UCL Urban Laboratory


Prof Haidy Geismar

Professor of Anthropology

Dept of Anthropology

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Aug 2012

Research summary

I am a social anthropologist with a research interests in intellectual and cultural property, indigenous rights and colonial histories and legacies, new forms of cultural representation, the affects and effect of digitisation, the anthropology of art, critical museology and the South Pacific (especially Vanuatu and New Zealand). Since 2000 I have worked with the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, investigating the ways in which people from Vanuatu (ni-Vanuatu) work through the museum to generate powerful discourses about cultural value, which then extend into national marketplaces, village meeting grounds, and international performances and exhibitions. Since 2004, I have also been working in Aotearoa New Zealand, collaborating with curators to investigate alternative models of value for Maori cultural production in both museum and marketplace.  


Current research projects include Finding Photography - a collaboration with collections care researchers to explore the social networks and materials underpinning contemporary digital art photography, and Collecting in Context - a project exploring the applicability of new digital collecting platforms in diverse cultural settings.


I am committed to museum practice, with long-term affiliations to a number of different museums, including the Tate and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and I have curated a number of exhibitions, including Port Vila Mi Lavem Yu (Port Vila, I love you) which opened in Honolulu, Hawaii, in May 2011, part of which then travelled to the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The show was a visual meditation on urban experience in Vanuatu, and was co-curated with Dr. Eric Wittersheim (IRIS, Paris) with curatorial collaborators in Vanuatu (see press coverage in the Honolulu Star Advertiser here). More recently, as curator of the UCL Ethnography collections I have facilitated exhibitions curated by local secondary school students, London community groups, and artists in residence. 

Teaching summary

I have taught classes on Anthropology in and of Museums; Cultural Property rights and Museums;  Anthropology of Art; Materiality;  Money, markets and Morality; and Digital Culture. In nearly every class, we work collaboratively to develop digital platforms for research, including a site dedicated to exploring the photographic collections of the American Museum of Natural History (link), a digital archive of the NY Department of Sanitation (link), and a collaboration with the Guantanamo Public Memory project (link).  All of these projects use digital tools and experiment with museum technologies and practices to create interactive, multiauthored archives that extend our class projects, and research, into new domains and towards new audiences.


At UCL, I part of the research team that convenes the Msc in Digital Anthropology, and a member of the Material Culture Research Group (which I have also been head of for a number of years). Here are developing similar explorations in digital methods and practices, alongside courses exploring the ways in which anthropology can contribute both methodologically and through its unique disciplinary genealogy to the social practice and experience of global digital technologies. 


We are currently developing contribution to a new BA Heritage which will focus on developing collections research and curatorial skills, based in our new object learning facilities at UCL East.