Photo of Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway
  • Chair and Associate Professor of Anthropology


  • Bachelor of Arts, Oakland University, 2000
  • Master of Arts, University of Michigan, 2003
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University Michigan, 2008


My work focuses on the linguistic anthropology of sign languages, with attention to the flexible multi-modal nature of communicative practice as well as the social factors that facilitate or limit that flexibility.

My first project centers on Nepali Sign Language (NSL) and deaf sociality in Nepal. I have published articles about local efforts to standardize NSL, the ethno-linguistic politics of deafness in Nepal, the effects of social context on the linguistic abilities of deaf persons who were not exposed to language during childhood or adolescence, and the social consequences of deaf/hearing interactions in a popular restaurant chain in Kathmandu.

In 2016 Gallaudet University Press published my first book, Signing and Belonging in Nepal.

My second project examines emerging literacy practices and ideological debates surrounding SignWriting (SW), a visually iconic script that represents movements of the body and face. I have conducted ethnographic research in contexts for SW use in Germany, Malta, the United States, and online networks through which SignWriters circulate texts.

My recent interest in the role of graphic methods finds me experimenting with the ways in which sketching and drawing can enhance my ethnographic engagements in these sites.

For more about my emerging work with graphic anthropology, see a series of blog posts I recently wrote (and drew) on the subject for the Teaching Culture blog called “Chatting While Waterskiing, Part 1.”

These projects inform, and are informed by, my teaching at Oberlin. In fact, Oberlin students explicitly appear in my book.


My courses currently include:
• ANTH 204: Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
• ANTH 257: Graphic Anthropology
• ANTH 321: Language and the Body, and
• ANTH 438: Literacies in Social Context, which is sometimes offered as a First Year Seminar.
I have also offered independent readings on Sign Language Linguistics, American Sign Language Performance Traditions, and Biosemiotics.

Publications and Presentations

Publications include:

  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (in press). Feeling your Own (or Someone Else’s) Face: Writing Signs from the Expressive Viewpoint. Language and Communication.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2016). Signing and Belonging in Nepal. Gallaudet University Press.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2013). (Don’t) Write My Lips: Interpretations of the Relationship between German Sign Language and German across Scales of SignWriting Practice. Signs and Society 1(2): 243-272.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2011). Ordering Burgers, Reordering Relations: Gestural interactions between hearing and d/Deaf Nepalis. Pragmatics 21(3): 373-391.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2011). Writing the Smile: Language ideologies in, and through, sign language scripts. Language and Communication 31(4): 435-355.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2011). Lending a Hand: Competence Through Cooperation in Nepal’s Deaf Associations. Language in Society 40(3): 385-306.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2010). Many Names for Mother: The Ethno-linguistic Politics of Deafness in Nepal. South Asia: The Journal of South Asian Studies 33(3): 421-441.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2008). Metasemiotic Regimentation in the Standardization of Nepali Sign Language. The Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 18(2): 192-213.