Professor Catherine Allerton

Professor Catherine Allerton

Professor [Head of Department]

Department of Anthropology

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Key Expertise
Eastern Indonesia, East Malaysia

About me

Catherine Allerton is a specialist in the anthropology of island Southeast Asia, with research interests in children and childhoods, migration, kinship, place and landscape. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in a two-placed village in Flores, Indonesia and in the capital city of Sabah, East Malaysia.

Catherine’s current research explores experiences of exclusion, belonging and potential statelessness amongst the children of Indonesian and Filipino refugees and migrants in Sabah, East Malaysia. This involved a year of ESRC-funded fieldwork in the city of Kota Kinabalu with children aged 8-17. A book on this project, provisionally entitled Impossible Children, is currently in progress, as are articles on intergenerational care in migrant families, and children’s experiences of refusals connected with being ‘Filipino’ in Sabah. Catherine has recently published Children: Ethnographic Encounters, an edited volume that vividly explores experiences of fieldwork with children in ten different cultural contexts. Some of the pictures and stories collected from children in Sabah can be seen in the exhibition ‘Childhood in the Migrant City’, in the corridors of the LSE Anthropology department.

Catherine’s earlier research was conducted in rural Manggarai, in the west of the Indonesian island of Flores, resulting in a number of articles and a book, Potent Landscapes: Place and Mobility in Eastern Indonesia (2013). This research analyses the many scales and consequences of entanglement between people and places in a society of ‘agricultural animists’, and explores the mobility that is central to Manggarai landscapes and kinship. In addition to her work on the power of place, Catherine has also written on comparative spiritual landscapes of Southeast Asia, the lives of unmarried Manggarai women, hospitality, cosmetics, sarongs, tourism and schooling.

All of the following articles and book chapters, and the Introductions from both books, are available to download at

Expertise Details

Eastern Indonesia; East Malaysia; place and landscape; houses; kinship and marriage; childhood and youth; migration

Selected publications

2020. Invisible Children? Non-Recognition, Humanitarian Blindness and Other Forms of Ignorance in Sabah, Malaysia. Critique of Anthropology. 40(4): 455-470.

2019. Stuck in the Short Term: Immobility and Temporalities of Care among Florenese Migrants in Sabah, MalaysiaEthnos. Special Issue on ‘Care and Control in Asian Migrations’.

2019. Najwa Latif – ‘Sahabat’. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society. 43(2): 84-87. Special Section, ‘The Fieldwork Playlist’.

2018. Impossible Children: Illegality and Excluded Belonging among Children of Migrants in Sabah, East Malaysia. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 44 (7): 1081-1097.

2017. Contested Statelessness in Sabah, Malaysia: Irregularity and the Politics of Recognition. Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies. 15(3): 250-268.

2016. 'Introduction: Encountering Children' and 'Guide to Further Reading.' In Catherine Allerton (ed.) Children: Ethnographic Encounters. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

2016. ' "Difficult" Children: Ethnographic Chaos and Creativity in Migrant Malaysia.' In Catherine Allerton (ed.) Children: Ethnographic Encounters. Londn: Bloomsbury Academic.

2014. Statelessness and the Lives of the Children of Migrants in Sabah, East Malaysia. Tilburg Law Review. Special Issue on Statelessness. 19: 26-34.

2013. Potent Landscapes: Place and Mobility in Eastern Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

2012. Visible relations and invisible realms: speech, materiality and two Manggarai landscapes. In Landscapes Beyond Land (eds) A. Arnason, N. Ellison, J. Vergunst and A. Whitehouse. Oxford: Berghahn, EASA Series.

2012. ‘Landscape, power and agency in Eastern Indonesia’ In Southeast Asian perspectives on power (eds) Liana Chua, Joanna Cook, Nicholas Long and Lee Wilson. London: Routledge, pp67-80.

2012. Making guests, making 'liveliness': The transformative substances and sounds of Manggarai hospitalityJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Special Issue, 'Returning to hospitality: Strangers, guests and ambiguous encounters' (eds) M. Candea and G. da Col. 18: S49-S62.

2009. Introduction: Spiritual Landscapes of Southeast AsiaAnthropological Forum. Special Issue on "Spiritual Landscapes of Southeast Asia: Changing Geographies of Religion and Potency" Vol. 19 (3): 235 - 251.

2009. Static Crosses and Working Spirits: Anti-Syncretism and Agricultural Animism in Catholic West FloresAnthropological Forum. Special Issue on "Spiritual Landscapes of Southeast Asia: Changing Geographies of Religion and Potency" Vol. 19 (3): 271 - 287

2007. What does it mean to be alone? In Questions of Anthropology. Rita Astuti, Jonathan Parry and Charles Stafford (eds). Oxford: Berg. Read the chapter.

2007. Lipsticked brides and powdered children: cosmetics and the allure of modernity in an eastern Indonesian village. In Body arts and modernity, Michael O'Hanlon and Elizabeth Ewart (eds). Wantage: Sean Kingston. 

2007. The secret life of sarongs: Manggarai textiles as super-skinsJournal of Material Culture 12(1): 22-46. 

2004. The path of marriage: journeys and transformation in eastern IndonesiaBijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (BKI) 160(2/3): 339-362.

2003. Authentic housing, authentic culture? Transforming a village into a "tourist site" in Manggarai, eastern IndonesiaIndonesia and the Malay World 31(no. 89): 119-128.

My research

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