UCL Anthropology

Prof David Napier

Prof David Napier

Professor of Medical Anthropology

Dept of Anthropology

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2004

Research summary

A. David Napier is Professor of Medical Anthropology at University College London, Director of the University’s Centre for Applied Global Citizenship, and Director of its Science, Medicine, and Society Network. Since 2013, he has been the Global Academic Lead for the Cities Changing Diabetes Programme, a cross-sectoral collaboration aimed at researching and limiting the rise in Type-2 diabetes in cities around the world.

Prior to coming to UCL in 2004, Napier was a fellow of Harvard University, New York University, Johns Hopkins University, and several colleges in the UK (including All Souls College and Harris Green, Oxford).


Napier’s special interests in applied research include assessing vulnerability, primary health-care delivery, human wellbeing, caring for ethnically diverse populations, migration and trafficking, homelessness, new and emerging technologies, immunology, and creativity in scientific practice. He has published on law and anthropology and intellectual property and biodiversity, as well as being the author of six scholarly books and numerous book chapters. His new book, Making Things Better (Oxford University Press 2013), explores notions of property, local value, and exchange across cultures. He regularly writes for the press (e.g., Le Monde) and his work and writing have been featured in The New York Times and The Guardian, among others. For his activities with more than 100 charities and NGOs, the UK government and research councils awarded him the first Beacon Fellowship in Public Engagement. He is the recipient of various awards, including the Burma Coalition’s Human Rights Award.


Professor Napier is currently involved in a number of applied research projects examining creativity in scientific practice, the application of new technologies to health-care delivery, and the role of culture in health (including a forthcoming Lancet Commission Report on this subject). He is an inventor of medical devices and, as time permits, a consultant on vulnerable populations in the aftermath of natural and human disasters, having worked for, among others, Merlin UK, CRISIS, The United Nations, and the International Organization for Migration. David Napier is also an artist and videographer, and has produced a number of short-films on homelessness and vulnerability.

For a selection of relevant publications, please see the 'publications' tab on this website.

Teaching summary

  • Senior Tutor (medical and social anthropology) PhD/ MSc level

  • Course Director (medical anthropology)
  • Professor (medical anthropology: large core lecture course, two-term MSc seminar, primary care, advanced medical anthropology for medical students)
  • Applied Studies instructor (direct pilot programme and internship placement)

  • Overseeing of additional students through Beacon Fellowship/ other relevant research grants

  • Network for Student Activism (development of on-line international training courses [to date Eastern Europe, USA, Central Africa])
  • Course Development: growth of new tutorial Applied Studies programme for undergraduates
  • Course Development of new OS recruiting stream for MSc medical anthropology programme
  • Course Development of new medical anthropology courses for UCL medical school


University of Oxford
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1980
University of Oxford
Other higher degree, Master of Literature | 1978
University of Oxford
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Diploma | 1977
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
First Degree, Bachelor of Philosophy | 1971