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Alexandra Pillen


Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8641

Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 8632


Room: 140

Publications Publications

General Interests

  • Linguistic anthropology
  • The anthropology of war-torn societies
  • Theoretical understandings of reported speech
  • Ethnography of mediation and emerging public spheres
  • The socio-linguistic study of the Kurdish language (Kurmanci dialect)

Research and Teaching

Alex is a lecturer within the Social and Cultural Anthropology Group at UCL, and works on the linguistic aspects of conflict mediation and post-war reconstruction. 

She has conducted fieldwork in Sri Lanka and the Kurdish communities of North London. She is the author of Masking Terror. How Women Contain Violence in Southern Sri Lanka. (Pennsylvania University Press, Ethnography of Political Violence Series, 2003). She was an advisory panel member of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation for the Study of Human Violence, Dominance and Aggression (New York, 2005-2009).  Her latest work concerns the ethnographic study of dehumanization, and will be published in a volume edited by Alex Hinton: Genocide and Mass Violence. Memory, Symptom, and Recovery (Cambridge University Press, 2015). 

Alex is the Chair of the MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology and teaches an advanced course in Linguistic Anthropology and Gender Studies for third year undergraduate students. She currently supervises doctoral ethnographic research located in Tehran, Isfahan (Iran), Diyarbekir (Turkey), and Kabul (Afghanistan).  She also supervises inter-disciplinary research in collaboration with the department of Ancient History on the Assyrian Empire (900-600BC).

Her own research concerns a linguistic anthropology of Kurdish.  The Kurdish language, more specifically the Kurmanci dialect is spoken over a vast territory from the Aparan plateau in Armenia to the Taurus and Zagros mountain ranges on the borders of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, eastwards to the Khorasan on the borders of Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. An anthropology of language allows for a detailed cultural comparative analysis across this extensive cultural landscape, which in the past concerned both the Ottoman and Persian empires. Fieldwork in the Kurdish communities of North London constitutes preparatory research for future research in this region. Alex specifically studies reported speech as well as the linguistic construction of evidence, authority and responsibility.  She conducted comparative work on Kurmanci-speaking communities in Armenia, Turkey and London in collaboration with Estelle Amy de la Breteque. This led to a co-edited volume on quotes, mimicry and impersonation entitled The Tones of Others, which Estelle and Alex are currently preparing.

Reading and Research Group: Linguistic Anthropology
Forth-nightly sessions: All postgraduate students welcome.
Founding members: Kelly Robinson, Liz Fox, Ozge Korkmaz, and Hyun Jin Cho.

Current Research Students

  1. Mehmet Kurt (MPhil/PhD – pending result of ERC application)
  2. Liz Fox (MPhil/PhD – ESRC Fellowship)
  3. Aeron O’Connor (MPhil/PhD – AHRC Fellowship)
  4. Kanchan Chaitanya (MPhil/PhD – ESRC/AHRC Fellowship)

Previous PhD Students

  1. Shema Tariq (Medical Research Council Fellowship)
  2. Qi Xiaoguang (China Scholarship Council Fellowship)
  3. Besim Can Zihr (University of Ankara Fellowship)
  4. Ania Witeska (UCL Graduate School Fellowship)

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UCL Anthropology, 14 Taviton Street, London, WC1H 0BW Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8633