A cultural and visual anthropologist, Brent Luvaas studies how digital technologies shape the ways we see, imagine, and experience the world around us. With a regional focus on the United States and Southeast Asia, he has worked with independent musicians, outsider fashion labels, bloggers, photographers, and other kinds of do-it-yourself (DIY) creative laborers, who make use of new digital technologies to produce and circulate their work. He is interested in how digital technologies enable, and indeed require, new kinds of production and circulation, and in the points of intersection between creative labor and national development, self-expression and brand promotion, technological imagination and global capitalist expansion.
He has published widely, in journals including Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Visual Communication, and Visual Studies, and is the former co-editor of the journal Visual Anthropology Review. His first book, DIY Style: Fashion, Music, and Global Digital Cultures, was an ethnographic investigation of the indie music and fashion scene in Indonesia. His second book, Street Style: An Ethnography of Fashion Blogging, was a richly photo-illustrated, ethnographic account of street style blogging at a moment when street style was moving from amateur practice to industry staple. The book was the 2019 winner of the Society for Visual Anthropology’s John Collier Jr. Award for Still Photography. He also co-edited with Joanne Eicher The Anthropology of Dress and Fashion: A Reader.
His latest research is about the street photography renaissance in the digital age, the growing popularity for one of the oldest genres of photography made possible by digital mirrorless cameras and social media platforms. He is an avid photographer himself, and is currently exploring the utility of photography for cultivating new ways of seeing and experiencing the urban environment.