UCL Anthropology


Susanne Kuechler

Susanne Kuechler

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 8644

Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 8632

Email: s.kuechler@ucl.ac.uk

Room: G18


Prof. Susanne Kuechler (Kűchler) -(Fogden)
MA (FU Berlin), PhD (London School of Economics and Political Sciences)

Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Head of Department (2010-2019)
Professor of Material Culture
Elected Fellow of the British Academy 2016
Elected Fellow of The Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) 2017
Member of Steering Committee of The Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies
Co-Editor of Journal of Material Culture


Susanne Küchler obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences in 1985 working under Alfred Gell. Her earlier training had involved teaching in social anthropology both at the Free University of Berlin and at the LSE, with three consecutive periods of internships at the Übersee Museum Bremen (Germany). A period of 2 years of field-research on the North-west coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea led to a long-term and systematic research into collections of sculptures and allied ethnographic collections from the area, known as Malanggan, and a theoretical interest in the relation between art and memory, visual analogy and transformation, material translation, intuition and empathy.

Research on Malanggan provoked further study into innovation, design and social change as part of a collaborative research project, funded by the ESRC, involving the British Museum and Goldsmiths College. Clothing the Pacific examined the take-up and transformation of cloth and clothing introduced by missionaries and traders into the Pacific during the early 19th century, based on archival research and ethnographic fieldwork. Fieldwork on patchwork quilts in the Cook Islands, Eastern Polynesia, examined the effect of the uptake of cloth on culture and society, honing in on the material, technical and cognitive processes involved in material translation. Recent research conducted as part of the European Project on Sustainable Development in a Diverse World examined the relation between material aesthetics and the emergence of transnational societies, bringing together data from Pacific Diaspora with comparative data collected in European cities.

Analytical concepts developed in relation to material translation, new materials & new technologies is currently being directed to the study of prototypes designed in Euro-American research laboratories via an ethnographic exploration of the societal take up and transmission of 'new' materials, with special reference to networks of knowledge linking centers of innovation to the materials industry and design institutions. Ethnographic research is piloted into centers of research and innovation, and into sites of materials manufacture, design and marketing. The research is conducted in close collaboration with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, London (IOM3).

A parallel running research project is directed to the study of pattern, with emphasis on algorithm, proportioning, scaling as informing technical processes and calculation across a variety of media.

Küchler held posts at the University of East Anglia and Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, before joining UCL in 1991.

Recent and selected Indicators of Esteem

2013 Colloquium at the University of Zürich, November 18th 2013.

2013 Deutsche Bank Stiftungsprofessur, Goethe Universität Frankfurt, January 2013

2012 Invitation to speak at the Visual Arts Board meeting of the Australia Council and at the AsiaPacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery, December 4th, 2012.

2012 "Innovation and Invention to Measure and the need for an Anthropology of Design," Invitation to speak at the Keble College Creativity Lecture Series, Oxford, 4th of May, 2012.

2012 Invited talk at the colloquium on the subject of 'comparativism' at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, March 30-31, 2012.

2012 "Materials and Society" Plenary Keynote Speaker at the Materials For Life (Inspiring Matter) Conference, RCA April 2nd, 2012.

2012 "Materials on the Move: Tradefairs and Trajectories of Relations in the Vicinity of the Materials Industry", invited Lecture at Itinerates of the Material Conference, Frankfurt October 2011.

2011 Invited Lecture at the Design Theory Symposium, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany

2010 Invited Lecture at Bard Graduate Centre for History of Art, Design History and Material Culture, New York

2010 Invited to Advise the Commission for the Humboldt Zentrum, Berlin

2009, 2010, 2011 Serving on the Research Grant Committee of the Volkswagenwerk Research Foundation, with reference to collaborative research between Museums and Universities.

2005-2006 Invited Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study), Germany.

1995-1996 Invited Scholar in Residence at J. Paul Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities, Los Angeles

1989-1990 J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship in The History of Art and The Humanities, Los Angeles.

Research groups:

  • Material, Visual and Digital Culture Research Group, UCL Sustainability, Environment and Development Research Group
  • Science of the Concrete: the Materials and Techniques of Ontologies
  • Cultures of Materials Consortium, including the Institute of Making at UCL, IOM3, and the RCA.

Research projects:

Research interests

  • New Materials, New Technologies and Society: their innovation, take-up, classification and transmission
  • Anthropology of Design
  • Anthropology of Clothing
  • Material-aesthetics and the anthropology of art
  • Pacific anthropology and ethnographic collections research
  • Image systems and knowledge based economies in the Pacific (Melanesia and Cook Islands)

PhD students supervised at UCL: completed and current

Primary (full-time) Students Funded by Research Councils (in addition to 10 self-funded students):

Sean Kingston (ESRC funded) 1993-1998 "Imagery and Memory in Siar, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea

Editor for Berg-Hahn (99-2001), Freelance Editor 2001-

Chloe Colchester (ESRC funded) 1994-1999 "Pattern transmission in Fijian Barkcloth".

Research Assistant on ESRC funded Clothing the Pacific project (2001-2004). Career break (04-),

Susannah Kelly (ESRC funded) 1994-1999 "Mats, Memory and Personhood in Vanuatu"

Research assistant (2000-2001). Civil Service as Research Officer for Education (2001-)

Diana Young (ESRC funded) 1995-2000 "Colour, Olfaction and the Efficacy of Ritual

Representation in Ernabella, Australia".

Postdoctoral fellowship 2001-2002. At ANU in Canberra as Research Fellow in residence (03-07); Associate Professor and Director of Anthropology Museum, University of Queensland 2007-.

Lucy Norris 1997-2003 (1998-2002 ESRC funded) "Fibre Recycling in India". Postdoctoral fellowship (03/04), research fellow at UCL 2004-2011.
Graeme Were 1998-2003 (1999-2002) ESRC funded "Mathematics and Knowledge in the Pacific". Research Fellow at the British Museum (03/04), Lecturer in non-western art at London based NYU (04/05). temporary lecturer at UCL (05/06); Research Director, Museums and Collections UCL 2006-10. Assistant Professor for Museum Anthropology, University of Queensland, 2010-

Heidy Geismar 1998-2003 ESRC funded "Art and the Market in the Pacific" -

ESRC funded Postdoctoral fellow at UCL (03/04), Assistant Professor at NYU (04-)

Pia Tohveri 2000-2005, 2001-2004 AHRB funded "The Market for Clothing in Guatemala".
Barbara Manton-Harte 2001- deceased ESRC funded "Tattooing: an anthropological Study
Adeline Trude 2003- 2007ESRC funded "The Social Technology of Ghanaian Clothing". Manager of NGO
Amar Mall 2003- 2010 ESRC funded "Pattern, Personhood and Cognition in India"
Damon Dennis 2004-2010 ESRC funded "Objects, Knowledge and the Consumption of Recyclia in Morocco"
Oliver Deepwell 2004- 2009 AHRC "The role of Mathematics in Divinatory Practice"
Fabio Gygi 2004 - 2010 Japan Foundation "Order and dis-order in Japan: the cosmology of the household". Assistant Professor at Kyoto University
Zoe Roberston 2007 - Overseas - withdrew as a result of illness in 2008
Peter Oakley 2008 - 2012 AHRC An Ethnography of the Gold Cycle
Sarah Wilkes 2009 - 2013 AHRC collaborative grant with IOM3 An Ethnography of Material Knowledge Transfer in the UK
Vita Peacock 2009 -2013 Graduate School Research Scholarship An Ethnography of a Max Planck Institute - 2013, ESRC Future Leaders Award
Fiona MacDonald 2009 - 2013 ORS Award; Overseas - The Trade Blanket: Materiality and Cultural Heritage
Timothy Carroll 2010- 2014 Overseas - Materiality and Ontology in Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Urmila Mohan 2011 - 2016 Rotary Scholar, Overseas - The Art of Dressing for God in the 'International Society for Krishna Consciousness', India.
Prasad Bashkar, 2011 - Overseas - Design in India
Camilla Sundwell 2011 - Designing out Landfill -
Hannah Swee 2011 - 2016 AXA funded - Managing the Future in the Face of Risk: Home and Family in Disaster Areas.

Selected publications


A1: Authored (co-authored) Books


2002 Malanggan: Art, Memory and Sacrifice. Oxford: Berg (

short-listed for the Folklore Prize of the Warburg Institute 2003)

2005 Pacific Pattern. London: Thames&Hudson; with Graeme Were and Photographer Glenn Jowitt

2009 Tvaivai: The Social Fabric of the Cook Islands London: British Museum Press; with Andrea Eimke. 
 In preparation: The Material Mind: An Anthropology of Innovation. Under review with Routledge.

A2: Edited works

The Social Life of Materials


2015 eds. , edited volume; with Adam Drazin. London: Bloomsbury.

Art in Oceania


2012 eds. Art in Oceania: A New History. London: Thames&Hudson. With Peter Brunt, Nicholas Thomas, Lissant Bolton, Sean Mellon, Damien Skinner, Deidre Wilson.

2011 eds. Festivals and Diversity: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. With Hisham Elkadi and Lazslo Kurti. London: Sean Kingston Publishing

2009 eds. Diversity Management in Practice: A cross-cultural & multidisciplinary bibliography addressing policy and wellbeing. With Sandra Wallmann. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press.

2006 eds. The Handbook of Material Culture. With C. Tilley, M. Rowlands, W. Keane, P. Spyer. London: Sage

2005 eds. The Art of Clothing: A Pacific Experience. London: University College Press. With G. Were

2005 eds. Clothing as Material Culture. Oxford: Berg With D. Miller

1999 eds. The Art of Forgetting Oxford: Berg with A. Forty

1991 eds. Images of Memory: On Representation and Remembering. Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press. With W. Melio

A3: Chapters in Books

"Making Skins: Mimesis and the Character of Kinship in a New Guinea

Society." In: Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics." A. Shelton and J, Coote eds. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 94-118. 1992

"Landscape as Memory: The Mapping of Process and its Representation in a Melanesian Society." In: Landscape: Politics and Perspectives. ed B. Bender. Oxford, Berg. 85-106. 1993

"The Past is a Foreign Country". In Debates in Social Anthropology GDAT, edited by T. Ingold. Manchester, Manchester University Press. 65-78. 1994

"The Place of Memory." In The Art of Forgetting. Eds. A. Forty and S. Küchler. Oxford: Berg. 53-73. 1999

"Why knot? Towards a Theory of Art and Mathematics." In: Beyond Aesthetics: Essays in Memory of Alfred Gell. Eds. C. Pinney and N. Thomas. Oxford: Berg. 57-71. 2001.

"The Art of Ethnography: The Case of Sophie Calle." In: de,-dis,-ex,- edited by Alex Coles. Black Dog Publishing Limited. 94-114. 2001

"The Manifold in Art and Science." In: Trace, Memory, Materiality and Context in Contemporary Art. eds E. Thomas and A. Dimitrakaki. Cair, Liverpool: Centre for International Research. 52-57. 2002.

"Art and Anthropology." In: The Material Culture Reader, edited by V. Buchli. Oxford: Berg. 57-81. 2002

"From Poncho to Quilt." In: Cloth Nexus, edited by Chloe Colchester. Oxford: Berg. 97-119. 2003

"Rethinking Attachment". In: Law, Anthropology and the Constitution of the Social eds. A.Pottage and M. Mundy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 234-249. 2004.

"Materiality and Cognition: the Changing Face of Things." In: Materiality, edited by D. Miller. Duke University Press. 206-231. 2005.

"Why are there Quilts in Polynesia." In: Clothing as Material Culture, eds S. Küchler and D. Miller. Oxford: Berg. 175-193. 2005.

"Introduction" to The Art of Clothing: A Pacific Experience. University College Press. xix-xxx. (2005).

"Knot-sculpture between Art and Mathematics." In: Anthropology looks at Artists. eds A. Schneider and C. Wright. Oxford: Berg. 2005.

"Totenrituale und Ihre Objekte." In: Totenkulte, edited by Patrick Eiden et.al, Frankfurt, Campus Verlag. 183-217. 2006.

Contributions to the Catalogue Art de la Nouvelle-Irlande, edited by Michael Gunn and P. Peltier, The Public Institution of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris. Chapters on 'Ritual Context', 'Life-Force and Body Concepts', 'Dream', 'Death and Memory', 'Vavara', 'Malagan Ritual Context.' 2007.

"Was Dinge Tun: Eine anthropologische Kritik medialer Dingtheorie." in Ferus,K., Ruebel,D. (ed.) Die Tuecke des Objektes. Schriftenreihe der Isa Lohmann-Siems Stiftung series. Series edited by Wolf-Dieter Hauenschild, Thomas Hengartner, Bruno Reudenbach. Berlin: Reimer Verlag GMBH, 230-249, 2009.

"Mapping Diversity: The Case of Porta Portese." in Bracalenti,R., Boehme,V., Forsyth,K., Geisbusch,J., Kuechler,S., Stenius,V. (ed.) Porta Portese: The Local Market, Immigration, and Diversity. Rome: Edup.it ; Editioni dell'Universita Populare. With Jan Geisbusch, 2009.

"Material Culture in the City: Consumption, Diversity and Sustainability in City Neigbourhoods". In: The Sustainability of Cultural Diversity edited by Maddy Janssens et.al. Cheltenham,UK: Edward Elgar: 159-178. With Rossella LoConte. 2010.

"Materials and Design". In Alison Clarke (ed) The Anthropology of Design.Vienna: Springer: 130-145. 2010

"Mapping Festivals in London", with Rossella LoConte, in: eds S. Kuechler, Hisham Elkadi and Lazslo Kurti Festivals and Diversity: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. With. London: Sean Kingston Publishing: 169-195. 2011.

"The Extended Mind: An Anthropological Perspective on Mind, Agency and Smart Materials." In B.M. Stafford ed A Field Guide to a New Meta-Field: Bridging the Humanities-Neuroscience Divide. University of Chicago Press: 84-108. 2011.

"Der Theoretische Anspruch von Malanggan". In Marcus Schindlebeck ed. Materielle Kultur und Kunst: Neue Aufsätze einer ethnologischen Betrachtung. Mitteilungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Uhrgeschichte, Beiheft 2. Berlin, 2011: 23-33.

"New Materials and New Technologies: Science, Design and the Challenge to Anthropology". In: R. Fardon et.al. eds . Part 4 Futures in Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology. London: Sage: 391-399. 2012.

"Threads of Thought". In: Liana Chua and M. Elliott eds. Distributed Objects: Meaning and Mattering after Alfred Gell. Berghahn Books: 25-39. 2013.

"Materials and Sociality". In N. Long and H. Moore eds Sociality:: New Directions. Berghahn Books: 177-189. 2013.

"Virtual Archives: An Ethnographic Perspective on their Creation and Transmission." In World Antiquarianism. Editors: Schnapp A. 106-120. Getty Research Institute. 2014.

"Anthropology and Aesthetics." Oxford Encyclopaedia of Aesthetics. (2014)

"Wenn Dinge Netzwerke sind". In Hans Peter Hahn ed. Vom Eigensinn der Dinge, Noefelis Verlag, 127-147. 2015

B: Refereed Articles

"Malangan of Nombowai" in: Oral History, Journal of the Institute of PNG Studies. Vol. X1, No. 2, 1983, pp: 65-98.

"Malangan: Art and Memory in a Melanesian Society." Man (N.S.) 1987. Vol 22, pp: 238-255.

"Malangan: Objects, Sacrifice, and the Production of Memory." American Ethnologist, 1988. Vol 15 (4), pp: 626-639.

"Symbolic Reminders." Faces, New Hampshire, Cobblestone Publishing. 36-37. 1996.

"The Liquidation of Material Things." Archaeological Dialogues 1996. Vo. 3 No 1. 26-29.

"Sacrificial Economy and its Objects: Rethinking Colonial Collecting in Oceania." Journal of Material Culture Vol.2 (1): 23-68. 1997

"Binding in the Pacific: The Case of Malanggan" Oceania. 1999. Vol 69 (3): 145-157.

"From Art to Mathematics: The Cataloguing of Visual Information in Museums" Journal of Museum Ethnography. 1999. No 11: 1-14.

"Imaging the Body Politic: the Knot in Pacific Imagination" L'Homme 2002.Vol 165, 205-233.

"Clothing and Innovation: A Pacific Perspective" at: anthropology today. with G. Were. 2003. Vol 19(2):3-6

"Rethinking Textile: The Advent of the Smart Fibre Surface" Textile: Culture and History 2003.Vol 1 (3): 262-273.

"On Art and Mathematics" in: Art and Archaeology, ed. A. Barrowclout, Archaeological Review from Cambridge. Art and Archaeology: Unmasking Material Culture. 2004. Vol 19(1): 28-46

"The Modality of Time-Maps: Quilting from another point of view". Res: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics.47, 2005: 179-190.

"De las materias que trabajan: una leccion para la anthropologia" In: La Cultura Sensible; Anthropolgie et Societes. edited by D. Howes and J.P. Marcoux. Special Issue of Canadian Journal of Anthropology and Society. 2006, Vol 30 (3): 125-139.

"The String in Art and Science: Rediscovering the Material Mind". Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture. Vol 5(2): 124-140., Summer 2007

"Technological Materiality: Beyond the Dualist Paradigm". Theory, Culture and Society. Vol 25(1):101-120. 2008

"Empathie avec la Matière." With G. Were. In Technologies edited by Ludovic Coupaye&Laurence Douny. Techniques & Cultures, 52-53: 190-212. 2009

"The Prototype in 20th Century Art". Special Issue Journal of Visual Communication Vol 9 No 3: 301-312.2010

"Ten Years after Art and Agency: What are the important questions today" - Kritische Berichte Vol 39 (3): 75-87. 2011

"Memory in the Knowledge Age". International Social Science Journal. Article 1793, Vol 203-205: 57-66. 2012.

"Additive Technology and Material Cognition." Journal of Cognition and Culture 14(5):385-399. 2015.