Photo of Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway
  • Associate Professor of Anthropology


  • BA, Oakland University, 2000
  • MA, University of Michigan, 2003
  • PhD, 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 include:

  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2020). Figure (of Personhood) Drawing: Scaffolding Signing and Signers in Nepal. Signs in Society 8(1): 35-61.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2018). Linguistic Anthropology in 2017: It Could be Otherwise. American Anthropologist 120 (2): 278-290.
  • Hoffmann-Dilloway, Erika (2018). Feeling your Own (or Someone Else’s) Face: Writing Signs from the Expressive Viewpoint. Language and Communication 61: 88-101.
  • 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.

My book, Signing and Belonging in Nepal (Gallaudet University Press, 2016), was awarded an honorable mention for the 2017 Society for Linguistic Anthropology Edward Sapir Book Prize.

The Sapir Book Prize was established in 2001 and is awarded to a book that makes the most significant contribution to our understanding of language in society, or the ways in which language mediates historical or contemporary sociocultural processes.


  • Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway Gives Invited Lecture

    February 24, 2019

    Associate Professor of Anthropology Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway gave an invited lecture titled "Figure (of Personhood) Drawing: Pictorial Representations of Signing and Signers in Nepal" on February 15, 2019 at the University of Michigan.

  • Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway Awarded Edward Sapir Book Prize Honorable Mention

    November 7, 2017

    Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway, associate professor of anthropology, was awarded an Edward Sapir Book Prize honorable mention in 2017 for her book Signing and Belonging in Nepal.

    The Edward Sapir Book Prize was established in 2001 by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology and is awarded to a book that makes the most significant contribution to our understanding of language in society, or the ways in which language mediates historical or contemporary sociocultural processes.

  • Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway Publishes

    June 15, 2016

    Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway has published the book Signing and Belonging in Nepal (Gallaudet University Press).