UCL Anthropology


Alison Macdonald

Alison Macdonald

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 5579

Email: alison.macdonald@ucl.ac.uk

Room: 239

Senior Teaching Fellow, Social Anthropology

Fellow Higher Education Academy (FHEA), 2019
PhD Anthropology, UCL 2013 (ESRC Scholarship 2008-2011)
MRes Anthropology, UCL 2008

Research Interests

  • Anthropology of Selfhood (care of the self, everyday ethics)
  • Anthropology of Education (especially in the UK, focusing on class, lived experience, school exclusion and marginality)
  • South Asia (especially urban India, middle-classes)
  • Religion and cosmology (Hinduism and karma)
  • Charity and voluntarism
  • Participatory film and collaborative research methods


  • Method in Ethnography (PG)
  • Critical Issues in Social Anthropology (PG)
  • Being Human (UG)
  • Introduction to Social Anthropology (UG)
  • Anthropology of India (UG & PG 2015-2018)


Since 2008 I have conducted ethnographic research with breast cancer voluntary groups in Mumbai, India. This research focuses on the socio-religious dynamics of urban charity at the intersection of state oncology provisions, illuminating the role of voluntarism in the delivery of everyday care in hospitals and charitable organisations. Tracing voluntarism in the context of middle-class religious engagement, this research also examines how notions of karma and selfless service are intertwined with individual spiritual striving as a dimension of breast cancer survivorship. 

More recently, I have conducted research in Somerset, UK with young people in the context educational exclusion. This research, funded by a 2018 Grand Challenges Adolescent Lives Grant, focuses on the experiences of young people who have previously been permanently excluded from state school and attended alterative learning provisions. This research involved the production of a short collaborative documentary film, People Like Us, which traced the subjective reflections and aspirations of two young men post exclusion. More information about this project can be found here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/grand-challenges/adolescent-lives

As the departmental widening participation and outreach tutor, I am interested in building collaborations with schools and finding creative ways to bring anthropology into school environments. I am involved in various on-going outreach projects that include schools visits, an annual anthropology summer school and the production of resources for teachers to integrate anthropology into the national curriculum. I am interested to hear from any educators or school professionals who wish to foster partnerships with anthropologists.


Macdonald, A. 2016. Delivering breast cancer care in urban India: heterotopia, hospital ethnography and voluntarism. Health & Place [Special Edition]: The politics of NCDs in the global South. (Ed. Reubi, D.), pp. 226-232.

Macdonald, A. (2016). Book Review: 'Rituparno Ghosh: Cinema, gender and art', edited by Sangeeta Datta, Kaustav Bakshi & Rohit K. Dasgupta. LSE South Asia Centre Blog. Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/southasia/2016/04/01/book-review-rituparno-ghosh-cinema-gender-and-art-edited-by-sangeeta-datta-kaustav-bakshi-rohit-k-dasgupta/

Macdonald, A. (2016). Film Review: 'He named me Malala'. The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/he-named-me-malala-the-ordinary-life-behind-an-extraordinary-girl-50324

Macdonald, A. (2015) Revealing hope in urban India: breast cancer, vision and patient organisations. In Burke, N., Kampriani, E. and Mathews, H. (eds) Anthropologies of Cancer in a Transnational World. Routledge: London. 

Macdonald, A. (2014) Situating breast cancer risk in urban India: gender, temporality and social change. In Gibbon, S., Joseph, G., Kampriani, E., Mozersky, J., zur Nieden, A., Palfner, S. (eds) Breast Cancer Gene Research and Medical Practices: Transnational Perspectives in the time of BRCA. Routledge: London, 83- 94. 

Macdonald, A. (2009) 'Real' and 'imagined' women: a feminist reading of Rituparno Ghosh's Films. Anthropology Working Paper Series, UCL.