UCL Anthropology


Beata Świtek


PhD Social Anthropology 2013, University College London
MSc Social Anthropology 2007, University College London
Diploma in Journalism 2006, Adam Mickiewicz University
MA Japanese Studies 2003, Jagiellonian University

Contact: b.switek@ucl.ac.uk

Research projects

A project I have been working on since 2013 explores broadly understood ethics in adventure sports. In cooperation with Deborah Pinniger, a renowned kayaker, an educator and an anthropologist, we are focusing on a group of teenage kayakers systematically training towards becoming independent and competent paddlers. Through direct observations on and off the water, interviews and participatory methods, we aim to answer a set of correlated questions: what are the social principles originating in shared physical exposure in precarious environments and what is the role of risk and direct engagement with the natural environment in reformulating of ethical imaginations away from the dominant values of a market-oriented, text-based meritocratic society.

My doctoral project revolved around the relationship between intimacy and national imagination in Japan. Ethnographically, I focused on Indonesian care workers employed in Japanese eldercare institutions since 2008. I explored the Indonesian workers' interactions with the cared-for elderly, and with their Japanese colleagues and employers. Placed against the background of mass media representations, the Indonesian workers' experiences served as a basis for discussion of the role of bodily experiences in shaping relations of trust, forging interpersonal intimacies and ultimately affecting the image of a national "other" in Japan.

I have also been involved in research activities for The Costs and Benefits of the London Living Wage project overseen by Professor Jane Wills from School of Geography at Queen Mary University of London. A report based on this research can be found at: www.geog.qmul.ac.uk/livingwage/pdf/Livingwagecostsandbenefits.pdf



Świtek, Beata. 2016. Reluctant intimacies. Japanese eldercare in Indonesian hands. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Świtek, Beata. 2014. "Representing the alternative. Demographic change, migrant eldercare workers and national imagination in Japan". Contemporary Japan. Special Issue: Destination Japan: Population Aging and International Labor Migration 26 (2).


Świtek, Beata. 2014. Evaluation report of the services provided by Westminster Befriend a Family.

Conferences and workshops


On simultaneity: the utopia of play and paradox in the making of mundane socialityPanel co-convened (with M. Shapiro) for the 12th Congress of International Society for Ethnology and Folklore​ (SIEF2015). Zagreb, Croatia, 21-25.06.2015

Ordinary extraordinary. Anthropology of risk, limits and exposureA co-convened (with A. Abramson and H. Swee) two-day academic workshop aimed at anthropological exploration of risk and limits of human control. Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK, 6-7.11. 2014

Can anthropology work for migrants? Anthropology(ists) at work in charities and NGOs. Panel convened for The Royal Anthropological Institute Anthropology in the World Conference. London, UK, 8-10. 06. 2012


Friendship in care? Migrant eldercare workers' relationships with their non-migrant colleagues. Paper presented at the 112th American Anthropological Association General Meeting: Future Publics, Current Engagements. Chicago, IL, USA, 20-24.11.2013

Ascription of personhood. Care work and migration in Japan. Paper presented at the 10th Annual Conference of the Romanian Society for Social and Cultural Anthropology: Cultures of Mobility and Immobility. Sibiu, Romania, 17-19.10.2013

Working intimacies. Indonesian care worker experiences in Japan. Paper presented at the 1st European Association for Japanese Studies Japan Conference. Kyoto, Japan, 28-29.09.2013

Hospitality and amae. Paper presented at the 8th European Association for Japanese Studies PhD Workshop. Newcastle, UK, 30. 05 - 02. 06. 2012

Comparative socialities of migrants and people with disabilities. Paper presented at the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth Conference: Vital Human Interactions with Living Things. Lampeter, UK, 13-16. 09. 2011

Migrant care labour and policy responses in ageing Japan: debating a new society. Paper contributed to the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS): Making Connections Conference: Migration, Gender and Care Labour in Transnational Context. Oxford, UK, 14-15. 04. 2011

The socio-political identity of Indonesian immigrants in Japan. Paper presented at the 24th Association of South-East Asian Studies in the United Kingdom (ASEASUK) Conference. Liverpool, UK, 20-22. 06. 2008


The Japan Foundation Fellowship
Field research, PhD in Social Anthropology, Japan 2008 - 2010

The Frederick Bonnart - Braunthal Scholarship
PhD in Social Anthropology, UK 2007 - 2010

Marie Curie Fellowship
Early Stage Scholars Fellowship at University of Bradford, UK, 03. 2005 - 11. 2005

The Japanese Ministry of Education Scholarship
MA in Japanese Studies, Japan 2001 - 2002