Regional, Historical, and Political Studies

Regional studies with particular emphasis upon religion, epistemology, and the social transmission of knowledge have a long history in Oxford. In recent years, these include Wendy James’ research on the historical anthropology of the impact of war and conflict upon peoples of the Sudan-Ethiopian border; David Parkin's work on Islam, especially with reference to Zanzibar; and Paul Dresch's research on historical developments in customary and Islamic law in the Middle East, an interest shared by Morgan Clarke, who specializes in Shi’i law in Lebanon; Roger Goodman's continuing research on Japanese education and welfare policies.

David Gellner's work on activism, democratization, and diaspora, may be seen as part of a similar interest in the forging and perpetuation of intellectual traditions, in that it looked at patterns of dissent and political mobilization. He is now embarking on research in the Nepalese Tarai (the plains region bordering India) as part of projects led by Lucia Michelutti and Craig Jeffrey.

David Pratten’s 2007 monograph is a historical ethnography of ritual murder in south-east Nigeria and his current research follows up the related themes of youth, violence, and relations to the postcolonial state in the present day. This work ties in with other regional work on West Africa. Meanwhile, Iain Walker is developing Indian Ocean regional expertise, working on diasporas and mobilities from the Comoro Islands in the south, north through Tanzania and Kenya, to the Arabian peninsula: Hadramawt, in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The ethnographic and comparative study of native Amazonian sociality forms another focus of research at ISCA, with Elizabeth Ewart's research on relations between indigenous people and their neighbours and the concomitant transformations in concepts of self and other. Such relations are explored with reference to bodily presentation, moral and sensory aspects of being human as well ideas about trade and exchange. See also the page on Amazonian research.

Political questions are also being taken up ‘closer to home'. In addition to his work in the field of visual anthropology, Marcus Banks has long standing interests in the field of ethnicity and nationalism. He has made a study of neo-nationalism and co-edited a volume on neo-nationalism in Europe and the challenges for anthropology (with Andre Gingrich). Mette Berg is working on cosmopolitanism and the Cuban diaspora in Spain, looking back at Cuban migrants’ time at school several decades earlier. There are links here also to the work being done as part of the Impact of Diasporas programme and in COMPAS.

Eating pork fat marks the climax to a New Guinea Highland pig festival (photo by Dr Michael O'Hanlon)

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