UCL Anthropology


Joanna Cook

Joanna Cook (photo)

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8643

Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 8632

Email : Joanna.cook@ucl.ac.uk

Room: 137

PhD, Department of Anthropology,
University of Cambridge
MPhil, Department of Anthropology
University of Cambridge
Lecturer in Medical Anthropology

General Interests

Medical anthropology; the anthropology of ethics; mindfulness-based therapy; post-democracy; well-being and happiness; UK & Thailand.

Joanna Cook is the coordinator of The Laboratory for the Ethnography of the UK (LabUK) - a research platform for the study of contemporary British society and culture through an anthropological lens.

Research interests

Joanna Cook has written and lectured on the Anthropology of Ethics, Asceticism, Religion, Buddhism, Fieldwork Methodology, the Gift, Gender, and Medical Anthropology.She has a long-standing research involvement with Thailand. Her earlier research focused on meditation as a monastic activity. Her monograph, Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life, examines meditation in Thailand in detail and explores the subjective signification of monastic duties and ascetic practices focusing particularly on the motivation and experience of renouncers, the effect meditative practices have on individuals and community organization, and gender hierarchy within the context of the monastery.

Dr. Cook's current research examines the introduction of meditation techniques into therapeutic practice in the UK focusing on questions of ethics, well-being and the dialogue between religion and therapy.

She is a co-organizer of two research networks.

Firstly, the 'Detachment Network', which considers detachment and disconnection as keys to new anthropological heuristics: both as a counterpoint to the multidisciplinary extension of metaphors of connection and relationality, and as a way of recasting the limits and contours of what counts in various contexts as a relationship.

Secondly, the Buddhist Ethics Network. This network brings together scholars interested in Buddhist ethics and is developed in collaboration with the Fo Guang Shan, an internationally prolific and proselytizing Taiwanese Buddhist organization. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/buddhavirtue

Dr. Cook is an Academic Associate at The College of Religious Studies, Mahidol University, Bangkok. She is also an Affiliated Scholar at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge.

Selected publications


Cook, J. (2010). Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Edited volumes

Chua, L., Cook, J., Long, N. & Wilson, L. (eds.)(2012). Power: Southeast Asian Perspectives. Routledge.

Book chapters

Cook, J. (in press) 'Ambivalent origins: Remaking Thai Buddhism through international pilgrimage'. In, A. Pinkney & J. Whalen-Bridge (eds), Religious Travels in India. Oxford University Press.

Cook, J. (in press) 'Directive and definitive knowledge'. In, N. Long & H. Moore (eds) The Social Life of Achievement. Berghahn Books.

Chua, L., Cook, J., Long, N. & Wilson, L. (2012). 'Introduction' . In, L. Chua, J. Cook, N. Long & L. Wilson (eds), Power: Southeast Asian Perspectives. Routledge.

Cook, J. (2012). 'Tattoos and the Hybrid Search for Protective Power in Thailand'. In, L. Chua, J. Cook, N. Long & L. Wilson (eds), Power: Southeast Asian Perspectives. Routledge.

Cook, J. (2010). 'Ascetic practice and participant observation, or, the gift of doubt and incompletion in field experience'. In, J. Davies & D. Mihavlova (eds), Emotions in the Field: The psychology and anthropology of fieldwork experience. Stanford University Press.

Cook, J. Laidlaw, J. & J. Mair (2009). 'What if there is no elephant? Towards a conception of an un-sited field'. In, M. Falzon (ed), Multi-Sited Ethnography: Theory, Praxis and Locality in Contemporary Social Research. Ashgate Publishing.

Journal articles

Cook, J. (2009). 'Hagiographic narrative and monastic practice: Buddhist morality and mastery amongst Thai Buddhist nuns'. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15, 349-364.

Cook, J. (2008). 'Alms, money and reciprocity: Buddhist nuns as mediators of generalized exchange in Thailand'. Anthropology in Action Special Edition: Gift Exchange in Modern Society 15(3), 8-21.

Cook, J. (2008). 'Tattoos, corporeality and the self: dissolving borders in a Thai monastery'. Boundary Crossings: a Festschrift in memory of Sue Benson, Special Issue of Cambridge Anthropology 27(2), 20-35.