Erika Alpert

Sociology and Anthropology, School of Sciences and Humanities
Assistant Professor

Erika R. Alpert received a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Michigan in the spring of 2014, and has been at NU ever since. As a linguist anthropologist, she approaches language not merely as a means for representing the world, but also for constructing it and acting within it. In this sense, language is a kind of magic. Words do things. Her primary research interests are in language, gender, and sexuality; especially the question of how language can be used to create and inhabit social realities and new relationships. How do we form new relationships? Make friends, fall in love, get married? What is the role of talk in creating emotions, forging social bonds, and creating and sustaining desire? 

Her doctoral dissertation focused on Japanese professional matchmakers and their ideologies of conversation. How do you create a good first impression on another person through talk? How do you incite in that other person the desire to see you again, and maybe even marry you? How are these communicative performances gendered—or not? And what kind of marriage relationship do matchmakers and their clients expect to create through talk, from the introductory meeting through to the proposal? In her current research project, she is studying at how users of online dating sites attempt to normalize and justify their use of this relatively new technology, and how users write online dating profiles in the hopes of making their own matches.