UCL Anthropology


Previous RRGs

Anthropological Demography

(Coordinated by Emily Emmott)

WHERE AND WHEN: Alternate Mondays, 1-2pm, Room 128, Anthropology
FIRST MEETING: 27th October 2014, 1-2pm, Room 128, Anthropology

This is a fortnightly meeting of graduate students and staff from various backgrounds who share an interest in diverse anthropological approaches to studying and theorising human demography. A previous incarnation of the group (repro lunch) focused on issues around fertility and reproduction and we now want to expand the remit to other dimensions of demography: mortality, migration, ageing etc. The group aims to provide a forum for cross-disciplinary exchange between social, medical and evolutionary anthropology on diverse demographic phenomena such as variation in fertility rates, mortality differentials, beliefs and attitudes regarding reproduction, maternal and child health, parenting behaviours, and related demographic and social phenomena. The group shares a commitment to communication across the traditional barriers dividing perspectives in anthropology with the aim of enriching the research and learning environment of group members. Meetings are held Monday lunchtimes (1pm-2pm) and members are encouraged to bring their lunch to eat (or share) at the meeting.

Each week, two or more readings are assigned by the group and used as the basis of discussion (~1 hour). Each pre-circulated reading will take a different, and often contrasting, theoretical perspective on the same reproductive phenomena. Readings may include classic readings on a topic or recently published research. On occasion the meeting may also be used to discuss work in progress of group members, such as draft articles, thesis chapters, project proposals or research/data collection instruments.

For more information contact Emily Emmott at Emily.emmott.10@ucl.ac.uk.

The Art of the Political

(Run by Vita Peacock and David Jeevendrampillai)

FIRST MEETING: Thursday 3rd October, 4.00-5.30pm, Room 129
MOODLE DETAILS: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=24279

This RRG brings together all of those thinking or working at the interface between art and political expression, taking a broad definition of both. The art of the political can mean a technology, a craft, a way of being political - through performance, satire or other forms of creative action - as well as art in the conventional sense as representation of the political. Engagement with the political meanwhile does not necessitate a commitment to an explicit politics (although that may also be true) but rather any form of civic claiming or reclaiming of some realm of public life.

We will begin by looking at accounts of creative protest and activism, but later on take a more lateral perspective on this particular theme: with theoretical readings on performance, mimesis and subversion.

Part of this RRG will involve being tuned into this interface as it ramifies throughout London, with sporadic outings to performances and exhibitions staged in the city's institutional and extra-institutional art scene, which connect to the political in some sense.

This group is open to everyone. Please contact vita.peacock@ucl.ac.uk for more information.

Economic Environments and Subjectivities (EES)

(Coordinated by Rebecca Empson)
WHERE & WHEN: Every Friday, 10-12pm, room 323 (Anthropology)
FIRST MEETING: Friday 3rd October, 10-12pm, room 323 (Anthropology)
MOODLE LINK: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=28931

This reading and research group aims to focus on the way in which certain economic forms come to shape the environment (broadly construed), and form the basis for new subjectivities. It also explores how existing subjectivities and hierarchies, as well as actual environmental conditions, give rise to new and emerging economic forms. In focusing on this reciprocal engagement (as well as other related themes), we will explore a range of different theoretical approaches as well as ethnographic regions through different readings each week. Everyone is welcome.

Mathematics of Pattern: Chaos in Art and Society

(Coordinated by Timothy Carroll & Aaron Parkhurst)

WHERE & WHEN: Alternate Mondays, time and location TBC
MOODLE LINK: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=28929

This RRG aims to explore the pattern, both predictable and the seemingly random, both in terms of the theoretical and applied mathematical models and within their application as models and metaphors in the social sciences. The group will read widely in mathematics, anthropology and related disciplines, but those interested in joining need not be turned off if mathematics is not a point of personal strength. The group will have an emphasis on mathematical (algebraic, arithmetic, geometric, etc.) modelling and topological thinking as they appear in art-like objects and social phenomena such as kin and social organisation and ritual practice. We aim to explore the ways that emerging mathematics, and the logic systems that inform them, are embedded in social and artistic order, and, in turn, how the study and analysis of social complexity can be understood as a mirror for 'formal' systems. We will also, through readings and debate, attempt to think through how chaos, as a highly ordered, but highly complex and unpredictable paradigm, is modelled in social movement and mathematics.

Please email organizers for further information at: t.carroll@ucl.ac.uk and

Performance, Performativity and Play

(Run by and Kelly Fagan Robinson)

FIRST MEETING: Wednesday 9 October, 4.30pm, Staff Common Room
MOODLE DETAILS: http://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=11941

Conceived to compliment and extend traditional anthropological concerns with ritual, mythology and performance, this group brings together staff and students from the Department of Anthropology who share an interest in ethnographically informed approaches to the study of theatre, creativity and narrative, as well as notions of the anthropological imagination.

Building upon developed anthropological ideas of liminality, the social drama, and performance-as-redressive action, part of our interest is also in the experiential quality of performance from 'the inside' as labour; and as theatre as a conduit for the imagination as legitimate object of ethnographic study. Questions include:

  • What does the ethnographic literature tell us about the function of performance and theatre cross-culturally, and does this change when examined from 'the inside'?
  • Can an ethnographic approach help anthropologists to understand theatre in experiential rather than ritualistic or symbolic terms; how "real" is it; and how does this correlate with ideas of a narrative paradigm?
  • What notions of personhood do practices of 'impersonation' enunciate?
  • Is it possible to do ethnographic fieldwork in imaginative environments/non-real situations? How could its practice relate to work done in virtual/digital anthropology?
  • What is the role of creativity in anthropology and how might theatrical paradigms inform it?

In the past the group has met every other week. This year the group's activities may focus more on workshops and interdisciplinary collaborations. Meetings may take a variety of formats, including discussion of pre-circulated papers, debates and roundtable discussions, as well as public engagement activities, including collaborations with theatre professionals and other practitioners of performing arts.

To join the group UCL students and staff can subscribe to its Moodle intranet facility, where upcoming meetings will be advertised. Other interested parties may wish to contact Kelly Fagan Robinson (k.robinson.12@ucl.ac.uk).

Properties and Social Imagination Research Group

Run by Adam Drazin (a.drazin@ucl.ac.uk), Haidy Geismar (h.geismar@ucl.ac.uk) and Susanne Kuechler (s.kuechler@ucl.ac.uk)

WHERE AND WHEN: Every second week, either room 130, Thurs 1pm, and Material Culture Room Weds 11am

FIRST MEETING: Wednesday 13 November, 11am Material Culture Room

This research group aims to explore 'properties' as a cultural topic, using objects from the ethnographic collection. We will use a combination of library research, artistic methods, installations, performative, and experimental methods.

Properties are often ascribed to materials, and are distinct from the kinds of qualities which apply to objects as forms. The cultural variety of properties are particularly difficult to unpack, and can appear in a scientific sense to be inevitably associated with particular materials. This group aims to probe some of the cultural dimensions of properties. For anthropology, properties, apparently fixed in materials, comprise rather of the ways of knowing and ways of experiencing of potentialities and limitations. Our exploration may include:

  • Sensory explorations of objects and materials. 
  • Indigenous and alternative categorisations of properties and materials.
  • The questioning and communication of properties independently of the experience of an object.
  • Those moments when properties come to be evident through work processes, transformations and the experience of resistance.
  • The inter-engagement of properties as inhering in objects, and sensations or experiences as residing in persons.

Planned Process:

  1. Reading week to Christmas:  develop a focus on particular properties or qualities in the collection and what they do (e.g. tensile strength, colour, light)
  2. Christmas to Reading Week:  storyboard & conceptualise ways to present properties. 
  3. Term 2, Reading Week to Summer:  plan and execute a small display or displays, with a heritage audience in mind, and possibility of online display and/or physically in the department. 

Last year, the properties group produced a self-published book documenting its work. We also collaborative with Massey University in New Zealand on the project, using online Skype half-day workshops presenting parallel projects.  In 2013-14, we will aim to develop an installation or presentation around the objects for a departmental exhibition space, and perhaps continue collaboration with appropriate department(s).  

Videography RRG

WHERE AND WHEN: Thursdays, 2-4pm, room TBC
MOODLE DETAILS: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=26303

This interdisciplinary group focuses on visual methods and video data used in ethnographic contexts and in social sciences at large. It will mainly be an informal discussion and feedback venue for people using video methods and video data in their research. Each session will tackle both methodological and epistemological issues through:

  • a quick roundtable where each participant will share the state of their research, protocol (if they have one) and the issues they may be facing using visual methods or video data;
  • a discussion around a particular article dealing with video data and/or around a visual project;
  • a practical part focusing on tools, tutorials, good practices regarding filming, editing or analyzing data with specific softwares for example.

Additionally, we can have access to cameras for practical exercises and to a filmmaker.

We welcome anyone from UCL or another university, at any stage of their research (contemplating using video, planning their protocol, who completed fieldwork or looking to present their results) to join us every Thursdays 2-4pm.

Please contact Nadia Elmrabet at nadia.elmrabet.10@ucl.ac.uk for more information.

Visual Evocations

(Coordinated by Pauline Destree and Jill Reese)

WHERE & WHEN: Alternate Wednesdays, 1-2pm
FIRST MEETING: Wednesday 15th October, 1-2pm, Student Common Room

This research group will discuss and practically engage with contemporary issues and debates around images and imaging practices through a bi-weekly chosen topic of interest. "Images" are conceived in the broadest sense to include an array of visual manifestations, including but not limited to photographs, statues, posters, iconography, video, exhibition and performance. The group will collectively share and examine these various forms of images as well as discuss topical readings and works in progress. The focus will be upon the performative, aesthetic, material and recursive dimension of images, in addition to their production, circulation and efficacy. Approaches to images will be both theoretical and methodological, and thus include discussions on visual research methods and applied visual anthropology.

For further information please contact: pauline.destree.10@ucl.ac.uk

The Science of the Concrete

(Run by Ludovic Coupaye, Adam Drazin and Susanne Küchler)

WHERE AND WHEN: Alternate Tuesdays, 12-1pm, Material Culture Room
FIRST MEETING: Tuesday 11th October, 12-1pm, Material Culture Room
MOODLE DETAILS: http://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=11151

In this group we analyse the ways in which objects make us talk, move and think through the type of material and technical properties they concretise.

Within anthropology, ongoing research of staff and students address the perception, selection, transformation and use of materials and techniques in object design, resulting in the creation of social, material, and/or cultural relations. These relationships not only direct attention to culture, society, history and technology, but also to landscape, heritage and collections.

This research group intends to investigate current theoretical "hot topics" in the field of object studies (such as materiality, heritage, transmission, innovations, cognition), but not from the angle of their conceptual content. Rather, we will try to critically investigate these topics and their underlying assumptions through a return to a direct engagement with actual objects, abandoned in the wake of late 20th c. theoretical turns.

Questions the group will broach may include: Are culture and society necessarily opposed to nature? What are the emerging theoretical and practical trends seeking to understand and address the growing problems associated with reconciling the limitations of our environment with our consumption of it? What can studies of alternative conceptions of society and nature, of sustainable design and manufacturing processes or waste recycling contribute to these debates?

By investigating things, both here and over there, in the "field" and in collections, we will try to experiment with and define both old and new methodologies, in the hope to supply theoretical debates with new insights and hypothesis.

The research group will be run under the auspices of the UCL Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies (http://www.mhm.ucl.ac.uk/).

Middle East & North Africa and Anthropologies of Islam

(Run by Charlotte Loris-Rodionoff, Narges Ansari, and Alice Elliot)

WHERE AND WHEN: Alternate Fridays, 4-6pm, Staff Common Room
FIRST MEETING: Friday 17 January, 4-6pm, Staff Common Room
MOODLE DETAILS: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=26119

In view of the growing number of students and staff researching Islam and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region in the department, this Research and Reading group is intended as a space to develop critical discussions on seminal texts on the area and on ethnographically cardinal Islamic concepts, as well as an avenue to share ongoing research and writings. The aim of the RRG is to become a critical and collaborative avenue for reading and discussing key texts in the Anthropology of Islam, the Middle East, and North Africa, theorise ethnographically Islamic concepts and cosmologies, and familiarise ourselves with aspects of Middle Eastern philosophies relevant to ethnographic research. The group mainly focuses on original ethnographic research and anthropological theory, but it also aims to bring together students from other disciplines -e.g. history, philosophy and political sciences - to establish an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the region. Designed around researchers' interests, our sessions will approach questions emerging from topics such as violence, religion, politics, cosmology, intimacy, morality, gender, etc.

For more information contact c.loris-rodionoff.12@ucl.ac.uk or narges.ansari@ucl.ac.uk


(Run by Luke Freeman and Peter Westman)

WHERE AND WHEN: The group will run as of January 2012
FIRST MEETING: Register on moodle and details will be publicised in due course there.
MOODLE DETAILS: http://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=12059

As defined by Lawrence Cremin, a renowned educational historian and administrator, "education" can be seen as a broad concept touching all aspects of human existence:

"...the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit, evoke, or acquire knowledge, attitudes, values, skills, or sensibilities, and any learning that results from the effort, direct or indirect, intended or unintended. This definition obviously projects inquiry beyond the schools and colleges to a host of individuals and institutions that educate - parents, peers, siblings, and friends, as well as families, churches, synagogues, libraries, museums, settlement houses, and factories." Anthropological issues in education are at the heart of much debate, ranging from what it means to be educated to curriculum design and how testing can be seen as gender and minority-biased. Increasingly, as the forces of globalism affect educational systems, institutions, and processes, there is significant scope for anthropologists to shine a critical lens on these issues.

AIEL is a monthly gathering of graduate students and staff who share an interest in examining questions related to the study of education and learning. Major themes will include (but not be limited to), the production, transmission, and acquisition of "culture" within the educational process, the socialization process of schooling, and the role of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism in schools and the school's role in the creation of identity. Outside speakers will be welcomed when appropriate. Meeting frequency may increase to fortnightly depending on scheduling availability.

Further details will be forthcoming. Feel free to register for AIEL on Moodle in the meantime as more details about our meetinngs in Term 2 will be posted and publicised there.


(Run by Pwyll ap Stifin)

WHERE AND WHEN: Alternate Thursdays, 1-2pm, Staff Common Room
FIRST MEETING: Thursday 13 October, 1-2pm, Staff Common Room
MOODLE DETAILS: http://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=11137

The human experience of sound intimately links material properties and spatial arrangements with both the human sensorium and with social configuration. While some have suggested the subordination of sound to the visual sense is central to (for example) post-Enlightenment European cultures, others have argued that following the Electronic Revolution contemporary societies have entered a "second orality." The Aural Culture Reading and Research Group is a fortnightly gathering of graduate students and staff who share an interest in sound (and the human sensation of it) as a lens for cultural inquiry. Reconstituted from the Digital Culture RRG (begun in Autumn 2010), the group is intended to provide an informal opportunity to engage intellectually with texts, ideas, and phenomena of common interest and to dissect successful research projects in aural culture in an effort to foment our own proposals for such work. Envisioned topics include music, musical instruments, and their various cultural institutions; song and the human voice; acoustics and performative spaces; ritual and aural experience; sound effects; broadcast radio, public address systems, podcasting, and other audio media; sonic warfare; audio recording and archives (whether digital or analog); soundscapes (and other theoretical approaches); methodological approaches to aural data and analysis; museological incorporation of sound, and so on.

The group runs fortnightly in one-hour meetings, in which pre-circulated texts are discussed. During Term 1 the discussion focuses on published readings that are pertinent to the overall themes of the group. Reading lists are posted on the group's wiki at the beginning of the year. In Term 2 discussion turns to the analysis of projects suggested by the group's members or their works-in-progres (draft articles, thesis chapters, project proposals, etc.).


(Run by Alexandra Fanghanel & Allen Abramson)

WHERE AND WHEN: Alternate Thursdays, 1-2pm, Staff Room
FIRST MEETING: Thursday 4th October, Anthropology Reception
MOODLE DETAILS: http://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/enrol.php?id=15069

Critical thought, action and politics have all variously benefited from the creative and transformative ways of thinking proposed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Deleuzian thought has influenced approaches as far reaching as the analysis of art, literature, social and natural sciences, politics and philosophy and, as such, has much to offer our ways of understanding and importantly, transforming - the ways in which the world is thought.

Through discussions of cinema, of psychoanalysis, of bodies, of time, flow and the virtual, Deleuze and Deleuze & Guattari have across a range of texts indicated a wealth of ways in which we might think relations and things differently. Deleuzoguattarian approaches harbour potential for anthropological study of all kinds and we thus propose a reading group to engage with 'rhizomes', 'the war machine', 'bodies with and without organs', 'de-territorialization' and so on.

The Deleuzional reading group will explore some of the potentialities of these and other concepts for anthropological analysis by examining key sections of Deleuze and Deleuze & Guattari's own texts in parallel with texts that summarise, interpret, apply and critique the ideas they contain (E.g. Massumi, Colebrook, Zizek). We suggest that we meet fortnightly to discuss chosen texts and envisage that the focus of the group might evolve into the directions which reflect our individual and collective research interests.

We welcome participation from any members of staff or postgraduate students who would like the opportunity to begin to think about and discuss Deleuzian approaches.

For more information contact Alexandra Fanghanel at a.fanghanel@ucl.ac.uk


(Run by Erica Angele Farmer)

WHERE AND WHEN: Alternate Mondays, 1-2:30 PM
FIRST MEETING: Monday, 3 Oct, 1-2:30 pm, Staff common room
MOODLE DETAILS: http://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=13531

(Please note this group is limited to post-fieldwork PhD students and staff) This reading and research group brings together researchers from throughout the department around issues related to the study of organizations, systems, and the interface between fields/disciplines. Topics of interest include the role and interactions among categories and classifications, the anthropology of organizations, regulation, control and policy, and logic(s) of professions, fields, and institutions. Members of the group will be expected to attend sessions regularly and will likely be called upon to present or address the group frequently. Meetings will be held fortnightly and include presentations of research, targeted discussion of articles, as well as occasional guest speakers from industry or related fields.

For more information contact Erica Farmer at e.farmer@ucl.ac.uk


(Run by Aaron Parkhurst and Alison Macdonald)

WHERE AND WHEN: Commences January 2013
MOODLE DETAILS: http://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=12057

This group is an informal meeting of research students and staff who have an interest in Medical Anthropological discourse. We specifically aim to explore new and upcoming trends in Medical Ethnographical Methodology, Fieldwork, and Philosophies, and we also hope to use the friendly format to present our own thoughts and papers in Anthropological inquiry. Our wide range of research interests include, among other topics, the cultural adaptations of pathologies, both physical and psychological, the psycho-therapeutic process, individual and social self-reflection and personal agency, indigenous, Western, and cross-cultural health care systems, illness narratives, and general perceptions of self-hood and well-being.  The group has also been active in public engagement, participating regularly in discussions on Bioethics and emerging technologies in medicine.  We have participated in think-tanks and symposiums sponsored by the House of Lords.  Members of the group have also had the opportunity to speak on medical anthropology at public events around London, and write comment and opinion pieces for bioethics groups and science publications.  We also held a symposium this summer on technologies of the 21st Century Body which has resulted in a special edition of The New Bioethics.  We hope to hold a follow-up workshop in the new year.  Current debates have centred on issues regarding therapy vs. enhancement, organ trafficking, the commodification of the body, and the difficult role of the anthropologist in the medical arena.  We hope the group is able to continue being active in the local scientific and medical community, and we look forward to having you join us.

For more information contact Aaron (ucsab01@ucl.ac.uk) and/or Alison (alison.macdonald@ucl.ac.uk)

Sustainability, Environment and the Culture of Materials (SEM)

(Run by Victor Buchli, Convenor: Saffron Woodcraft

WHERE & WHEN: On second Tuesday of every month, 1-2 pm, Room 128
FIRST MEETING: Tuesday 9th October 2011, 1-2pm, Room 128

'Sustainability', often evoking environmental and ecological notions, in all its forms is impacting on the material and social surroundings in which people live their everyday lives It has affected the way we shop, eat and move, and is a recurring idea in public planning and government policy. Yet the precise meaning of the term remains elusive, it is often invoked and rarely substantiated: it is a term "with no clear analytical bite" (Beckerman, 2008:1).

This reading and research group will bring together interested staff and graduate students to explore and debate cross-disciplinary work exploring the concepts and practices of sustainability. We will explore the implications of an under-theorized and over-used idea of sustainability: looking at what it allows and prohibits? What kind of material, economic, moral and political orders are supported? What kind of practical activities are facilitated or discouraged?

In addition to critically engaging with the research, concepts and competing theories, the group will include discussions about our own work.

Register interest for the group on Moodle.

Email saffron.woodcraft.11@ucl.ac.uk for more information.

Thinking About Tax

(organised by Miranda Sheild Johansson m.johansson@ucl.ac.uk)

WHERE AND WHEN: Fridays 1pm-2pm, Room 129, 14 Taviton Street.
This term the RRG will run on the following Fridays:  21 Oct, 4 Nov, 18 Nov, 2 Dec, 16 Dec. All are welcome!
MOODLE DETAILS: https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=40407

Taxation is ubiquitous in the life of most people around the globe, whether it is the everyday routine experience of paying tax or the efforts made to dodge the taxman. However, in anthropology it is a relatively unexplored area of study. In the mainstream media discussions about who pays and who does not have become increasingly heated, triggering popular fantasies and opinions about the functioning and purpose of taxation. This RRG will explore the important role of tax in shaping economic subjectivities - notions of productivity, contribution and value, and creating imaginings about how the economy works, in other words, how money moves.

There will be fortnightly 1 hour meetings during Friday lunch times. All are welcome. Contributors from outside anthropology and the university will be invited to join in the discussion. Readings will be circulated a week in advance.

For more information and to join the email group to receive the readings contact Miranda Sheild Johansson m.johansson@ucl.ac.uk