UCL Anthropology


Shireen Walton

ERC Postdoctoral Researcher (2017-2020)


DPhil Anthropology, University of Oxford (2015)
MPhil Social Anthropology, University of Oxford (2012)
BA History, University College London (2008)


I am a visual-digital anthropologist interested in media and social change, mobilities, migration, and visual culture. My doctoral project explored photoblogging in Iran and amongst Iranians living in six countries. I studied photoblogs as a practice/hobby, and as a contemporary photographic genre; asking why and how it has grown steadily popular in Iran and within the Iranian diaspora over the past decade. The research reveals how Iranian photobloggers capture, reflect­ and refract facets of everyday life (including the idea of being / showing the 'ordinary') in Iran.

Before joining the anthropology department at UCL I worked at the Centre of Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford on a research project entitled: Immigration Narratives in the British Press (2016). I also co-facilitated the Oxford Digital Ethnography Group (OxDEG); a hub and seminar series co-established in 2013 with colleagues at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Oxford Internet Institute to develop cross-disciplinary conversations about ethnography in a digital age. More recently I have developed an digital-ethnographic research project about photography, digital culture and collective memory. This study looks at a specific community from the oil city of Abadan in southwest Iran, who fled to other parts of the country and abroad during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, and who are reconnecting online via social media, photography, and digital platforms.

In my Postdoctoral research at UCL as part of the ASSA group I am continuing to explore the role of digital technologies in everyday life; with a specific look at Smartphones, ageing, and digital/visual practices amongst migrant communities in northern Italy.

Research interests

  • digital anthropology
  • migration
  • mobilities
  • anthropology & photography
  • visual and digital culture
  • social and digital memory
  • collaborative and participatory visual-digital research methods
  • performance, the body, yoga, dance


The Middle East, the Persianate & Islamic World, Migration in Europe


Department of Anthropology, UCL 2016-2017

  • Anthropology and Photography (Convener and lecturer - UG and PG)
  • Digital Media in the Islamic World (Convener and lecturer - PG)
  • Introduction to Material and Visual Culture (Convener and lecturer - UG)
  • Being Human (UG)

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford 2015-2016

  • Introduction to Anthropological Theory
  • Social Analysis and Interpretation
  • Cultural Representations, Beliefs and Practices

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford 2016

  • Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis (CAQDAS) and the Internet - with Prof. Eric Meyer
  • Digital Ethnography & Visual Methods

Selected publications

Walton, S. (2017). 'Being there where?' Designing Digital-Visual Methods for Moving With/In Iran' in Salazar, N., Elliot, A., and Norum, R., (Eds.), Methodologies of Mobility: Ethnography and Experiment, Berghahn Books.

Walton, S. (2016). 'Photographic Truth in Motion: The Case of Iranian Photoblogs'Anthropology and Photography, Volume 4. Royal Anthropological Institute: Online Open-Access.

Walton, S. (2016). 'The Anthropologist as Curator: Introducing a Digital Photography Exhibition as a Collaborative and Participatory Fieldwork Method' in Afonso, A, I., Bayre, F. and Harper, K., (Eds.) Special Issue: Participatory Visual and Digital Research in Anthropology: Engagement and Innovation, Visual Ethnography, Altrimedia Edizioni.

Walton, S. (2016). 'Abadan's Digital Afterlife: Past Images and Present Pasts in Abadani Virtual Communities', Abadan: Retold. Online in English and Persian; Open-Access.

Walton, S. (2015). 'Re-envisioning Iran Online: Photoblogs and the Ethnographic "Digital-Visual Moment''' in Ryzova, L. (Ed.) Special Issue: Critical Histories of Photography in the Middle East, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communications (MJCC), Brill.

Anthropology blog posts

Walton, S. (2014). 'Exploring Digital-Visual Anthropological Research Methods'. Material World blog. Available online

Walton, S. (2013). 'Digital Visual Anthropology: Envisaging the Field'. Ethnography Matters blog. Available online


Engaging Refugee Narratives: Perspectives from Academia and the Arts
Department of Anthropology, UCL, 16-17 June 2017. Funded by UCL Global Engagement Office. In partnership with UCL Department of Anthropology, UCL Grand Challenges, UCL Social and Historical Sciences Faculty, UCL Institute for Human Rights and Graduate Institute Geneva Department of Anthropology.

Oxford Digital Ethnography Group (OxDEG) seminar series co-convener. October 2013-2016. Programme available at: http://dkc.oii.ox.ac.uk/events/

Photography in/of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. RAI Anthropology and Photography conference, The British Museum, London. May 2014. Panel convener.

Professional memberships

Scholarships & funding

  • 2017-2020: European Research Council (ERC) Postdoctoral funding, Department of Anthropology, UCL
  • 2016-2017: Global Engagement Office Fund, University College London  for Engaging Refugee Narratives workshop
  • 2014-2015: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding, through the Doctoral Training Centre, University of Oxford to facilitate the OxDEG group
  • 2012-2015: Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS) Doctoral Scholarship, University of Oxford