Associate Professor, Linguistic Anthropology
Skype name: alex pillen
- Linguistic anthropology
- The anthropology of war
- The anthropological study of Kurdish (Kurmanci or Northern Kurdish)
- June 18th-20th 2020, Discussant, Panel 'Genre, Memory, and Commemoration', organised by Christine Robins, Kurdish Studies Conference, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter.
- July 20th-24th 2020, Paper for P056 'The Continuum of War: Narration, Accumulation and Dispossession in Transnational War Economy', organised by Ayse Seda Yuksel, at the Bi-annual Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, Lisbon (online via Shindig).
- November 18th-22nd 2020, Paper for panel 'Producing Power and Participation: Papers in Honor of Don Brenneis', organised by Ilana Gershon, Conference of the American Anthropological Association, St Louis, Missouri (panel postponed to November 2021).
- October 2019, Department of Anthropology, UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab (MAL presentation), Language Printed in 3D - The Architecture of Evidence.
- 19 March 2019, London: David Parkin's Anthropology of Language, Royal Anthropological Institute. Listen to podcast of event.
- 11 April 2019, Paris: Seminar, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3, LACITO-UMR 7107 du CNRS organised by Cécile Leguy.
PRESS RELEASE 6.12.2017: STRETCHING LANGUAGE TO ITS LIMIT
- The Anthropology of War (ANTH0193 for undergraduates & PG Seminar, term 2)
- Being Human module (ANTH2008 for 2nd year undergraduates, term 2)
2019 The Chagga word between brackets. First Book Symposium. Social Analysis,63(1):113-116.
2017 The space that will never be filled. Sharp communication and the simultaneity of opposites. Current Anthropology 58(6): 718-738.
2016 (click on the title for free access to this article) Language, translation, trauma. Annual Review of Anthropology 45: 95-111.
2015 Atrocity and nonsense: The ethnographic study of dehumanization. In Genocide and Mass Violence. Memory, Symptom, and Recovery. Devon E Hinton and Alexander L. Hinton (eds.), pp. 342- 358. Cambridge University Press.
2010. The fear of the sorcerer: Finding a peaceful moment for a sacrifice in Southern Sri Lanka. In Axel Michaels (Ed.) Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual: State, power, and violence. (pp. 105-131). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
2007 Mothers and wives of the disappeared in Southern Sri Lanka: Fragmented geographies of moral discomfort. In Women and the Contested State: Religion,Violence, and Agency in South Asia. M.Skidmore & P. Lawrence (eds.) Pp. 117-138. University of Notre Dame Press.
2007 Obvious pretence: For fun or for real? Cross-cousin and international relations in Sri Lanka. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13(2): 313-329.
- Preparation of a book manuscript provisionally entitled Speaking Kurdish: The Pursuit of Humanity.
- Paper entitled Language Printed in 3D - The Architecture of Evidence in collaboration with Emma-Kate Matthews, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, and Chaitanya Kanchan, Department of History UCL.
Team member for Small lodgings architectural competition, Royal Commision of Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, final shortlist 'Sculpting Spaces' (see submission by AY architects + Ajlan Gharem studio), and exhibit at the seventh edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, January 28–April 18, 2020.
LANGUAGES: Flemish, Kurdish (Kurmanci), Modern Standard Arabic (Pre-intermediate), Spanish, Sinhalese, English, French (in order of preference).
Current PhD Students
Izzy Gibbin (LAHP Fellowship)
Joseph Buckley (Wolfson Scholarship)
Aeron O'Connor (ESRC 2020-2021)
Completed PhD Dissertations
- Ania Witeska (UCL Graduate School Fellowship)
- Besim Can Zihr (University of Ankara Fellowship)
- Qi Xiaoguang (China Scholarship Council Fellowship)
- Shema Tariq (Medical Research Council Fellowship)
- Juliano Spyer (ERC Project 2011-AdG-295486 SocNet)
- Kanchan Chaitanya (ESRC/AHRC Fellowship)
- Liz Fox (ESRC Fellowship)
- Aeron O'Connor (LAHP Fellowship)
- Giulia Cavicchioli (LAHP Fellowship)
As an undergraduate I studied Philosophy (1988-1991) and Medicine (1987-1994), at the University of Louvain, Belgium. At the Institute of Philosophy I took the classes of Prof. Jan Vanderveken who later wrote Merleau-Ponty in contemporary perspective (1993) , and Nature and logos. A Whiteheadian key to Merleau-Ponty's fundamental thought (2011). In the last year of my medical degree I specialised in psychiatry and wrote an M.D. dissertation on war trauma (summa cum laude). I attended the classes of Prof. Renaat Devisch in Medical Anthropology, who sent me to London to study at UCL and meet Prof. Bruce Kapferer. I took Prof. Kapferer's classes during an MSc in Medical Anthropology (1994-1995); a dynamic introduction to the dialogue between anthropology and continental philosophy. Upon arrival in London I also enrolled for a course on anthropology and psycho-analysis at SOAS taught by Dr. Audrey Cantlie, who became my mentor. She sent me on to the Tavistock to take John Byng-Hall's course on the observation of family systems (1994-1996), and organised training in Lacanian psycho-analysis (1994-2001). During my MSc at UCL, I was allowed to observe the consultations of Dr. Derek Summerfield at the Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture. I then enrolled in the PhD program at UCL, was first supervised by Prof. Bruce Kapferer (1995-1996), and after his departure from UCL, by Prof. Nanneke Redclift and Prof. Murray Last (1996-2000). Fieldresearch in Sri Lanka (1996-1998) led to a shift towards linguistic anthropology. Prof. Don Brenneis at the University of California, Santa Cruz became a source of inspiration and mentor. My doctoral dissertation was examined by Prof. David Parkin, who recently set up the Anthropology and Language Committee at the Royal Anthropological Institute. In 2004 I was offered a tenured lectureship at UCL, and have now been studying and working in its Department of Anthropology for 26 years. I was an advisory panel member of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation for the Study of Human Violence, Dominance and Aggression, New York (2005-2009), where Ms. Karen Colvard, the Program Director influenced my approach to an anthropology of war and violence. In 2007-2009 I conducted field research in the Kurdish community of North London funded by the Leverhulme Trust and Nuffield Foundation. I was awarded a mid-career Fellowship from the British Academy in 2016-2017. Finally, in 2017, I enrolled at SOAS again, this time for a course in Arabic.
AHRC's London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) lead, doctoral progam: selection of PhD applications from Anthropology.
Applications PhD Program
As a homegrown member of the team, I welcome PhD applications that are theoretically engaged, and grounded in the study of language practices.