Alice Carrington-Windo

DPhil, Medical Anthropology
Thesis: Measuring Breastfeeding Success in the Initial Months after Birth  (working title)

Research: Global and national health guidelines emphasise the many short- and long-term benefits of breastfeeding for mother and infant. There is significant evidence to suggest that it plays a preventative role in obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases, as well as being beneficial for the immune and gastrointestinal systems of the infant. There are numerous maternal benefits to breastfeeding, including a lowered risk for certain cancers. However, significant barriers exist to the continuation of breastfeeding, and in the UK only 1% of mothers breastfeed exclusively for the recommended six months. The majority of mothers who stop breastfeeding do so sooner than they had intended. My ethnographic research within a network of community-based breastfeeding support services follows new mothers who must learn to measure and support their infant’s health within a framework that prioritises physiological development of the infant, holds mothers to account through a discourse of epigenetic responsibility, and uses universalising routines of measurement to quantify health. Simultaneously, individuals must master the unfamiliar body technique of breastfeeding that is reliant on embodied knowledge. It necessitates navigation of a learning process that is often fraught with complications and is characterised by societal pressure with concurrent gaps in institutional support. My project is concerned with understanding how women respond to the nutritional needs of their babies in a complex personal and social context, and the approaches they adopt in this process.


Anne-Marie Sim

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: 'What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?' & Other Tales: An Ethnography of Children in Greater London

Research: Aspiration has become a political buzzword, and the rhetoric surrounding ‘raising aspirations’ to improve futures has filtered down to primary school level. Some researchers have critiqued the rhetoric as vacuous without material investment, and at worst, detrimental to disadvantaged groups. Whilst engaging with these ideas, this research offers a radical rethink. Firstly, rather than approaching the issue from a policy-driven perspective, it presents an emic view of children’s aspirations. Instead of applying a categorisation of aspirations as ‘high’ or ‘low’ (and therefore able to be ‘raised’), it examines both the content and context of aspirational statements. Secondly, and more crucially, it does not just examine children’s elicited representations of their futures (or presents), but engages with children’s spontaneous practices occurring in time. This kind of engagement is rare, but is one of the possibilities and benefits of ethnography.

My fieldwork involved almost total immersion into children’s life-worlds. Using a method of ‘full participation’ with children, I took part in my participants’ practices for the greater part of each day over 15 to 18 months. In documenting both their everyday practices and their ‘in time’ narratives spontaneously embarked upon, I am able to reconcile the real-time ‘flow’ of life with the ‘fixings’ of meaning people everywhere construct in order to make meaning in and of their lives. In telling futures, my participants employed the flexibility of narrative in optimistic expressions of ideal competence, ownership and autonomy that asserted the teller’s personhood in the present – as able to act; effectual; recognisable by others; and worth knowing. In their telling, aspirations were not so much individually motivational, as they were inter-subjective actions in the world with productive power that could and did have ‘future’ effects.

Other research interests: Children and childhood; consumption; ethnography; future and temporality.

Selected publications

Sim, A. 2016. 'Learning to be a child in Greater London'. In Children: Ethnohraphic Encounters edited by Catherine Allerton. London: Bloomsbury. 


Cecilie Mueenuddin

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Reimagining honour among the Pakistani middle classes

Research: Most studies of honour among Pakistanis focus on its role in violence and murder. In these studies, as in international policy-oriented discourse, honour often appears as an unchanging concept, rooted in Pakistani traditions and that inevitably leads to the harsh oppression of women. This conception of honour fails to consider the everyday pragmatism that characterizes most people’s honour-related negotiations, particularly in gender relations. In consequence, it becomes impossible to perceive any potential for change in Pakistani honour practices. Yet, within Pakistan, honour killings are mainly seen as a practice of the uneducated and traditional lower classes. The Westernized elite emphasize their status and modernity precisely by condemning honour-based violence and marking their distance from traditional gender practices. Moreover, between the working class and the elite there is now a growing and virtually unstudied middle class, consisting of families which in the span of one or two generations have moved from what can be thought of as the uneducated working class to the educated middle class. An important goal for this upwardly mobile group is to be perceived as modern. The emerging middle class therefore provides an excellent opportunity to study how views and practices related to honour vary depending on the social context and thus are open to change. Given that honour remains central to regulating Pakistani gender relations, how does the middle class resolve the tension between traditional gender roles and wishing to appear modern and educated? The central question for my research is therefore concerned with how individuals reformulate honour so as to fit their middle-class lifestyles.


Charlotte Linton

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: The preservation of tradition under conditions of precarity: Indigo cultivation and resist dyeing in Japan (working title)

Research: My DPhil research is part of an ongoing exploration of contemporary and historical textiles, focusing on the social and environmental relationships that are formed during the production process. My current research explores indigo cultivation, and traditional indigo resist techniques in Japan, specifically questioning the preservation of ‘tradition’ looking at how such traditions evolve to find their place in contemporary society, and how varying parties have differing notions of what is deemed ‘authentic’. Taking a holistic perspective on the natural environment, I am interested in the role of the indigo plant (in Japan, Polygonum tinctorium) as an element in a multispecies (human-made) landscape, and how and why the landscapes themselves have become a subject of conservation. Addressing the phenomenon of reverse migration (urban to rural), alternative forms of labour, present day back-to-the-land movements and preoccupations with sustainability within the Japanese context, I question why in this period of ‘precarity’, such ‘slow’ lifestyles, professions and resulting commodities have become attractive to younger generations. I will explore how traditional practices can act as intergenerational social glue, but also create friction in rural communities.

Using long-term participant observation and methodologies associated with apprenticeship, my work aims to explore how craft practices are experienced by those involved in their production, and their impact on local social and material worlds, while questioning the forms of value that ‘tradition’ generates for Japanese society as a whole.

Other research interests: Visual and material anthropology, museum anthropology, environmental anthropology, post-colonial studies, ethnographic film, landscape, enskilment and sensory anthropology, folklore, Scottish ethnology, textile history, contemporary fashion and textile design and production.


Chihab El Khachab

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Screens: Technology and Mediation in the Egyptian Film Industry (working title)

Research: My research examines how visual media technolgoies - e.g., mobile phones, laptops, televisions, tablets - intervene in daily interactions during commercial film production in Egypt. My objectives are twofold. One one hand, I want to understand in what ways visual media technologies (or 'screens', for short) are physically or materially involved in everyday social interactions. On the other hand, I want to trace an ethnographic picture of commercial film production in Egypt, with particular emphasis on habitual interactions among social actors involved in filmmaking (producers, directors, comedians, technicians, editors, distributors, etc.).

Other research interests: Material culture, visual anthropology, anthropology of art, film theory, American pragmatism.

Selected Publications:
El Khachab, C. (2013). 'The Logical Goodness of Abduction in C.S. Peirce's Thought', Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 49(2): 157-177.

El Khachab, C. (2013). 'What Becomes of Bodies on Film?' Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 3092): 173-189.


Cory Rodgers

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Learning to Herd: Morality and the Enskilment of Animal Care Techniques in Turkana, Kenya (working title)

Research: My study explores the ways that the technical dimensions of livelihood articulate with the rising moral dilemmas facing contemporary pastoralists in a rapidly changing landscape. Located on Kenya’s arid north-western frontier, Turkana County is a region that many Kenyans associate more with neighbouring South Sudan than with their own country. The majority of people living in this area are mobile herders, experts in managing multi-species herds, identifying and treating disease, and pursuing ephemeral pasture and water resources. Especially since the 2013 devolution of certain government roles to the county level, increased spending on infrastructure and social services have significantly altered the pastoral landscape, and the region's small but growing towns are becoming an increasingly important site where herders can access markets and take advantage of services provided by state and humanitarian agencies. Yet this increased proximity also amplifies the moral discourses projected from urban spaces, many of which frame pastoralism as a “backward” way of life that keeps children out of school, the sick out of reach of clinics, and the general pastoral population in a state of ignorance. Through a technographic exploration of livelihood as both technical activity and identity practice, I will examine the ethical work undertaken by Turkana herders to navigate the increasingly pluralistic and often conflicting values that populate their moral worlds. In a context where historical change has been represented primarily as a process of environmental adaptation, my ethics approach puts biological survival into conversation with the various other teloi toward which livelihoods are practiced, and foregrounds disposition, identity, and the construction of self as influences on the techne of contemporary Turkana pastoralism.


Dora-Olivia Vicol

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Precarious workers, troubled nation - the reconfiguration of national attachment through precarious work. A case study of Romanian migrants in London

Research: Through a multi-sited ethnography conducted in a Romanian village and a North London neighbourhood with a high number of Romanian migrants, this project traces how the experience of working in precarious jobs mediated by co-nationals, configures migrants’ relation to their national community. I find that for migrants coming from rural areas where personal connections constitute the backbone of social mobility, their dependence on local gatekeepers in their experience across borders creates a particular relation of power which can be easily abused. Many are drawn into highly gendered trajectories into precarious work, normalised by the moral debt acquired towards those who helped pull them out of the village. By focusing on these relations between new Romanian migrants and their gatekeeper bosses, I explore the way migrants reconfigure their relations to their national community.

Other research interests: precarious work, EU migration, urban ethnography.

Vicol, D.O. and Allen, W. (2014) Bulgarians and Romanians in the British national press. The Migration Observatory. University of Oxford.


Elo Luik

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology

Research: Elo’s ESRC funded research explores how the global business of cross border surrogacy is responding to attempts to regulate it. She is especially interested in the foreign clinics, specialist lawyers and international agents who facilitate such cross border surrogacy arrangements. She carried out fieldwork in India, which used to be the primary internaitonal hub for surrogacy but which, as a result of the introduction of restrictive legislation, is losing much of its business to other emerging destinations. Elo also carried out fieldwork in the UK to better understand why aspiring parents seek surrogacy in certain foreign destinations and how agents, the Internet and networks of support allow for those journeys to happen.

Other research interests: Technology, state, governance, law, morality, globalisation, global capitalism, assisted reproductive technologies, online communities, medical tourism, medical anthropology, research impact on governance.

2015 Elo was an ESRC funded research fellow at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. Her research looked at REF 2014 Impact Case Studies to identify pathways to impact of academic/scientific research on the work of Parliament. The report for this project is still in progress.

Since 2014- Elo has been a volunteer writer for BioNews UK.

Selected publications/presentations:

Luik, E. 2013. Speculating about fertility: future regulation and the business of assisted reproductive technologies. Presentation given at Speculation in India: seminar on imaginaries on Indian economies. University of Copenhagen.

Luik, E. 2012 Meaningful Pain: suffering and the narrative construction of pilgrimage experience on the Camino De Santiago. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society. Vol. 37 Issue 2, p24-43.


Emanuel Schaeublin

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Zakat in Nablus (Palestine): Change and continuity in Islamic almsgiving

Research: This research project offers an ethnography of informal and institutional zakat (Islamic alms) practices in the Palestinian city of Nablus.  As an ethical practice, zakat is both an act of individual worship (‘ibāda) and a social transaction/interaction (mu‘āmala).  Accordingly, it can be understood as both a practice of the self and a practice of society.  Based on ethnographic research focusing on social interactions (such as greetings, market transactions, and generous giving between neighbours and friends), I situate zakat practices within the social context of Nablus, which is marked by the presence of Islamic imageries of wealth as divine provision (rizq) flowing through society and sustaining people.  Poverty tends to be hidden from the public gaze, as it is associated with ethical stigmas.  At the same time, Nablus is affected by the Palestinian political economy under Israeli military occupation.  Against this background, zakat appears as an extremely delicate and discreet practice, which can be understood as a socially embodied virtue manifesting itself through and within social interactions.

Other research interests: Excess and calculation, giving, death, anthropology of ethics, the apparent and the hidden, physical experience of text, shame, generosity, wealth and poverty, anthropology of Islam, manners and demeanour.

Research Gate with publications:

Ewa Majczak

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Senses of Self: visual self-fashioning among Bamileké women in Yaounde, Cameroon (working title)

Research: My doctoral research is an exploration of aesthetic and gendered forms of self-representation among Bamileké women in Yaounde, Cameroon, mediated through entangled practices of photography and dress. I investigate how women construct their visible selves that take the form of dress styles, photographs taken at the studio, selfies with a mobile phone, photographic display in an album and on Facebook. In this I analyse how self-representation is enabled by various material technologies and how these technologies in turn influence ideas and practices of female self-representation. In particular, I focus on the ways in which self-representation becomes a means for women to construct themselves as aesthetic female subjects and how aesthetic practices become a central element for female personhood as well as a means for intimacy, sociality and adulthood.

Research interests: anthropology of gender, visual anthropology, postcolonial studies, popular culture, West Africa - Cameroon.


Hannah Dawson

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: 'We are not free': contesting meanings of youth, work and citizenship in South Africa (working title)

Research Associate in the Chair in Social Change, University of Johannesburg
Research Associate at the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP), Wits University

Research: Hannah Dawson’s research, through an ethnographic account of an informal settlement on the periphery of Johannesburg, explores the interplay of young people’s changing economic lives and contemporary subjectivities, social relations and aspirations. The thesis explores the economic and social strategies and arrangements of young men in a context of unemployment, economic uncertainty and widening social inequalities. By examining young men’s everyday realities, choices and interpretations of their lives and those around them the thesis explores how young men actively negotiate different, and often divergent, moral discourses and frameworks that operate at different scales, times and within distinct social groups. By paying attention to young people’s explanations, justifications and moral concepts we gain access to the factors shaping their decisions and choices and the conflicts they generate.

Research interests: South African history and politics; economic anthropology; contemporary capitalism; precarious labour; urban poverty; social theory; ethnographic writing and public anthropology.

Selected publications/presentations
Dawson, H., (2013), HIV/AIDS, the erosion of social capital and the collapse of rural livelihoods in the Nkomazi district of South Africa, African Journal of AIDS Research.

Dawson, H., (2014), Youth politics: waiting and envy in a South African informal settlement, Journal of Southern African Studies.

Dawson, H., (2014), Patronage from below: political unrest in an informal settlement in South Africa, African Affairs.  

Dawson, H., (2016), Making a living on the urban periphery: Are young people ‘waiting’ for work or ‘hustling’ to get by? Presented at the AEGIS Summer School: Urban Africa – Urban Africans: Emergent Spaces and Multiple Representations, 21-25 June 2016, Cagliari, Sardinia.

Dawson, H. with Fouksman, E., (2016), "Don't give money to the lazy": The moral functions of wage labour and the rejection of cash transfers, from above and below, in South Africa. Presented at Development Studies Association conference, 12-14 September 2016, Oxford University.

Dawson, H., (2016), The contradictions, ambiguities and ethical dilemmas of being a young man in contemporary South Africa. Presented at the Nordic Africa Institute Conference, 22-24 September 2016, Uppsala, Sweden.


Imogen Clark

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Landscape, Materiality and the Aesthetics of Tibetan Exile (working title)

Research: Imogen's research focuses on the material dimensions of Tibetan exile within India. Her doctoral thesis investigates how Tibetan refugees currently dwelling in India approach their everyday material culture and wider cultural landscape. How do Tibetans construct the material environment of their exile? How do they modify and think about the physical landscapes of the diaspora? How have Tibetans in exile used material culture and landscapes to conceptualise a link with their homeland, Tibet, and their identity as Tibetan refugees? Imogen's research engages with the objects and landscapes of their daily lives in exile. Her hope is to unite material-focused approaches within anthropology with academic work on diasporas and refugees to produce a sensually-engaged account of Tibetan refugee life in two Tibetan settlements in India.

Other research interests: Anthropology of Material Culture (the Anthropology of Landscape, the Senses, Food, Textiles); the Anthropology of Memory; Museology; the Anthropology of Refugees and Diaspora; Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalaya; Visual Anthropology.

Clark, I. Forthcoming. Exhibiting the Exotic, Simulating the Sacred: Art, Religion and Authenticity in 'Tibetan Shrines' Erected at British and North American Museums, Ateliers d'Anthropologie.


Jaanika Vider

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology

Research: Jaanika’s D.Phil. thesis focuses on the career of an early female anthropologist, Maria Czaplicka, the expedition she led to North Central Siberia in 1914, and the museum collections born out of this expedition and their place in the history of anthropology. This research attempts to understand the dynamic between students and teachers, focusing on the first generation of academically trained fieldworkers and subsequently considering their role in propelling anthropology further. It further studies the changing relationship between museums and field anthropology, role of collections, gender issues and the tensions between anthropology’s scientific endeavors and need for popularisation of anthropology. 

Research interests: history of science, role of women in early academia, museum studies, philosophy of history, material and visual anthropology, Arctic anthropology. 


Janamarie Truesdell

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Assessing the Effects of Pregnancy on the Face of the Pubic Symphysis: Implications for Ageing

Research: As a forensic anthropologist, Janamarie explores the complexities of human variation from the perspective of the skeleton, investigating the extent to which our daily lives impact, or imprint upon, our physical selves. Through participant interviews and observation, coupled with medical imaging, her current research seeks to determine what effect, if any, the pregnancy hormone Relaxin has on the transition phases of epiphyseal attachement at the pubic symphysis, an area of the pelvis important for estimating age.

Other research interests: Forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, biological and evolutionary anthropology, genetics and epigenetics, medical imaging technology, kinesiology, taphonomy, pathology and anatomy, history of medicine.

Emails: and

Jennifer Hough

DPhil, Anthropology
Thesis: 'We are the same... aren't we?' Between expectation and reality for young North Koreans in South Korea (working title)

Research: My research explores how North Koreans living in South Korea experience their incorporation into South Korean society in relation to both their own expectations and expectations inherent in official South Korean discourse. Over 30,000 North Koreans have claimed asylum in South Korea, the majority of whom have arrived since famine struck North Korea in the 1990s. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Seoul, my research aims to deepen understandings of the challenges North Koreans face in adapting to life in South Korea, particularly focusing on their narratives to ask what kind of active work is required of them to bridge the gaps between expectation and reality. Throughout my thesis I consider the themes of charity, dependence, competence, and self-alienation, exploring both how these elements played out in the lives of the North Koreans I met and the ways in which they contested them.

Research interests: citizenship, politics of exclusion, social inequalities, migration, nationalism, sociology of religion, language and identity politics, methodology.


Julia Binter

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: The Cultural Worlds of the African Palm Oil Trade

Research: Julia’s research examines the history and cultural heritage of the Niger Delta with focus on a formative period of British-Nigerian imperial contact: the 19th century palm oil trade. Her research objectives are twofold. On the one hand, she examines how the palm oil trade – and specifically the exchange and mutual appropriation of material culture - shaped British-Nigerian relations and impacted the social and cultural life in the 19th century Niger Delta. On the other hand, she seeks to understand how and to what purpose Nigerians use the history and cultural heritage of the palm oil trade in processes of memorialization and identity formation today.

Research interests: material culture, memory, imperial contact, historical anthropology, visual anthropology, anthropology of globalization, postcolonial theory.

Selected Publications:
Binter, J. T. S. (2014) “Unruly Voices in the Museum. Multisensory engagement with disquieting histories”, The Senses and Society 9(2): 342–360.

Binter, J. T. S. (2014) “Vermittler zwischen Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft. Ethnographische Museen im Spannungsfeld von Orten der Repräsentation und ‚glokalen‘ Kontaktzonen“, in:Ethnohistorie. Rekonstruktion und Kulturkritik. Eine Einführung. Werner Zips and Karl Wernhart (eds.), Vienna: Promedia Verlag.

Binter, J. T. S. (2014)  “Die Welt in Bewegung – Migrationen im Weltmuseum Wien“, in: Migration und Integration: Dialog zwischen Politik, Wissenschaft und Praxis, Vol 4., Gudrun Biffl and Lydia Rössl (eds.), Pp.73-84. Vienna: Guthmann-Peterson.

Binter, J. T. S. (2013) “Radioglaz and the Global City. Possibilities and Constraints of Experimental Montage”, in: Transcultural Montage, Rane Willerslev and Christian Suhr (eds.), Pp. 183-197. New York, Oxford: Berghahn.

Binter, J. T. S. and Riahi, A. T. (2013) „Exile Family Movie (1994-2006). Das Politische im Privaten oder Herstellungsstrategien  von Öffentlichkeit im Dokumentarfilm“, in: Produktionen des Politischen in neueren deutschsprachigen Dokumentarfilmen, Aylin Basaran, Julia B. Köhne, Klaudija Sabo (eds.), Pp. 215-227. Vienna: Mandelbaum.

Binter, J. T. S. (2011) “Globalization, Representation and Postcolonial Critique. Austrian documentary film auteurs' take on globalism”, in: Global Studies. Mapping Contemporary Art and Culture, Hans Belting, Jacob Birken, Andrea Buddensieg, Peter Weibel (eds.), Pp. 96-109. Ostfildern: Hatje-Cantz.

Binter, J. T. S. (2009) We Shoot the World. Österreichische Dokumentarfilmer und die Globalisierung. Berlin, Münster, Vienna: LIT-Verlag.


Julia Morris

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Offshore Mythologies and the Making of the Refugee Industrial Frontier on the Republic of Nauru

Research: Drawing on ethnographic research conducted largely between Geneva, Australia, and the Republic of Nauru, Julia's department-funded research focuses on the global commodity market  in refugees and resource conflicts generated by industry operations. Her project, under the supervision of Professor Bridget Anderson, focuses on intersections of culture, power, and political economy, bringing a Marxist understanding to forms of uneven development that undergird fetishized animate commodity sectors. Julia is currently a visiting research student with Professor Laura Nader at the University of California Berkeley, having held previous visiting research scholarships at the Graduate Institute Geneva and the University of the South Pacific Suva.

Other research interests: financialisation, governance, policy mobility, science and technology studies.

Selected publications
Morris, J. (2016) ‘In the Market of Morality: International Human Rights Standards and the Immigration Detention ‘Improvement’ Complex.’ In Hiemstra, N. and Conlon, D., eds. Intimate Economies: Critical Perspectives on Immigration Detention. London: Routledge.

Morris, J. (2016) ‘Power, Capital and Immigration Detention Rights: Making Networked Markets in Global Detention Governance at UNHCR’, Global Networks.

Morris, J. (2014) Review of Moran, D., Gill, N. and Conlon, D., eds. (2013) Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention, in Population, Space and Place 20 (8): 757-759.

Morris, J. (2014) Review of Hall, A. (2012) Border Watch: Cultures of Immigration, Detention and Control, in Space and Polity 18 (1):  110-112.

Morris, J. (2014) ‘Baay Fall Sufi Da'iras: Voicing Identity Through Acoustic Communities’, African Arts (Spring 2014. Vol. 47, No. 1).


Kåre Stokholm Poulsgaard

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: What is digital morphogenesis? Enacting technology, creativity and form in digital architecture

Research: MMy research focuses on the implementation of digital tools and technologies in architectural practice with a specific focus on how these technologies change creative work and decision-making as well as ideas about form and materiality. By focusing on how building technologies are enacted within the digital design studio, I explore how affordances and constraints of the digital realm and specific institutional settings shape work and cognition while also seeking to understand how the technical tools and artefacts of a specialised field of practice might impact processes of large scale change and innovation.

Other research interests: Science and technology studies, material culture, infrastructure, automation, work, embodied and enactive cognition, extended mind.

'Technics, risk and uncertainty in automated finance'. Paper delivered at Civilisation, Infrastructure and the City symposium, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, London. 7 November 2014.

'Navigating infrastructure and violence in the wake of the 2007-8 Kenyan post-election crisis'. Paper delivered at Futures in the Making – Youth Conflict and Potentiality conference, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, 20-21 January 2011.


Katerina Chatzikidi

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: 'Of African descent': Heritage, land and identity politics in Maranhão, Brazil

Research: My doctoral research is part of the joint research project 'Currents of faith, places of history: religious diasporas and world-making in the Atlantic space', funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) consortium. Within this project, I will be looking at cultural and religious expressions and perceptions of 'Africanness' in contemporary Brazil. Drawing on practices, memories, and current understandings of the slave trade, the African presence in Brazil, and trans-Atlantic connections, the research will aim to assess critically explicit and implicit processes of 'heritagisation' of Afro-Brazilian culture.

Other research interests: power and resistance discourses; post/colonialism; race and social inequalities; memory and everyday practice; death and material expressions of grief 

URL: and

Kristen Biehl

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Diversity, Informality and Space-making in a Migrant Hub of Istanbul (working title)

Research: My doctoral research addresses two core questions: How are urban contexts of intense migration led diversification socially and spatially experienced and practiced? How do changing conceptions and intensifying mixtures of difference relate to particular uses of space and senses of place? The context in which I have examined these questions is a locality of Istanbul known as Kumkapi that is intricately laden with distinct histories of migration, diversity and informality, both historical and recent. During my fieldwork in Kumkapi, I applied a combination of ethnographic methods including spatial mapping, extensive informal discussions, life story interviews and participant observation, focusing in particular on the scales of housing and neighbourhood. In my PhD thesis, I am analysing the intersections between narratives and practices of migration, informality, difference and diversification, and those of space and place. Through this lens my overall goal is to engage with discussions around causes and consequences of key transformations in contemporary urban spatiality and governance.  

Other research interests: Migration, Urban and Diversity studies, with an emphasis on space and place making, housing and home, informality, illegality, governmentality, multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism, Istanbul, Turkey.

Biehl, K. (forthcoming). 'Spatializing diversities, diversifying spaces: housing experiences in a migration hub of Istanbul.' Ethnic and Racial Studies.

Biehl, K. (forthcoming). 'Governing through Uncertainty: Experiences of being a refugee in Turkey as a transit country for asylum'. Social Analysis

Biehl, K. (2015). 'Irregular migrants and Negotiated Urban Space in Istanbul.' In Fatma Muge Gocek (ed.), Contested Spaces in Contemporary Turkey: Politics of the Urban, Secular, Legal and Environmental, London: IB Tauris

Yasin, Y., Biehl K. and Erol M. (2015). 'Infection of the Invisible: Impressions of a Tuberculosis Intervention Program for Migrants in Istanbul.' In Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.  DOI: 10.1007/s10903-014-0115-7.

Biehl, K. (2013). 'New Diversities in Istanbul: Setting a Research Agenda for Studying Migration and the City'. SSIIM UNESCO Chair Paper Series, Universita IUAV di Venezia. Available online

Icduygu, A. and Biehl, K. (2013). 'The Changing Trajectory of Migration to Turkey'. In M. Balbo, A. Icduygu and J. Perez (Eds.), Countries of Migrants, Cities of Migrants: Italy, Spain, Turkey, Istanbul: Isis Press.

Biehl, K. (2013). 'New Migrations to Istanbul and Emerging Local Practices'. In M. Balbo, A. Icduygu and J. Perez (Eds.), Countries of Migrants, Cities of Migrants: Italy, Spain, Turkey, Istanbul: Isis Press.

Biehl, K. (2008). 'Migration ‘Securitization’ and its Everyday Implications: an examination of Turkish asylum policy and practice', CARIM Summer School 2008 – Best Participant Essays Series 2009/01, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI).

Icduygu, A. and Biehl, K. (2008). Living Together Program, Migrant Cities Research: Istanbul. British Council, November 2008. 


Laur Kiik

DPhil, Anthropology
Thesis: Wildlife Conservation as Ontological Diplomacy: Tackling Theories of Defaunation amid Ethno-Political War in Burma's Kachin Region

Research: I intend to study how disparate parts of humankind think and feel, care or not care, about wild animals disappearing rapidly across our planet. How might social-anthropological approaches to ‘radical cultural difference’ – ‘ontological, cosmological’ difference – explain why nature conservationists so often clash with local societies across the world? How might an anthropologist help negotiate between such disparate social worlds?

My specific fieldsite will likely be “the world’s largest tiger reserve” recently founded in the ethnic Kachin region in northernmost Burma/Myanmar, situated between China, Tibet, and India, and torn by civil war since the 1960s. In 2010, I began studying Kachin society and have conducted altogether a year of field research there. My studies have focused on how recent militarily-backed and Chinese-led massive resource grabs – jade mining, hydropower, logging, agroindustry, gold – have led to an environmentalism emerging inside Kachin nationalist and Baptist world-making. My first publications are now (slowly) coming out. In the PhD, I will explore how Kachin environmental and other national activists clash with Western-led transnational conservation projects like the tiger reserve, and the potential for negotiation.

I wish to take both nationalism and conservation seriously, and to integrate insights both from social and natural sciences. I would love to get in touch with people with similar research interests!

Kiik, Laur. (2016). Nationalism and Anti-Ethno-Politics: Why ‘Chinese Development’ Failed at Myanmar’s Myitsone Dam. Eurasian Geography and Economics, June 22. DOI:10.1080/15387216.2016.1198265.

Kiik, Laur. (2016). Conspiracy, God’s Plan, and National Emergency: Kachin Popular Analyses of the Ceasefire and Resource Grabs. In: Sadan, M. (Ed.) War and Peace in the Borderlands of Myanmar: The Kachin Ceasefire, 1994-2011, pp. 205-235. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.

Kiik, Laur. (2014). Review of Biosocial Becomings: Integrating Social and Biological Anthropology, by Tim Ingold and Gisli Pálsson (eds.). Anthropological Notebooks, 20(2): 173-175.

URL: personal website

Kristofer Jönsson Hulander

DPhil, Medical Anthropology
Thesis: Code and conduct: social mind plasticity in young adults with high-functioning autism

Research: My research investigates if it is possible for adults with high-functioning autism to develop a social mind. The study looks at young adults with high-functioning autism (henceforth “HFA”) during the transition to university. Adults with HFA are a poorly understood group that often face immense challenges in the shift to independent living. This project aims to explain why autistic neurology became a pathology. It fills a gap in the existing literature by situating autism in an ecological and evolutionary context. My hypothesis predicts that social dysfunction in HFA manifests relative to social structure and the degree of explicit, culturally coded rules for social practice. I will combine experimental and ethnographic methods toward an anthropology of autism that considers autism as a facet of the human condition that is on the one hand a biological reality, and on the other hand a constructed category that bears upon individual experience. A testable hypothesis for the effect of socioecology and shared social rules on expressions of autistic phenotypes in adults with HFA provides a meaningful and original contribution to autism discourse with potential for further applications in policy, health care, and student welfare.

Other research interests: Biological and evolutionary anthropology; epigenetics and phenotypic plasticity; social change, rules and morality; mental health; nationalism and neonationalism; indigeneity (particularly the Saami); postindustrialism and globalization; anthropology of Europe.


Leanne Johansson

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Making Bakassi: Memory, belonging and state-making on the disputed Nigeria-Cameroon border

Research: My doctoral thesis examines the making of the Bakassi Peninsula, a disputed border region between Nigeria and Cameroon, through the storytelling, mobility practices, future aspirations and politics of those who call it ‘home’ and their interactions with national and international bodies. The intervention of the International Court of Justice into the border dispute introduced a dichotomy of official narratives through which the Cameroonian and Nigerian states memorialised their relationship with Bakassi territory. In my ethnography, I explore how Bakassi inhabitants themselves re-negotiate these narratives through practices of emplacement and mobility. In doing so, they create a ‘New Bakassi’ for the future which is both imagined and real and, simultaneously, re-construct the statehood of Nigeria and Cameroon. Within this process, conceptions of kinship, personhood and power can be seen to shape relations between people, territories and states.

Research interests: Borders and borderlands; anthropology of war; the state; landscape; mobility; place-making; personhood; affect and emotion; storytelling.


Lena Rose (née Wettach)

DPhil, Anthropology
Thesis: Transnationalism, Colonialism, and Transcendence: Palestinian Evangelicals and Global Evangelicalism

Research: My PhD research is concerned with 'encounters across difference' in the context of global evangelicalism. I conducted fieldwork in Nazareth, Israel-Palestine, as well as different locations in the West Bank, studying encounters of evangelical Christian North American and European tourists, missioniaries and volunteers with Palestinian evangelicals. Unlike previous research on religion in the Middle East, I consider my respondents as part of a transnational social field of evangelicalism, which renders visible the religious community of Palestinian evangelicals so far ignored in anthropological research on Palestinian Christianity. This lens reveals that the encounters and resulting relationships between Western and Palestinian Christians are shaped by history and culture, and the uneven flows of resources, people, ideas and doctrines along their links are subject to resistance, negotiation and facilitation. In my fieldwork, I have paid particular attention to religious texts such as biblical scripture, and the ways in which these are endowed with cultural and political meanings (using Wimbush's concept of 'scripturalisation'), leading to often opposing social and political commitments.

I am based at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, and supervised by Prof Bridget Anderson and Prof Michael Keith.


Luisa Schneider

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Witch Trials and the Reweaving of Community: Uncertainty and Secret Societies in Post-Ebola Freetown (working title)

Research: This research investigates the cross-ethnic, urban complex of the Poro and Bondo Secret Societies in Freetown, Sierra Leone and the way they shape social reality in this post-conflict and (post) Ebola environment. The study highlights ways of organizing, adapting and making a life through secrecy by documenting the precarious daily life of uprooted people from different backgrounds, living together in the slum of Susan’s Bay and Waterloo united by a secret society that used to segregate them. The focus lies on mechanisms of settlement exclusion and inclusion, dispute resolution, and ongoing anti-violence and gang recruitment. As the first study of Poro and Bondo in Freetown, the thesis will analyze the groups’ role during the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak, as well as its aftermath and explore patterns of influence regarding systems of belief and courses of action.

Other research interests: uncertainty, violence, gender, (post) conflict, youth, anthropology of informal settlements, methodology and research ethics.


Marcos Calo Medina

DPhil, Social Anthropology
Thesis: In Ominbus Deum Inveniens: Souls, Spirits, and the Jesuit Mission among the Tseltal Maya of Chiapas, Mexico (working title)

Research: Marcos engages with the emerging sub-field of the anthropology of Christianity through his research among the Tseltal Maya of Chilón in southern Mexico. He investigates conceptions of the soul and the sacred among the Tseltal. who appear to regard spirits, animals, and landscapes as volitional, sentient, and intelligent beings. His research explores the ways in which the Tseltal have brought together indigenous knowledge with the Christian conception of the soul as being immortal and immaterial, creative, perceptive and rational within our bodies.

Marcos explores the Tseltal ontologies of being that highlight the attribution of life, animacy, agency, relationality and creative communication between humans and other-than-human persons. More importantly, his research explores the interaction between indigenous beliefs and practices as they merge (or not) with the Spanish-speaking ladino culture within the context of a particular Catholic spirituality encouraged by the missionaries of the Society of Jesus. Since the political upheaval brought about by the Zapatista rebellion of 1994, the Tseltal of Chilón have gained the confidence to reassert a political voice that has alienated themselves from the Spanish-speaking ladinos. And yet, it appears that Teseltal conceptions of the soul have persistently crossed the ethnic divide between indigenous and ladino, creating alternative discourses of what is sacred - dreams, witchcraft, spirit possession - that thrive beneath layers of concealment and ambiguity.

Interaction with the Jesuit mission for the past fifty years has merged Tseltal belief with a particular form of incarnational spirituality that postulates all things are intrinsically and potentially revelatory of God's presence. By exploring how the Tseltal have understood Christianity through the social and cultural activism of the Jesuit mission, Marcos seeks to unravel the sometimes problematic relationship between theology and anthropology, religion and politics. He investigates the images and metaphors mobilized by the indigenous people to express an existence tied to nature. In its final form, his research analyzes how Tseltal conceptions of being and becoming relate to a religion the Tseltal have come to appropriate as their own.

Marcos is currently conducting fieldwork in Chilón  and San Cristóbal de las Casas (both in Chiapas), as well as in Mexico City. He is a visiting research student at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS).

Other research interests/publications: Marcos is also interested in the anthropology of the media, having worked for The Associated Press (AP) for five years. His by-lined articles are available on the internet. he is also interested in the anthropological connections between Mexico and his native Philippines that resulted from the Galleon Trade during the Spanish colonial era.


Maria Șalaru

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Making One's Home: An Ethnography of the Material Transformations in Romanian Blocks of Flats

Research: In my DPhil research, I am exploring post-socialist material transformations in Romanian urban space and energy consumption practices inside and outside the home. My aim is to reveal multiple, fragmented, contradictory processes of meaning formation around the material culture of the apartment. Based on long-term participant observation and innovative visual methodologies, I am studying the manner in which inhabitants appropriate their block of flats in Piatra-Neamt, Romania, focusing in particular on the changes in the infrastructure of the buildings.

A central issue I am raising concerns polyester wall insulation. This energy saving practice, transgressing the boundaries between the inside and the outside of the home, has resulted in the production of new forms of status distinction and citizenship in the local community. By building on ongoing anthropological debates in architecture, ecology and economic anthropology, my project contributes to understandings of rapidly changing everyday life in post-soviet cities.

Teaching and research interests: visual and material anthropology; ethnographic photography and film; anthropology of the built environment; post-socialist anthropology; economic anthropology; anthropology and sociology of food; museum anthropology.

Recent Presentations:
April 2015: Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth, 2015 conference: Symbiotic anthropologies: theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms. 'Making One’s Home: An Ethnography of Material Transformations in Romanian Blocks of Flats'.

November 2014: Conference of the Romanian Society for Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2014 conference: Modes of Appropriation and Social Resistance: Walls have Ears. 'An Ethnography of Energy Use in Postsocialist Romania'.

September 2013: Lives of Objects' Conference, University of Oxford: Souvenirs from the other side. 'A social biography of photographic postcards in the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam'.

URL LinkedIn:
Selected photographic portfolio:

Marnina Lefebvre

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Technology, constructive ambiguity, and the body: deconstructing the smart city

Research: My research focuses on the construction of smart city narratives. Broadly speaking, I am exploring the production of knowledge, specifically, areas of cooperation and contestation, competing narratives, and constructive ambiguity. I am also exploring the impact of smart technology on the relationship between the built environment and the body. My fieldwork is based in Oxford, and will examine the multiple ways in which various actors involved in the smart city initiative negotiate social, political, and economic ideas of urban development and enhancement, and how these activities factor in the city-making experience.

Other research interests: Corporate anthropology, international business and law, cross-cultural management.


Martha Newson

DPhil, Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology
Thesis: Identity Fusion in Football Fans: Causes and Consequences

Research: I am currently in the final year of my DPhil under the supervision of Professor Harvey Whitehouse. My doctoral research investigates the causes and consequences of identity fusion, a unique form of extreme social bonding. Focusing on football fans in the UK, Brazil, and Spain, we explore the roles of: emotional arousal as measured by self-reports and physiological measures, such as cortisol in saliva samples and heart rate; team performance (both long term effects of supporting Premier League teams and immediate effects of World Cup losses); and the ‘self-shapingness’ of episodic memories. We also examine two consequences of identity fusion among football supporters and football hooligans: out-group hostility and parochial altruism. 

My research is funded by a St Cross Scholarship and an ESRC graduate studentship. I was also awarded a sub-grant from the John Templeton Foundation project ‘Religion’s Impact on Human Life: Integrating Proximate and Ultimate Perspectives’ and a small travel grant from the Peter Lienhardt Memorial Fund and Philip Bagby Fund
at the University of Oxford.

Research and teaching interests: extreme pro-group mentalities; evolution of co-operation and altruism; evolution of human sex and sexuality; reproduction and fertility; sociolinguistics; anthropology of modern British culture and subcultures; social insects.

Select Presentations and Papers

Newson, M., Buhrmester, M., Whitehouse, H. (under review) Explaining lifelong loyalty: The role of identity fusion and self-shaping group events. PLOS ONE.

Lyngs, U., Cohen, E., Hattori, W., Newson, M., Levin, D., T., (in press) Hearing in Color: How Expectations Distort Perception of Skin Tone. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

Newson, M. A cross-cultural exploration of extreme social bonding (March, 2016). Invited talk at Ryde School’s Speaker Series, Isle of Wight.

Newson, M., Whitehouse, H., McKay, R., Buhrmester, M., Hattori, W., Shiramizu, V., Yamamoto, M. E. United in defeat: shared dysphoria unites football fans to the collective (July, 2014). Paper presented at the Human Behaviour and Evolution Society conference. Natal, Brazil


Marthe Achtnich

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Temporality, subjectivity, legality: The strandedness of sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya, Malta and beyond (working title)

Research: Marthe's doctoral research examines notions of 'strandedness' among sub-Saharan African migrants, focusing specifically on human agency, aspirations and decision-making processes from a temporal and spatial perspective. Her research is multi-sited and longitudinal, looking first at sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya, then in Malta, and subsequently within various EU member states.

Research interests: Temporalities, time/space. anthropology of time, subjectivities, agency, ethnic identity, diaspora, transnationalism, citizenship, irregular migration, integration, migration and environmental change.


Megan Jefferies

DPhil, Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology

Research: Broadly, I am interested in an interdisciplinary approach to the study of social bonding. In the past, I’ve completed ethnographic fieldwork at an archaeological dig  in Italy, where I used participant-observation and semi-structured interviews to explore social bonding among students. For my DPhil, I will explore social bonding and physical activity in children. Specifically, I am interested in the effects of physical exertion (intensity) and enjoyment on social bonding and social isolation/exclusion in children. It has been suggested from studies in adults that physical and psychological benefits gained from physical activity are intensity-dependent, however few studies have investigated these effects in children. In the developmental literature, it has been established that children enjoy physical activity more in the company of their friends, however social effects remain under investigated. I seek to fill these gaps by conducting controlled lab experiments in order to identify the effects of intensity and enjoyment on social bonding and social isolation/exclusion among children.


Melyn McKay

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: A Good Woman:  Gender and Self-fashioning in the margins of Burmese Buddhist nationalism

Research: In 2015, Myanmar’s parliament passed four controversial ‘religious protection laws’ that many believe discriminate against women and non-Buddhists. Academic and activist discussion of the laws focuses on the ways prominent monks may use this package of legislation, and anti-Muslim or anti-Rohingya rhetoric more generally, to garner socio-political influence for a nebulous religio-nationalist movement, the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by its Burmese acronym MaBaTha. However, this does not explain either popular support for these laws and the violent ideologies they express, or why it is that some of the most vocal and dedicated supporters of MaBaTha are Buddhist nuns (thilashin) and laywomen. My research seeks to explore the lives of these women as a means of problematizing current understandings of MaBaTha and religio-nationalist violence in Myanmar.

In addition to exploring what it is female supporters of MaBaTha believe they are accomplishing as individuals, kin, Buddhists, and Burmese citizens, I will map the ways social and religious networks serve to inhibit or encourage women’s support for radical Buddhist ideologies, and ‘thicken’ the discourse around MaBaTha’s rise to prominence by suggesting academics and activists must pay more attention to ‘available choices’ (Bano 2012) before resigning our subjects to narratives that strip them of agency and perpetuate the gendering of victimhood. My work thus insists that anthropological perspectives are critical to the study of radicalization by highlighting the social and cultural conditions that produce a rationale for Buddhist violence, which is otherwise often overlooked due to persistent Western myths of Buddhist pacifism.

Other research interests: Uncertainties, Cultural Perceptions of Risk, the anthropology of Ethics and Moralities, Conflict and Peacebuilding. Anthropology of Futures.

Publications and presentations
Walton, McKay, Dr. Khin Mar Mar Kyi, “Women and Myanmar’s “Religious Protection Laws” Review of Faith and International Affairs (Forthcoming)

Walton, McKay, Dr. Khin Mar Mar Kyi, “Why are women supporting Myanmar’s ‘religious protection laws’?” East Asia Forum, Sept. 9, 2015

Fieldwork Ethics in Crisis Conference, Wolfson College
Presenter, ‘Anthropology and Compromise: impacts of donor expectations and limitations on methodological innovation and ethical practice in conflict and fragile states’, June 2015.

Human Welfare Conference, Green Templeton College,
Panel Speaker, May 2015.


Michael Melia

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Be There, Anywhere: An Ongoing Experiment in European Coworking

Research: At its core, this project will present a social biography of a young transnational social network. Over a period of 12 months as an employee of a Parisian startup called Copass, I will work alongside entrepreneurs as a researcher and team member to explore the creation and launching of an online/offline social network from the inside out. This network is designed to facilitate global connections between ‘coworkers,’ a term to describe freelance workers, entrepreneurs and small companies who participate in a new style of working in shared technologically optimised workspaces. Based in a Paris coworking space where the social network is being built from, I will explore two ethnographic research questions: (1) how do these entrepreneurs build a social network? and (2) how do they deploy terms like ‘community,’ ‘society’ and ‘technology’ in the process? Inspired by methods in ethnomethodology and actor-network theory, I will analyse how divisions between society and technology, community and network, are emergent ongoing accomplishments of the everyday activities that build the social network. I will study how they become the endpoints of work rather than starting points of analysis. This project will ultimately examine the step-by-step activities that create a social network and the people, technologies and materials that are involved: how a social network is imagined, fabricated, modified and extended by those who put it into practice.

Other Research Interests: Digital Anthropology; Business and Organisational Anthropology; Material Culture; Transnationalism; Urban Space; Design; Entrepreneurship; Innovation; Science and Technology Studies.


Michaela Peykovska

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: What It Means to be Sámi

Research: My doctoral research aims to work closely with Sámi people to understand what it means to be indigenous in a modern country like Sweden.

Other research interests: European anthropology, anthropological journalism, cooperation within a multicultural environment, nutritional anthropology, modern languages and sports.


Michelle Pentecost

DPhil, Medical Anthropology
Thesis: The First Thousand Days of Life: Global Health and the Politics of Potential in Khayelitsha, South Africa  (working title)

Research: This thesis is concerned with the new global health policy focus on the 'first thousand days of life'. The thousand days between conception and a child's second birthday is presented in contemporary epidemiology, shaped by new knowledge in epigenetics and Development Origins of Health and Disease research, as a critical period that will determine future health and potential. This convenient construct identifies 'the priority window for impact' for nutrition interventions to target undernutrition and stunting, promote future human capital, and to prevent a potential future burden of adult non-communicable disease. A preoccupation with the future is a central tenet of development ideologies, but this is newly formalised by projects, like the 'first thousand days' campaign, that have an explicit lifecycle focus and target measurable outcomes.  My doctoral work interrogates the logics and implications of the global health focus on the first thousand days policy through an ethnographic study of the everyday lives of pregnant women in Khayelitsha, South Africa, where national nutritional policy now focuses on the perinatal period. I draw on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork (July2014 - September 2015) in antenatal clinics and maternal communities in Khayelitsha to illuminate the everyday in this context for women and their (future) children, and how discourses of risk and potential embedded in novel healthcare packages align with or contest notions of citizenship, responsibility, food and its bearing on the future - in this version of the local.

Other Research Interests: I am a research affiliate at the department of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town as part of the 'First Thousand Days' Research Group under AW Mellon Chair Professor Fiona Ross. My research interests lie in the intersections between new critical medical anthropology, science and technology studies, and postcolonial theory within anthropology’s growing corpus of critical studies of global health. I am also a practicing clinician with special interests in perinatology and internal medicine, and a member of the Medical and Health Humanities Network for South Africa.

On completion of my doctorate, I aim to practice at the intersections of medicine, public health, anthropology, and medical education.

I organised a conference on 3 June 2016 at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, entitled 'Revisiting the Margins: Towards a Praxis for Critical Global Health'. A conference report.  

Selected Publications/Presentations:
Pentecost, M. 2015. The Political Ecology of Perinatal Nutrition in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, 6(6).

Pentecost M. 2015. Book review: Para-States and Medical Science: Making African Global Health. Edited by W Geissler. North Carolina: Duke University Press. New Genetics and Society. Forthcoming.

Pentecost M. 2015. The First Thousand Days, in a World Otherwise: Politics and Potentiality in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Presented at Anthropology Southern Africa Conference, University of Potchefstroom, 1.9.15

Pentecost M 2013. Programmed for vulnerability: Structural violence and developmental programming in the production of obesity in South Africa. MSc Thesis: University of Oxford.

Rajabally MN, Pentecost M, Pretorius O et al. 2013. The Clostridium difficile problem: a South African tertiary institution's prospective perspective. South African medical journal, 103(3), pp.168-72.

Kirsch R, Pentecost M, Hall Pde M, Epstein DP, Watermeyer G, Friederich PW. Role of colonoscopic biopsy in distinguishing between Crohn’s disease and intestinal tuberculosis. 2006. J Clin Pathol, 59(8):840-4.

Url: personal website

Morwari Zafar

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology (focus in migration)
Thesis: Reinventing Afghanistan: A Return to Tradition, Identity and Islam in the Afghan Diaspora

Research: The research examines the development and commodification of cultural knowledge by the US government through private-sector enterprises, and compels a reassessment of diasporic engagement. More specifially, Morwari's research project provides a novel perspective into the post-9/11 narratives of the Afghan-American diaspora that are co-opted by, packaged for, and sold to the US military-industrial complex to advance counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. In the ongoing Global War on Terror, Afghan-Americans have become critical transnational brokers of language and cultural knowledge. As generations of Afghan-Americans define themselves and their roles in American society, the study explores how their identities, histories and conceptions of 'Afghanistan' and 'Islam' have shaped the accounts that underpin US national security and foreign policy.


Rachel Dlugatch

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Creating a Safe Space - Revolutionary Imaginations and Practical Realities in a Feminist Bookstore

Research: My doctoral research centers on an intersectional feminist bookstore and activist center whose stated mission is to create a freer and more equitable society, noting its “safer space” policy as integral to practicing this type of community in the American city where it’s located. Safe spaces—places that strive to create supportive and nonthreatening environments, especially for people from marginalized backgrounds—have recently become the subject of critical media attention, but there have been few attempts to conceptualize them from within. Through ethnographic investigation, I aim to understand the safer space policy’s role in creating a more egalitarian community within this bookstore, as well as how safe spaces relate to revolutionary imaginations and liberation movements more broadly.

I ask the following questions: How is a safe space created, practiced, regulated, and experienced—ideologically, socially, and spatially? Within the bookstore, is the safer space policy primarily symbolic, or does it have practical influence? In what ways does the bookstore embody its values of equality and empowerment, and where is there a gap between its ideals and the ways it functions in practice? What does ‘safe’ mean, and for whom is the space safest? What can we learn about the relationship between occupying space and liberation movements more generally, and what do safe spaces suggest about feminism(s) in practice today? Do safe spaces merely reflect revolutionary ideals, can they actively dismantle systems of oppression, and do they ever reproduce the forms of discrimination and inequality they intend to challenge?

I am also interested in the way in which ethnographies can support liberation movements by offering a sympathetic but critical perspective, as well as the potential for anthropologists and activists to collaborate.

Other research interests: anarchist anthropology, feminism, social justice, social movements, power and resistance, place and space-making, art as resistance, direct action, the relationship between academia and activism.


Rachel Humphris

DPhil, Social Anthropology
Thesis: Governing everyday diversity: local bureaucracy and 'making place' in a super-diverse UK town (working title)

Research:  My research explores how new migrants establish themselves in an increasingly diverse urban area in the UK. I examine both the perspective of new migrants and local bureaucrats to account for the relationship between policy and local practices of diversity. I build on insights provided by Back (1996), Amin (2002) and Vertovec (2007) allowing for the exploration of relationship building in practice in particular spaces rather than starting from expectations defined by attempts to identify pre-existing (and socially bounded) communities. Drawing on research that places importance on banal, everyday encounters (Sandercock 2003; Wise and Velayutham 2009) my research will focus on new migrants' 'local micropolitics of everyday interaction' (Amin 2002, 970). I investigate both the horizontal relationship with various members of different groups and also new migrants' vertical relationship and 'moments of encounter' (Squire and Stephens 2012) with the city and the state. I examine and problematise the reality of 'self-segregation' and isolationism and explore the importance of structural frameworks on new residents' social and spatial mobility.

Other research interests: super-diversity, urban social change, citizenship, transnationalism, public/private space, anthropology of policy, anthropology of bureaucracy, Roma mobility.

Twitter: @rachel_humphris

Ryan Foley

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: It's need, not greed: finding value in cooperative organization (working title)

DPhil Research: In the wake of a financial crisis that threatens to continue without a clear end in sight, cooperatives may provide an alternative business model that promotes social responsibility and sustainable development. Consistent with the movement's birth as part of the socio-economic transformations of the industrial revolution, the model is again coming into the spotlight. Yet numerous studies of cooperatives and development show that these organizations have often failed to be economically viable or alternatively have found economic success through imitating neoliberal models that focus on efficiency and competitiveness. My research of worker cooperatives in Italy seeks to understand how these businesses interpret and seek to apply cooperative values such as democracy, solidarity and equality in every day work. Are the cooperatives able to compete in a marketplace that is guided by neoliberal values without compromising on their own?

Other Research Interests:  economic anthropology, anthropology of work, social networks, class identity, process of inter-generational change

Selected publications:
2012. A new generation of challenges: seeking independence on an Oxford estate, Journal of the Anthropology Society of Oxford Online, New Series, Volume IV, 1:96-105

Sarah Bourke

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology (Medical Anthropology)
Thesis: 'Indigenous Australians, bodyweight and the urban environment': the impact of social factors on health, wellbeing and obesity for indigenous Australians in Canberra

Research: The high rate of obesity for Indigenous Australians is well documented, yet poorly understood. Recent figures estimate that up to 39% of Indigenous people are obese, compared to 27% for non-Indigenous Australians (ABS, 2011a). Understanding more about the experience of obesity is important as this condition is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers (Hampton and Toombs, 2013). While there is a large body of literature on how social structures contribute to obesity in Western society (e.g. Ailshire, 2009; Friel, 2009; Warin et al., 2008), there is little research which examines the impact of these factors in an Indigenous Australian context, particularly in urban areas where 35% of the Indigenous Australian population reside (ABS, 2011b).

Factors which have often been linked to obesity in Australia are the affordability of healthy food, lack of education about healthy food, and lack of exercise (National Preventative Health Taskforce, 2008). However, beyond these are other factors which have a particular impact on Indigenous people such as structural inequalities, increased levels of stress, and a lack of control over one’s life (Brimblecombe et al., 2014; Burbank, 2011). Inequality as a factor in poor health and chronic disease has been explored previously through the concept of structural violence (Galtung, 1969; Farmer, 2004), which has been defined as “violence exerted systematically – that is, indirectly – by everyone who belongs to a certain social order” (Farmer, 2004:307). Farmer describes structural violence as a process which includes the erasure of historical context and the naturalisation of economic hierarchies and inequalities. These are key issues which have affected the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians since colonisation, but are often overlooked in current health research. 

The primary objective of my DPhil is toinvestigate whether obesity for Indigenous Australians in Canberra may be linked to national and localised structural violence, and whether these links have an impact on other health outcomes, such as wellbeing and chronic disease. I am currently in Canberra conducting my fieldwork, and am a visiting student at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, at the Australian National University.

Research interests: My other interests include social inequality and health, human rights and self-determination, philosophies of the mind, body and being, world indigenous issues, and cultural heritage management.


Seamus Montgomery

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: 'Homo Europaeus': varieties of being and becoming European among EU Commissions Staff (working title)

Research: My current research concerns the varieties of institutional life within the European Commission and the life histories, identities, and belongings of those who work within it. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork among EU civil servants in Brussels, it seeks to shed light upon identity formation and understandings of culture and nationality within the institution, as well as how the interplay between its political and administrative dimensions are negotiated on a daily basis. How do EU officials understand their roles? What can be said of a prevailing institutional ethos? How does European-ness manifest itself in the lives of civil servants at work and at home?

The project aims to contribute an empirical focus to the study of individual civil servants in order to understand how they perceive their roles as EU officials and what these insights reveal about what it might mean to be a 'European' in the twenty-first century. In doing so, it hopes to answer the call for more contributions from the social sciences in confronting the difficult questions concerning the institutions of the European Union and the future of the EU project.

Other research interests: modernity, identity, bureaucracy, nationalism, migration, the history of anthropology, theories of culture in the social sciences.


Sebastian Vacas-Oleas

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: A History of Pakintz': ethnicity, nation, and Shuar political organisation in southern Ecuador (working title)

Research: My research investigates questions of ethnic relations and political identities of Shuar indigenous people vis-à-vis the Ecuadorean state, and considers the processes at play as Shuar become increasingly incorporated as Ecuadorean citizens. I examine the use of local identities amongst Shuar divided by a provincial border and how recent political organisation has historically been influenced by what the Shuar call their 'civil war': the division of the once well-established Shuar Federation into smaller organisations built upon provincial borders. Furthermore, I aim to shed light into how these past developments have influenced current life and how they could have the power to shape an uncertain future directly affected by a growing integration of the Shuar into wider national and international economies. By working on the 'colonisation frontier' and on a national border, I also intend to understand what Shuar perceptions of ethnicity and nationalism are in their relations with other non-indigenous peoples who are variously involved in shaping the future of the Shuar as a nation.

Stephanie Postar

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Mapping Nuclear Cultures: Uranium Mining, Conservation, and Communities in Southern Tanzania (working title)

Research: Stephanie's research focuses on the intersection of natural resource development and conservation and the resulting constructions of expectation and value(s). Her doctoral research explores the development of the uranium mining industry in Tanzania through ethnographic research, archival research, and GIS mapping.

Other Research Interests: Science and technology studies; organisational anthropology; time/space; politics of global climate change.


Susan MacDougall

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Housekeeping as virtue: the relationship of the self to the self, in urban Jordanian families

Research: My research asks how contemporary Jordanian women approach the quintessentially modern task of self-improvement, and what dominant social paradigms they must embrace or reject to do so. Like all of us, they do this work in dialogue with their personal ambitions and with their parents, friends, boyfriends/husbands, and neighbours, and I am curious how they resolve inevitable conflicts that arise between the parties. I am particularly concerned with the way that debate over these conflicts enables, or precludes, intimate bonds, as those between close friends or spouses. 

Other research interests: anthropology of ethics; popular culture, music, and television; emotions; ethnographic method.

Selected publications:
MacDougall, S. (2011). 'Refugees from Inside the System: Iraqi Divorcees in Jordan'Refuge 28(1).


Tess Bird

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: the negotiation of the biosocial body and self in the American home

Research: Employing both medical and material approaches anthropology, Tess’s research explores the everyday material culture of the urban American home in relation to bodily health and wellbeing. Through fieldwork in a selection of homes in Providence, Rhode Island in the U.S. she considers the ways in which everyday practice and the material culture of the home factor into ongoing negotiations of the biosocial body. Her work builds on discourses regarding the self in neoliberal cultural economies, biocultural approaches to the body, and the anthropology of the home.

Other research interests: medical anthropology, visual and material culture of biomedicine, biomedicalization, neoliberalism, obesity, obesogenic environments, food and nutrition, urban ethnography, material culture of the home, architecture and design, gender and sexuality


Zoë West

DPhil, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Thesis: Claiming Rights and Respect: The Politics of Immigrant Labor in New York City (working title)

Research: Zoë West is a doctoral student at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Her research examines the central role of immigrant workers in New York in new and revived forms of grassroots worker organizing, against the backdrop of a decades-long decline of organized labor in the United States. Challenging both the imbalance of power in the workplace and the hierarchy and bureaucracy of traditional large trade unions, these immigrants are supported by worker centers that offer labor organizing, leadership development, and strategic legal action. Zoë's ethnographic fieldwork combines participant observation and oral history to document how immigrant workers at one worker center build class and group consciousness and solidarity; how the organization's guidance and the workers' own values, perspectives, and political ideologies shape their decisions to take collective action; and how they navigate the challenges that arise in overcoming fear and divisions, and balancing collective and personal goals.

Prior to her graduate studies, Zoë co-edited and compiled the oral history collection Nowhere to Be Home: Narratives from Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime, published by McSweeney’s Books and Voice of Witness in 2011. The twenty-two life stories in the book are testament to the complexity and depth of human rights issues in Burma, as well as to the resilience of its people.

Zoë is currently doing fieldwork in New York.


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A young woman in Jawalke village, Maharashtra measures out sugar (Meredith McLaughlin 2012)

This map illustrates where many of our current students are conducting their  research across the globe and the full range of topics that they have selected.

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