Our department explores fundamental questions about humanity and our relationships to each other through critical comparison and long-term ethnography. Our broad interests rooted in anthropology contribute to vibrant cross-disciplinary conversations and public debates.
Our cooperative research clusters based on decades of innovation expand into new areas our expertise on the anthropology of the: economy, religion, kinship, politics and the state.
Inequality and wealth in capitalism: We explore the interplay of poverty and abundance; hierarchy and egalitarianism; and the intersection of class, caste, ethnicity and gender in capitalism. We examine how inequality is constituted in core and marginal sites across the globe. We also track key processes of development, debt, austerity and resource extraction. We follow how speculation, aspiration, security and insecurity are generated and challenged. This work includes collaborations with the International Inequalities Institute (III); the Department of International Development and the National Institute of Social and Economic Research.
Conviction and Doubt: Our research traces forms of commitment – whether to cosmologies, ontologies, and religious faiths and/or to modernity, secularism, or non-religion. We are also interested in how affective states such as happiness, wonder, irony and doubt trouble more intellectualist theories of knowledge and ethics. This work involves a public programme of lectures on Religion and Non-Religion at LSE and engagements with philosophers and theologians.
Mind, Learning and Cognition: We explore foundational questions about processes of childhood learning, the self and concepts of free will, affect, altered states of consciousness (e.g. hypnotherapy, trance), moral judgement, and human cooperation. Our work engages critically with psychology, cognitive science, and evolutionary theory. In particular it examines how evolved predispositions of the human mind (e.g. towards mutualism, the sense of fairness, the perception of one’s agency) are shaped by specific historical and cultural circumstances. Our expertise dovetails with recent developments in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE.
Generative Relations and Vitality: Exploring vital relations gives us new ways to look at kinship, gender and productive processes: including ritual, concepts of the generation – and the end – of life, parental responsibilities and childhood. Research in households and communities explores how intimate labours of care link to, and are productive of, national and global forms. It also shows how the powers of capitalism – both generative and destructive – produce and are reproduced within family relations. This research has led to collaborations with scholars at Stanford University and public debates and workshops on themes of austerity and abundance.
Governing Connections: Our research on corporations, bureaucracies, legal and political institutions explores emerging relations between the market, state and society. Citizenship and belonging, political participation, changing systems of democratic choice, transnational migration, revolutionary struggle, and the paradoxes and pain of being undocumented are key areas where our research interrogates the reach and limits of state power.