Abbie Reese



Abbie Reese is an author and filmmaker. As an interdisciplinary artist and independent scholar, she utilizes a hybrid of oral history, documentary, and ethnographic methodologies in her relationship- and research-based practice to explore the construction of individual and cultural identity; the rites of passage and liminal stage of "the process of becoming" (as someone takes on a new social role); and public and private performances within a heterotopia. She has been particularly interested in the lives of women in primary oral cultures and enclosed communities.


October 18, 2019
Film screening + Talk
Oral history association
Annual conference — SALT lake city, utah

November 23-26, 2019
Film screening + Talk
@ American ACADEMy of religion
National meeting — San diego, CAlif.

• • •

MARCH 22, 2019
Film Excerpt + Panel discussion
@ Anaheim convention center
Film showcase — Los angeles

July 5, 2018
@ Irish Film Institute, Dublin WWW.IFI.IE
Q&A moderated by Roger Childs, RTé editor of religious programmes

July 1, 2018
@ Strand Arts Centre, Belfast

June 28-29, 2018
Film screening + talk
Dangerous Oral Histories, a joint conference of the Oral History Society and Oral History Network of Ireland
@ Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland


Abbie is author of the nationally-acclaimed Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns (Oxford University Press, 2014) and filmmaker of the internationally award-winning collaborative documentary film, Chosen (Custody of the Eyes).

She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in visual arts from the University of Chicago (2013) and was a fellow at the University of Chicago Center in Paris (2017).  The Embassy of Switzerland in the United States awarded Abbie a ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship; she spent three months in residence at the University of Bern Institute of Social Anthropology (2013). She was a Fellow at Columbia University’s Oral History Research Office Summer Institute (2008). 

Abbie interned during college at Roll Call covering Capitol Hill alongside Senior Reporter Damon Chappie. After graduating with a B.A. degree in History (1999). she worked as a reporter for Gannett newspapers in Indiana and Illinois, and was editor of a weekly community newspaper in Illinois.

She volunteered for one year (2003-2004) in the Communications Department onboard the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship while it was docked in West Africa. A highlight was working as the media handler for a BBC news team, driving Reporter Robert Pigott and his cameraman by Land Rover from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, upcountry to Kono, the diamond mining district bordering Liberia, for TV and radio reports on the World Service and the Six O’clock News about the women’s health issue, vesico-vaginal fistula. 

Upon returning to the States, she was accepted into the University of Iowa MFA in Nonfiction Writing program and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She deferred at graduate school, then decided not to enroll.

Part of a team of five selected for a Group Study Exchange with Rotary International, Abbie spent a month in Germany  (2006).

Ghost Ranch – Abiquiu, NM, 2014

Ghost Ranch – Abiquiu, NM, 2014

Projects have included: Faces of West Africa, a traveling photographic exhibition (22 photographs); Untold Stories: Freeport’s African-American History, an oral history and photography traveling gallery exhibition and outdoor exhibition, with six eight-foot by four-foot photographic panels installed across the street from Debate Square, where Lincoln and Douglas debated and Douglas voiced his Freeport Doctrine – a compromise on slavery; and the traveling exhibition Erased from the Landscape: the Hidden Lives of Cloistered Nuns, with 40 photographs and 40 audio narratives (a 2-hour, 15-minute album) made from oral history interviews. 

Abbie has received funding from Harvard University’s Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America (2014) and the Illinois Arts Council (2011, 2009, 2007, 2006). She was an elected Advisory Counselor of the Luminarts Cultural Foundation Board, formerly known as the Civic & Arts Foundation at the Union League Club of Chicago (2010-2015). She was a Panelist/Reviewer for the Illinois Arts Council's Individual Artist Support Initiative (2012). She was a Resident Artist in Photography at the Vermont Studio Center (2010).

At the University of Chicago, Abbie was the Arts Management Graduate Fellow at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (2012-2013); she was a research assistant for Professor WJT Mitchell and for Professor Hillary Chute. Abbie assisted with the Comics: Philosophy and Practice Conference (2012) and was the Artist’s Salon Assistant at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, preparing (and framing) Cartoonist/ Artist-in-Residence Alison Bechdel’s work for exhibition (2012).

Abbie's retreat is a house built in 1888 that she has been renovating in Northwest Illinois (10 minutes from the Mississippi River). She has traveled more than forty countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. She is a dual citizen of the United States and Luxembourg.

Freetown, Sierra Leone – 2004

Freetown, Sierra Leone – 2004