Dr Chloe Nahum-Claudel

Dr Chloe Nahum-Claudel

Leverhulme Trust early career fellow

Department of Anthropology

Room No
OLD 6.06A
Office Hours
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English, French
Key Expertise
Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Amazonia, Melanesia

About me

Chloe Nahum-Claudel is a specialist in the anthropology of Amazonia and Melanesia. Her current work centres on the relationship between diplomacy and violence, approached through the study of indigenous societies’ ritualised responses to colonial and postcolonial ruptures. In the Amazonian context, she focused on the ritual effort to control and contain the rupture implied by hydropower developments by engaging diplomatically with foreign resource masters – both antagonistic spirits and state agents. In PNG her concentration is on contemporary witch hunts as they are grounded in the enduring centrality of blood sacrifice, male warrior sociality and local sovereignty, and have been transformed by Christian and legal imaginaries.

More generally, she is interested in comparative theorisations of the relationship between religion and political life; in the ways sex and kinship can anchor both conflict and community; and in subsistence economies (agriculture, hunting, fishing and food systems) as they relate at both to local cosmology and human evolution.

She conducts fieldwork in Brazil’s Mato Grosso State (since 2006), with the Enawenê-nawê who live in the southern fringes of the Amazon watershed and, since 2015, in the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea, in a rural part of Simbu Province with high rates of urban migration, where commitments to subsistence agriculture and urban livelihoods overlap.

Contemporary Witch Hunts in Papua New Guinea

Since 2015 Chloe has been researching the perceived rise in witchcraft and its violent resolution in a self-consciously Christian and modern Papua New Guinea, with fieldwork in Simbu Province, where Sangguma, as witchcraft is called in PNG’s creole is said to originate. Her central aim in this ongoing research, drawing on her Brazilian work on the political dimensions of ritual and the relationship between diplomacy and violence, is to understand how the contemporary witch hunt emerged historically, who it serves, and its effects. An emerging focus is the specificity of torture as a gendered dynamic that occurs within the bonds of patriline solidarity.

This research, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is based both on oral history testimonies of persons accused of witchcraft, their torturers and the masterminds of recent witch hunts, and wider research on kinship and gender-based conflicts that are the wellspring of witchcraft fears; on death, illness and funerals, which unleash witch hunts, and in local courts and churches, where Simbu people seek reconciliation and stability in their often turbulent lives.

Vital Diplomacy

Diplomacy is a unifying theme of Chloe’s Brazilian research with the Enawenê-nawê, which focused on the political dimensions of ritual activity in a context of hydropower exploitation. How might playing flutes, dancing and feasting be a training ground for road blocks, high-level meetings in Brasilia and acts of political warfare? As part of this research Chloe has explored indigenous responses to hydroelectric damming in the Amazon watershed; appropriations of bureaucracy; and indigenous media. Another strand of her Amazonian work considers the semiotic, political economic and evolutionary dimensions of indigenous technology and livelihood, covering topics such as feasting, the control of fire, and entrapment.

Chloe obtained her PhD in 2012 from the University of Cambridge. Before coming to the LSE as a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in 2017, she has held postdoctoral fellowships at the EHESS in Paris, and at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. She has taught courses on Ethnographic Method, Anthropological Theory, Kinship, Latin American Anthropology, and Indigeneity.

Selected publications


Vital Diplomacy: The Ritual Everyday on a Dammed River in Amazonia. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2018. 

Special Issues

Nahum-Claudel & de Vienne. Homo Diplomaticus, Revue Terrain, Vol. 73, 2020

Nahum-Claudel & Allard. Cosmology and Practice in Amazonia, Tipiti, Vol.16 (2), 2019

Nahum-Claudel & Corsín-Jimenez. The Anthropology of Traps, Journal of Material Culture 24 (4), 2019


‘Pyrotechnical Mastery and Humanization: Amazonian Cuisine, Care and Craft in Evolutionary and Semiotic Perspective’ Current Anthropology 61:4, 2020.

with Emmanuel de Vienne. ‘Anthropology and diplomacy: Is another form of diplomacy possible?’ (Special Issue Introduction) Revue Terrain Vol. 73, 2020. 

with Olivier Allard. ‘Cosmology and Practice in Amazonia’ (Special Issue Introduction) Tipití: The Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 2019.

‘In Permanent Transition: Multiple Temporalities of Communitas in the Enawenê-nawê Ritual Everyday’ Anthropology Today 35 (3) 11-15, 2019.

with Alberto Corsín Jimenez. ‘The Anthropology of Traps: Concrete Technologies and Theoretical Interfaces’ (Special Issue Introduction) Journal of Material Culture 24(4), 2019.

From Mastery to Subjection: An Embodied Ethics of Entrapment in Amazonia’. Journal of Material Culture 24 (4), 2019. 

‘The Curse of Souw among the Amazonian Enawenê-nawê’ The Culture of Invention in the Americas: Anthropological Experiments with Roy Wagner (eds.) P. Pitarch and J. A. Kelly. Pages 211-233, 2018, Hereford: Sean Kingston

with Nathalie Pétesche & Cédric Yvinec. ‘Pourquoi Filmer sa Culture? Rituel et Patrimonialisation en Amazonie Brésilienne (Karajá, Enawenê-nawê, Suruí du Rondônia)’, 2017.

FeastingThe Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Anthropology (eds) F. Stein, S. Lazar, M. Candea, H. Diemberger, C. Kaplonski, J. Robbins, R. Stasch, 2017. http://www.anthroencyclopedia.com/entry/feasting

‘The To and Fro of Documents: Vying for Recognition in Enawene-nawe Dealings with the Brazilian State’ Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 21 (3) 498–516, 2016.

‘Enawene-nawe “Potlatch Against the State”’ Social Anthropology: Journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists 20 (4) 444–457, 2012.