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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Dr. Rhonda Dass

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rhonda dass


Born and raised in northern Minnesota, Dr. Rhonda Dass is happy about her return to the Midwest. She received a BS with honors (2002) from the University of Wisconsin, Superior in Art History and Multicultural Studies. After completing her bachelors degree she moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where she completed her MA degree (2005) in Folklore and Museum Science with a focus in material culture, and her PhD (2009) in Folklore and American Studies with a minor in Anthropology. Returning to Minnesota to complete her research for her dissertation on Native American Symbolism in Tattooing, Dr. Dass worked as Assistant Curator at Ironworld Discovery Center Museum in Chisholm, Minnesota.

Identity formation and the expression of identity through visual arts underlie her research into Native American art – traditional, non-traditional, and reconstituted traditions. Globalization, tourism and nationalism and the influence these have on American Indians and others in their identity formation also collide with the pervasive consumerism that turns cultural traits into commodities. Through the flow of resources, the trail of these commoditized heritage items illuminate contact, conflict and power struggles between communities. This is most evident in the tattoo community where visual signs of cultural identity are shown to the world.

Areas of specialization include cultural anthropology, American Indian Studies, oral traditions, tribal sovereignty, activism and cultural change, popular culture, body art expressions cross-culturally, zombies, and the culture of fear. Dass is the director for the American Indian Studies program. Additionally, Dr. Dass is a practicing artist who works in the mediums of oil painting, tattooing, and weaving.