Thomas M. Malaby

Chair and Professor

Web Site:


PhD, Anthropology, Harvard University

Courses Taught

Anthro 102 - Introduction to Anthropology: Culture and Society
Anthro 340 - Cultures of Online Games and Virtual Worlds (online)
Anthro 744 - Theories of Social Action - Understanding Agency and Social Structure
Anthro 803 - Survey of Cultural Anthropology (History and Theory Proseminar)


Thomas Malaby is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research interest is in the ever-changing relationships among institutions, unpredictability, and technology, especially as they are realized through games and game-like processes. He has published numerous and widely cited works on the status of games in human experience. Dr. Malaby’s work suggests that the increasing use of digital games by institutions marks a fundamental transition in modern governance. His most recent book, Making Virtual Worlds: Linden Lab and Second Life (2009, Cornell University Press), is an ethnographic examination of a San Francisco high tech firm.

Relevant Professional Activities

In 2018, Thomas Malaby and Professor Stuart Moulthrop (UWM, English) founded the Digital Cultures Collaboratory, hosted by the UWM Center for 21st Century Studies. The collaboratory serves graduate students in English and Anthropology as well as the broader UWM campus community. At UWM, he typically teaches the introductory graduate seminar in cultural anthropology, with other courses offered at several levels, covering various topics across his research areas.

Selected Publications

Malaby, T. M.() Selves in Play: Pop-up Casinos and Discontinuous Persons in Greece.Johnson, M. (Ed). Play Beyond the Computer, vol. 1: Casino Games and Classic Card Games, 1. Bloomsbury Academic.
Liu, Y. , & Malaby, T. M.() Speculating (On the Digital and the Monetary).Social Analysis/Berghahn, 63(3).
Malaby, T. M.() Institutions in Play: Practices of Legitimation in Games.Playful Participation. Springer Press.
Malaby, T. M.(2013) Comment on “Toward an Anthropology of Computer-Mediated, Algorithmic Forms of Sociality".Malaby, T. M.(Ed). 6(54), 734-735. Chicago, Illinois: Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
Malaby, T. M.(2012) Digital Gaming, Game Design, and its Precursors.Miller, D. , & Horst, H. (Eds). Digital Anthropology, 288-305. Oxford: Berg.
Malaby, T. M.(2011) These Great Urbanist Games: New Babylon and Second Life (reprint).Petro, P. , Hall, L. , & Aneesh, A. (Eds). World Making: Media, Art, and the Politics of the Global. Rutgers University Press.
Malaby, T. M.(2009) Anthropology and Play: The Contours of Playful Experience.New Literary History, 40(1), 205-218.
Malaby, T. M.(2009) Making Virtual Worlds: Linden Lab and Second Life.Cornell University Press.
Malaby, T. M.(2007) Beyond Play: A New Approach to Games.Games & Culture, 2(2), 95-113.
Malaby, T. M.(2003) Gambling Life: Dealing in Contingency in a Greek City.University of Illinois Press.
Malaby, T. M.(2003) The Currency of Proof: Euro Competence and the Refiguring of Value in Greece.Social Analysis, 47(1), 42-52.