UCL Anthropology


Alternative Economies

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This research cluster focuses on the way in which different economic modalities relate to other forms of social life, including religion and politics. Drawing on recent work concerned with ritual economies in post-socialist and post-colonial contexts, the commodification of forms of care and intimacy in the West, informal economies, business cultures, notions of poverty, prosperity, and greed, as well as new forms of property and ownership, we explore the relationship between the kinds of things being exchanged and the social relations produced out of these exchanges, as well as the circulation of different forms of value. Please contact Rebecca Empson for more details: r.empson@ucl.ac.uk

Research Projects

Emerging Subjects of the New Economy: Tracing Economic Growth in Mongolia.

This 5 year, ERC-funded interdisciplinary project asks why do some resource-rich nations become wealthy, while others seem to become the engines that fuel growth elsewhere? It focuses on the country of Mongolia.


A student-led research group on Alternative Economies meets once a week in the Department and is run by Aleksi Knuutila (a.knuutila.11@ucl.ac.uk), UCL Anthropology PhD student. In June 2012 the group held a workshop on The Creativity of Property focusing on the topic of property and ownership in moments of change. In exploring the reasons and consequences behind the constitution of property, they showed how it fabricates certain categories of persons, groups and objects, and assigns originality or origination.


The group ran another two workshops recently. Economic and Political Transformations in Inner Asia was held in March 2013 and Asian Philosophical Encounters in April 2013.

Students, Post-Docs, Associates

Gabrielle Ackroyd
Ana Carolina Balthazar
Marc Brightman
Joseph Bristley
Ming-Ting Cai
Meixuan Chen
Kimberly Chong - What Do Management Consultants Do?
Alice Elliot
Joe Ellis
Tobia Farnetti
Dia Flores
Liz Fox
Nick Gadsby
Vanni Gasbarri
David Jeevendrampillai
Coco Kanters
Aleksi Knuutila
William Matthews
Xiaoguang Qi
Rafael Schacter
Tom McDonald

Teaching Activities

A post-graduate level course called Alternative and Ritual Economies engages with these themes.

Selected Publications

Empson, Rebecca. 2012. The dangers of excess: accumulating and Dispersing Fortune in Mongolia. Social Analysis 56(1): 117-132

Emposn, Rebecca M. 2012. Harnessing Fortune: Personhood, Memory and Place in Mongolia. Oxford: Oxford University Press/ British Academy

McDonald, Tom. 2011. "Cowboy Cloth" and Kinship: The Closeness of Denim Consumption in a South-West Chinese City. The Journal of Cloth and Culture 9(1): 76-89

Holbraad, Martin. 2005. Expending multiplicity: money in Cuban Ifá cults. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 11(2): 231-54