Professor David Zeitlyn



Tel: office +44 (0)1865 612374; mobile +44 (0)7914 988025; 

Teaching and Research Interests

Anthropology of religion, especially divination, visual anthropology (photography), West/Central Africa (especially Cameroon); life writing; uses of technology, decision making processes and futurology, visualisation, archives, archiveology, anthropological studies of ICT and research methods.

Fellow of Wolfson College

Information on Mambila

New book: Excursions in Realist Anthropology

Late 2014, a new book written with Roger Just has now appeared:
Excursions in Realist Anthropology. A Merological Approach
ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-6403-9 ISBN-10: 1-4438-6403-X
A sample chapter is online here.

List of Publications

Unique identifiers for my work:
Google Scholar profile
ORCID Researcher id 0000-0001-5853-7351 Scopus Author ID 6602478625
ISNI: 0000 0001 2433 0782
VIAF ID: 22235364

I have been working with Mambila in Cameroon since 1985, research various topics including traditional religion, sociolinguistics, kinship and history. In recent years I have started to work with Cameroonian photographers.

In 2003/4 I was the Evans-Prichard lecturer at All Souls College, Oxford, presenting a series of lectures on the life-history of Diko Madeleine, the first wife of Chief Konaka of Somié (see

In 2005, as part of Africa'05, an exhibition of two 
Cameroonian studio photographers was held at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in a display called 'Cameroon-London'. Some images from an earlier showing in Cameroon are online at 

Other Interests:  I have long standing interests in
 multimedia and how internet technologies can be used to illuminate and access museum collections and archives. My work on Mambila spider divination as a 'technology of choice making' led to some pioneering observational work on how library users choose which books to read.  From this I became involved in how academic research infrastructure is managed. In recent years I have been supervising students working on visual repatriation of early films, ritual in online computer games, the social consequences of the adoption of ICT in Spain and the
 documentation of endangered languages (the last with funding from AHRC).  
In a collaboration with staff at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, I used social networking techniques to produce visual representations of the relationships between museum objects and the people who gave them to the museum. I have served on the ESRC's Research Resource Board and currently am on the JISC Digital Content Advisory Group.

Research Students:

Ewa Majczak: "Photographic Cultures in a Small Cameroonian Town" (AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award)

Michael Melia: "Be There, Anywhere: An Ongoing Experiment in European Coworking"

Julia Binter: "The Cultural Worlds of the African Palm Oil Trade"(AHRC Doctoral Award in collaboration with the National Maritime Museum)

As well as general supervision of doctoral research in Cameroon/Nigeria and indeed anywhere in Africa I am also interested in working with students who would like to research the following topics:

·         Social networks in Photographic Supplies in Nigeria

·         Studio Photographers and Videographers in Cameroon (and elsewhere)

·         Photo elicitation and languages of work

·         Photo sharing from albums to flickr and beyond

·         Social Relations mediating technology

·         Meaning making

·         Divination: particularly investigating the clients side view eg of tarot cards and other divination systems round the world

·         Varieties of Cameroonian French

·         Pygmies on the Tikar Plain

Former Research Students (Kent) include:

Mary Adams: "Making Houses, Keeping Kitchens: Exchange, Gender and Generation in an Out-of-Town Settlement, Zimbabwe" (2007)

Charles Fonchingong: “Gender Dynamics of Elderly Welfare and Semi-formal Protection in Cameroon” (2008)

Francine Barone: "Urban Firewalls: Place, Space and New Technologies in Figueres, Catalonia" (2010)

Laura Robson: "Documentation of the Language Ecology of Njanga - a Moribund Language of Cameroon" (AHRC Funded - 2010)

Marieke Martin: "A Grammar of Wawa, an Endangered Language of Cameroon" (2012)

Kate Moore: "The Material in the Immaterial: The Powell-Cotton Angolan Uukwanyama film archive and the evocation of material memory" (ESRC CASE Award)

Olivia Woodburne: "Navigating Moral Dilemmas: Participatory Development among the Egalitarian Baaka of the Central African Republic" (ESRC CASE Award - 2012)

Keywords: Mambila or Mambilla; Cameroon ethnography; visual anthropology; religion; divination; sociolinguistics; endangered languages documentation; ethnomethodology; social factors; uses of technology;

Other webpages: The Virtual Institute of Mambila Studies

A small AHRC funded project on "Facing the Future (with an eye on the Past)" running in 2013.

Evans-Pritchard Lectures 2003/04

In the Autumn of 2003, Professor David Zeitlyn delivered the 2003/2004 Evans-Pritchard Lectures. His subject was 'The life of Diko Madeleine and the History of Somié, Cameroon, in the Twentieth Century'. You can find the links to listen to five of the lectures below.

Lecture 1 (further information)

Lecture 2 (further information)

Lecture 3 (further information)

Lecture 4 (further information)

Lecture 5 (further information)

The final lecture, Summing up a Life?, was not recorded but you can read the transcript here. Further information can be found here.

Photo (C) Chila Joseph, Oxford 2005

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