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Marina Peterson

Marina Peterson

Lindley Hall 112

Marina Peterson’s work focuses on practices and processes of city making. Her research has explored multi-scalar formations of urban space through the study of sensory, sonic, and embodied processes ranging from performance and planning to labor and law. She has conducted ethnographic research in Los Angeles, Singapore, and Appalachian Ohio. Her work has appeared in Anthropological Quarterly, O-Zone: A Journal of Object-Oriented Studies, Space and Culture, Journal of Popular Music Studies, and Urban Anthropology.

Her first book, Sound, Space, and the City: Civic Performance in Downtown Los Angeles, examines the nature of contemporary civic life through an ethnography of a free public concert series in a downtown corporate plaza. It draws on multifaceted ethnographic and archival research to consider how a multicultural city is produced and naturalized through the built environment of privatized public space; ethnic neighborhood spaces; media and mobility; affective, embodied experiences of audience members; and performances of local and international artists.

Global Downtowns (UPenn Press 2012), co-edited with Gary McDonogh, is a collection of ethnographic studies that provide critical perspectives on ideals, implementation, and outcomes of city center planning and development in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the U.S., and Latin America.

Peterson’s current project, Littoral Los Angeles: Sensing Infrastructure, Pacific Attunements, and Uncertain Futures, explores the sensory politics of infrastructures that connect L.A. with the ocean. In these contexts, imagined futures of what Los Angeles might be are worked toward through concrete engagements and encounters with circulatory processes that orient the city toward the Pacific.

A University of Pennsylvania IUR (Institute for Urban Research) Scholar, Peterson is the recipient of a Huntington Library Research Fellowship, a Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship, a Haynes/HSSC Summer Research Stipend, and multiple research awards from the College of Fine Arts. She was a participant in the NEH Summer Institute, “Mapping and Art in the Americas” at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Courses include Sound, The Body, Performance and the City, Ethnography of Performance, Critical Theory, and Transoceanic Spaces: Arts, Cities, Mobilities (co-taught with Andrea Frohne).

A cellist, Peterson plays primarily new and experimental music.


  • Ph.D. at University of Chicago (2005)


  • Cities; sound, music, performance; infrastructure, labor, and resources; senses, embodiment, and materiality; production of space; globalization and transnationalism; social theory; United States (Los Angeles, Appalachian Ohio) & Southeast Asia (Singapore)


  • United States (Chicago, Los Angeles)
  • Southeast Asia (Singapore)


  • IART 117: Introduction to the Arts: Arts in Contexts
  • IART 751: Ethnography of Performance
  • IART 744: Critical Theory
  • IART 754: The Body
  • IART 778: Performance Studies (Arts and Citizenship, Performance and the City, Publics, Sound, Space/Time/Performance)


Books and SPecial Issues

Under review  Arts in Contemporary Society: A Reader in the Anthropology of the Arts. Co-edited with Gretchen Bakke. Berg

2012  Audio Work: Labor, Value, and the Making of Musical Aesthetics. Co-edited with Jesse Shipley. Special issue of Journal of Popular Music Studies 24(4).

2012  Global Downtowns. Co-edited with Gary W. McDonogh. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

2010  Sound, Space, and the City: Civic Performance in Downtown Los Angeles. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Articles & Chapters

Forthcoming  Surface Effects: Vital Traces and Underground Spaces in Appalachian Ohio. O-Zone: A Journal of Object-Oriented Studies..

2013  Sonic Cosmopolitanisms: Experimental Improvised Music and Cultural Exchange. In The Arab Avant-Garde: Musical Innovation in the Middle East.  Thomas Burkhalter, Kay Dickinson, and Benjamin J. Harbert, eds. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press.

2013  Sound Work: Law, Labor and Capital in the 1940s Recording Bans of the American Federation of Musicians. Anthropological Quarterly 86(3):791-824.

2012  Introduction (with Jesse Shipley). In Audio Work: Labor, Value, and the Making of Musical Aesthetics. Special issue of Journal of Popular Music Studies 24(4):399-410.

2012  Utopia/Dystopia: The Arts and Downtown Development in Los Angeles. In Global Downtowns. Marina Peterson and Gary W. McDonogh, eds. Pp. 209-233. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

2012  Introduction (with Gary W. McDonogh). In Global Downtowns. Marina Peterson and Gary W. McDonogh, eds. Pp. 1-26. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

2010 Garden, City, World: Los Angeles’ Late Twentieth Century Multicultural Arts Festivals. In The Politics of Cultural Programming in Public Spaces. Robert Gehl and Victoria Watts, eds. Pp. 47-61. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

2007 Translocal Civilities: Chinese Modern Dance at Downtown Los Angeles Public Concerts. In Deciphering the Global: Its Scales, Spaces and Subjects. Saskia Sassen, ed. Pp. 41-58. New York: Routledge.

2006 Patrolling the Plaza: Privatized Public Space and the Neoliberal State In Downtown Los Angeles. Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 35(4):355-386.





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