UCL Anthropology


Alison Macdonald

Alison Macdonald

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 5579

Email: alison.macdonald@ucl.ac.uk

Room: 239

Associate Professor (Teaching) in Social Anthropology

  • Head of Teaching (2019 - present)
  • Tutor, Widening Participation and Outreach, 2018-present
  • Programme Lead, MSc Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2016-2019


  • 2019 Fellow Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • 2013 PhD, Anthropology, UCL - ESRC Scholarship 
  • 2008 MRes, Anthropology, UCL 
  • 2007 BSc, Anthropology, UCL

Research Summary 

My research focuses on critical exploration of the meanings and structures of education, with a specific focus on alternative approaches and provisions for education in England. I am particularly interested in the links between education and inequalities, and using ethnographic methodologies to achieve an evidence based understanding of the mechanisms and conditions for inclusive education. I am passionate about using creative participatory approaches to research and finding innovative ways to synthesise research with educational and pedagogic reform. I have a long standing interest in everyday experiences of personhood and ethical self-cultivation, having explored these themes in the contexts of voluntarism, health and education.

My current research explores the conditions that generate inclusivity in progressive educational settings in London. Drawing on participatory visual methods (Photovoice), I am working collaboratively with a democratic school to understand the active ingredients of their pedagogic model with a view to producing a scalable and replicable toolkit. Prior to this, I participated in a collaborative ethnographic project (2018-2019) with disadvantaged youth in the South West of England to explore the lasting impact of school exclusion and Alternative Provision education on identities, aspirations and self-worth. Funded by a UCL Grand Challenges Grant, this project involved the production of short ethnographic film - People Like Us - which recounts personal experiences of being permanently excluded from state school. More information about this project can be found here.

My doctoral research (2008 – 2012) focused on the socio-economic and religious dimensions of urban breast cancer charity in Mumbai, India. This research examined charitable practices at the intersection of state oncology provisions, illuminating the role of voluntarism in the delivery of everyday hospital care. Tracing these new modes voluntarism in the context of middle-class religious engagement, this research also examined how voluntarism becomes intertwined with new modes of Hindu spiritual striving and ethical self-cultivation as a dimension of breast cancer survivorship.

Research Interests

  • Anthropology of education and pedagogy 
  • Inequalities, social class and social justice 
  • Personhood and self-cultivation 
  • Everyday regimes of ethics, value and care
  • Anthropology of Britain 
  • Creative and participatory methodologies; Photovoice

Education Summary

I teach a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules, with a passion for research methods. I’ve acted as an academic consultant for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Anthropology syllabus and initiated collaborative projects with school teachers and UCL students to develop innovative anthropologically informed resources for national curriculum subjects.

Education interests

  • Experiential learning
  • Student-centred pedagogies
  • Critical and creative pedagogies
  • Inclusive learning and teaching

Education Awards

  • Winner, Student Choice Award in Sustainable Education, 2022
  • Nomination, Student Choice Award in Diverse & Inclusive Education, 2020


  • Introduction to Social Anthropology (UG)
  • Decolonising Anthropology (UG)
  • Anthropological Research Methods (UG)
  • Being Human (UG)
  • Method in Ethnography (PGT)
  • Critical Issues in Social Anthropology (PGT)

AnthroSchools: Schools Outreach Project

In 2018, I founded AnthroSchools – an educational outreach project that draws on creative pedagogic methods to bring anthropology into schools and broaden the pathways of talent into higher education. AnthroSchools is funded by an on-going UCL Access and Widening Participation Grant. More information about on-going projects and free school resources is available here.