UCL Anthropology


Alison Macdonald

Alison Macdonald

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 5579

Email: alison.macdonald@ucl.ac.uk

Room: 239

Associate Professor (Teaching)

Head of Teaching (2019 - present)


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

Research Summary 

Alison’s research interests include selfhood and self-cultivation, and everyday ethical regimes of value and care in contexts of social class, education, religion, and voluntarism.

Her recent research uses participatory ethnographic methods to explore the socio-economic dynamics and everyday lived experience of educational inequalities and exclusion in the UK. She is interested in critical debate about the meanings and structures of education, and exploring questions of inclusivity, value and social inequality across UK schooling and higher education. A recent project funded by a UCL Grand Challenges Grant involved the production of short collaborative ethnographic film - People Like Us - which recounts personal experiences of being permanently excluded from state school in the South West of England. More information about this project can be found here.

Alison’s doctoral research focused on the socio-economic and religious dimensions of urban breast cancer charity in Mumbai, India between 2008 and 2012. 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 modes of Hindu spiritual striving and ethical self-cultivation as a dimension of breast cancer survivorship.

Research Interests

Selfhood, ethics and self-cultivation; social class and religion; anthropology of education, learning and youth; Post-industrial UK; South Asia (especially India); participatory ethnographic research methods.

Teaching Summary 


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

Key interests

Widening Participation; Experiential Learning; Student-Centred Pedagogies; Inclusive Learning and Teaching; Student Voice.


Introductory Social Anthropology (UG), Method in Ethnography (PGT), Anthropological Research Methods (UG), Critical Issues in Social Anthropology (PGT), Anthropology of India (UG and PGT), Being Human (UG) and De-colonising Anthropology (UG).

AnthroSchools: Schools Outreach Project

Alison is developing several projects funded by an on-going UCL Access and Widening Participation Grant to broaden the pathways of talent into the department. These projects involve collaborating with schools and teachers to find creative ways to bring anthropology into school environments. More information about on-going projects and free school resources is available here.

Selected Publications and Reviews 

Agbetu, T., Balasubramanian, H., Bourke, S., Dennehy, S., Dominique, C., Macdonald, A. 2021. 'Re-imagining Diversity: Towards an Anthropology for Disruption in UK Higher Education'. Teaching Anthropology, Vol. 10 No. 1, Special Issue: Re-imagining Diversity in Higher Education.

Macdonald, A. 2019. Forgotten but not failing: life after permanent school exclusionDiscover Society (December 4th).

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.

Macdonald, A. 2016. Film Review: He named me Malala The Conversation.

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.