Erica Cusi Wortham

Erica Wortham headshot

Erica Cusi Wortham

Professorial Lecturer

Part-time Faculty


Tompkins Hall 725 23rd Street, NW, M06 Washington DC 20052

Erica Cusi Wortham, Ph.D., is a cultural anthropologist with an interdisciplinary practice at GW Engineering that spans engineering, social science, art and design.  As Director of the GW Innovation Center | M06, she makes space for studio-based, tactile learning and community-driven innovation that centers creative problem-solving, equity and sustainability. 

Dr. Wortham and her students prioritize sustainability.  At M06’s Waste Lab they explore materiality and ways to channel resources from the local waste stream into creative projects, research and learning opportunities.  Waste Lab is pleased to have partnered with The Kennedy Center’s RiverRun Festival and GW’s Sustainability Institute to bring awareness to the problem of plastic pollution in our local rivers and streams.  GW Innovation Center supports creative projects across campus, whether they are embedded within courses, part of entrepreneurs’ prototyping journey or student side projects.

Dr. Wortham joined GW’s Department of Anthropology in 2012 as a Lecturer and has teaching appointments across several schools and departments. In 2017 she joined an interdisciplinary teaching team piloting design thinking, social impact courses at the School of Engineering and Applied Science and became a member of the staff as co-director of the Innovation Center a year later.  She teaches human-centered design in engineering courses and is actively developing cross-disciplinary opportunities with the school.  Erica is currently co-PI on a three-year, NSF-funded research project that explores the relationship between social innovation learning opportunities and student engagement in engineering education.

Prior to joining GW Engineering, her ethnographic research with Indigenous media artists and activists in Mexico investigated the intersections of culture, technology and politics to examine how artists reframe narratives that have been historically marginalizing (Indigenous Media in Mexico: Culture, Community and the State, Duke University Press, 2013).  She has worked with New York University Libraries to develop a digital Indigenous media collection and as a film programmer at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.  Erica continues to support community-based Indigenous media archiving in Latin America and regularly teaches a course on Latin American cinema and Indigenous media for the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program of GW’s Elliot School for International Affairs.

Erica’s undergraduate degree is from Columbia University and her graduate degrees, including a certificate in ethnographic filmmaking, are from New York University.

Anthropology of Latin America; media studies; and art, design and innovation

Current projects include revitalizing approaches to ethnographic research methods using artist processes and design thinking at GWU; building creative infrastructure for Innovation Group at SEAS; and developing a participatory, digital media archive with Indigenous artists in cooperation with NYU’s Libraries.

Ph.D. New York University

Latin American and Hemispheric Studies, Elliott School, The George Washington University Graduate Seminar Latin America In Motion: Indigenous Media, Cinema and Social Movements (Fall 2017)

School of Engineering and Applied Science, The George Washington University Social Impact and New Ventures Using Design Thinking (Fall 2017)

Program in New Media and Photojournalism, Corcoran School of Art and Design, The George Washington University Graduate Seminar Latin American Film: Reshaping Narratives (Spring 2017)

Program in Museum Exhibition Design, Corcoran School of Art and Design, The George Washington University Official Reviewer, Masters Thesis Review (Spring 2017)

Department of Anthropology, The George Washington University Graduate Seminar: Nationalism and Ethnicity (Spring 2013)

Undergraduate Upper Level: Anthropology of Latin America (Spring 2015)

Politics, Nationalism and Ethnicity (Spring 2013, Fall 2015)

Native Peoples of North America (Fall 2013)

Undergraduate: Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology (Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2016)

California College for the Arts, San Francisco Guest Instructor, Ethnographic Methods (Fall 2006)

Guest Instructor, Ethnographic Methods (Fall 2005)

Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego Guest Lecturer, Sociocultural Anthropology (Spring 2007)


2013 Indigenous Media in Mexico: Culture, Community and the State. Duke University Press


Forthcoming “Value and Ephemeral Materiality: Media Archiving in Tamazulapam, Oaxaca” Indigital Conference, Vanderbilt University Press (Fall 2016)

2016 “Value and Ephemeral Materiality: Indigenous Media On-Line,” In Miradas Propias Pueblos Indígenas: Comunicación y Medios en la Sociedad Digital, editor Claudia Megallanes Blanco and José Manuel Ramos Rodriquez, Puebla, Mexico: Universidad Iberoamericana

1998 “Documentary as a Tool for Cultural Conservation,” In Sights of the Turn of the Century II: New Tendencies in Documentary Cinema, edited by Juan Francisco Urrusti and Andrea Stavenhagen. Mexico City: Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, pp. 65-74

Journal Articles

2005 “Más allá de la hibridad: los medios televisivos y la producción de identidades indígenas en Oaxaca, México,” Liminar Estudios Sociales y humanisticos 3(3):34-47

2004 “Between the State and Indigenous Autonomy: Video Indígena in Mexico,” American Anthropologist 106(2):363-367