UCL Anthropology


Rebecca Empson


Photo - Rebecca Empson

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8625

Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 8632

E-mail: r.empson@ucl.ac.uk

Room: 122

Rebecca is on maternity leave from November 2019-2020.

If you have questions about the Anthropology of Capitalism course, please email Dr Joseph Bristley or Dr Hedwig Waters.

If you have questions regarding Undergraduate Admissions, please contact Prof Ruth Mandel or the Departmental Undergraduate Coordinator.

Professor of Anthropology

Rebecca has just completed a 5-year ERC-funded research project entitled Emerging Subjects of the Mongolian Economy. Composed of 10 researchers at UCL and NUM, as well as a diverse Advisory Board, the project explores the kind of subjects, or themes, that are emerging in an extraction-based mineral economy characterised by dramatic boom / bust crisis. During this project, she has explored new forms of ownership, centred around forms of Temporary Possession, as well as new kinds of subjects - as in forms of subjectivity - that are emerging in a landscape that has been described as ‘the gap’, a space that opens up the possibility for heterogeneous ways of living and being. In doing so, she reveals how the economy is experienced and shaped from the ground up, giving rise to a complex picture of new capitalist vernaculars and subjectivities that come to be the basis from which larger markets are actually being shaped. A forthcoming monograph, Life in the Gap: Subjective Lives and Economic Transformations in Mongolia, with UCL Press, develops these ideas.

Further collaborative and singular outcomes of this research include:

Rebecca is a judge for the Bayly Prize.

She is the Series Editor for UCL Press book series, Economic Exposures in Asia.

She is an Advisory Board Member for ‘Energy Asemblages’, a 4-year research project (2019-2023) funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation at the University of Lausanne.

Past Research Projects

Research, developed as part of an interdisciplinary Leverhulme-funded project on changing beliefs of the human body, was concerned with 'exchange' and 'collaboration' across bodily and territorial borders. This involved working with health professionals and patients involved in organ transplantation in Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar. It also involved co-curating an exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, with Anita Herle and Mark Elliott: Assembling Bodies: Art, Science and Imagination.

2003-04 Politics and Prophecy: An Anthropological Study in Mongolia. Funded by the British Academy Larger Research Grants Division (LRG-35383), and the Cambridge Committee for Central and Inner Asia (CCCIA).

2003-06 Objects of Memory: Locating Kinship in Mongolia. Funded by the British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship programme (PDF/2003/145).

2007-09 Assembling Bodies: Exploring Technologies That Make Bodies Visible. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

I am a Research Associate of the Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit, University of Cambridge and a Visiting Fellow of Wolfson College.

Selected Publications: List of selected publications

PhD Students – past and present

  • 2019 Liz Fox (funded by ESRC)
  • 2018 Hedwig Waters (funded ERC)
  • 2019 Tobia Franetti (funded by ESRC)
  • 2016 Joseph Bristley (funded by ESRC)
  • 2013: Tom McDonald (ESRC), Configurations of comfort: pleasure, place and persons in a south-western Chinese town
  • 2013: Aude Michelet (LSE) on Children and learning in Mongolia (funded by Laura Ashley Foundation)
  • 2014: Alexandra Antohin, An Ethnography of Orthodox Christianity in Wollo (Northern Ethiopia)
  • 2012: Alice Elliot (ESRC), The outside inside, the inside outside: emigration and the imagination of life in Central Morocco
  • 2012: Alison MacDonald (ESRC), Breast cancer survivorship among middle class women in Mumbai, India
  • 2012: Catalina Tesar (Wenner Gren), Women married off to chalices. Gender, Kinship and Wealth among Cortorari Romanian Gypsies

Research Interests

The politics of personhood, subjectivity, memory and kinship, exchange across bodily and territorial boundaries, economic anthropology, ideas about value and waste, visual and material culture, temporary possession and migration.


Swedish/English (bilingual), Mongolian (speaking: advanced, reading and writing: intermediate), French and Russian (speaking, reading, writing: basic).