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This group leads evolutionary studies of past and present human and non-human primate behaviour, ecology and morphology, conducting interdisciplinary research in cultural evolution, as well as research in primate and fossil hominin field sites. Its major research foci include:
- Palaeoanthropology involves collaborative research in human and primate evolution, especially in fossil hominin taxonomy and phylogenetics, quantitative and morphometric methods, primate origins and palaeoecology.
- Human evolutionary ecology and cultural evolution pioneers phylogenetic approaches to culture and language evolution, including comparative methods for testing cross-cultural hypotheses. The group leads in evolutionary ecology of human demography and life history, including such topics as the evolutionary ecology of matriliny, and adaptive explanations for demographic transition to low fertility.
- Primate ecology and behaviour turns primarily on research at the Gashaka Primate Project in Nigeria (founded and run by Prof. Sommer), which has become one of the largest long-term primate research and conservation projects in West Africa, integrating ecosystem analyses with genetics, nutrition and endocrinology laboratory studies.
With wide-ranging regional expertise (including Oceania, Latin America, Central and South Asia, Africa and Europe among others), the research in recent years has focused on themes such as:
- Democracy, transitional states and political
cultures includes studies of the lived experience of democratic
processes, changing understandings of citizenship in the context of migration,
and rethinking notions of bureaucracy in such contexts as genocide.
- Ethnography of historical consciousness and historical
representation focuses on the study historical consciousness
through cross-cultural research on remembering, dreaming and language ideology,
as well as contemporary uses of historical representation and moral discourse in
the context of modernity and globalisation.
- Medical Anthropology builds on a long-standing
research tradition in this field in the Department. It includes recent research
on post-conflict trauma, personal agency in psychopathology, intercultural
therapy, the role of immunology as a cultural metaphor, and cultures of
- Cultural context of genomics examines the
implications of genomics for personal identities, public scientific debate, and
the translation of new knowledge from laboratory to patient. In collaboration
with UCL's Institute for Human Genetics and Health we have conducted
interdisciplinary biomedical and social science research, particularly on breast
cancer and population genetics.
- Cosmology, religion and performance focuses on questions of religion and symbolic imaginaries, notions of syncretism, ritual and prayer, new religious movements, the role of risk, violence and play in the modern world, and the relationship between religion and politics in contemporary settings.
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As a pioneering and world-leading group focused on the study of materiality in social life, the Material Culture group has in recent years conducted research in areas including:
- Materiality, consumption and new technologies
includes research on clothing and innovation, consumption and the family, waste,
art and cultural diversity in Europe, history and materiality in the Pacific,
and work on new materials and technologies.
- Cultural heritage, landscape and museology focuses
on issues related to museums, architecture and landscape, the restoration of
cultural property/rights in post-conflict societies, and the cultural
construction of the landscape.
- Visual culture and media integrates contemporary ethnography with archival research to investigate the impact of visual technologies and media (photography, sound recording, film) in different regions and historical periods. It also includes research on the impact of the media on particular social groups such as migrants.
This group forges an interdisciplinary integration of natural and social science approaches to ecology, demography and development. Recent research has focused on the following areas:
- Resource use, conservation and development
includes studies of land use, livelihoods, tenure, access and resource use
impacts in different ecological and social contexts, the role of ecotourism and
veterinary interventions in conservation programmes, and the impact on
biodiversity and local livelihoods of fishing and pastoral activities.
- Population, migration and refugee studies focuses on such topics as the implications of mobility for population, migration, and reproductive ecology, refugees and the demography of conflict, pastoralism, the mapping of poverty, and the relationship between migration and reproductive health.