blakely 2007. Seeing Anthropology: Cultural Anthropology through Film, 4th edition. Boston: Pierson.

Courses Taught

Anthropology 101. Cultural Anthropology

Anthropology 250. Forensic Anthropology

Anthropology 270. People of the World (Peoples of Africa)

Anthropology/Synthesis 303. Food and Culture

Professional Activities

Selected Professional Activity

Board Member, Society for Visual Anthropology, 1982 to 2020.

President, Society for Visual Anthropology, 1985-87. (President-Elect, 1984-85; Past-President, 1987-88.

Board of Directors, American Anthropological Association (and member of the Scientific Communications Committee), 1985-87.

Contributing Editor, Anthropology Newsletter [American Anthropological Association], 1990-96, 2005.

Organizer and Chair, Visual Research Conference, American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings, thirty-five years, 1985-2019.