From the Editor’s Point of View: Ethnography in the 21st Century

The Centre for Ethnographic Research (CER) welcomes the editors of four academic journals that support ethnography. They will briefly outline their vision about publishing ethnography in the 21st century, focusing on the challenges and advantages set by the medium of the ‘the journal article’. The format of the event will encourage the development of an informal discussion in response to questions raised by potential authors in the audience. A panel of Kent-ethnographers will start a session of questions, interrogating the relationship between the point of view of authors and journal editors.

The four editors participating are: Dr Elizabeth Hallam (JRAI), Dr Michaela Benson (Sociological Review), Professor Martin Holbraad  (Social Analysis), Dr Robin Smith (Qualitative Research).

The event will take place on March 24th between 16:00 and 18:00 in the Swingland Room, Marlowe Building, and is sponsored by CER and the Faculty of Social Science. The event page, featuring a detailed programme, can be viewed here.

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Dr Anna Waldstein publishes new book

Dr Anna Waldstein has had a new book published by Carolina Academic Press entitled Living Well in Los Duplex. The book offers critical reflections on medicalisation, migration and health sovereignty.


Thirty years of public health research in the United States suggests that Mexican migrants are healthier than most American citizens. This ethnography of ‘Los Duplex’, a Mexican migrant neighbourhood in Athens, Georgia, shows that the health sovereignty of migrants helps explain why they have better health profiles than American citizens whose lives are more medicalised. While most Americans rely on medical authorities to manage their health through the consumption of pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures, Mexicans cultivate their own holistic healing alternatives as they build communities in the United States. In the strong social networks of Los Duplex, eating traditional Mexican foods, using home remedies, gardening and performing other physical activities, and keeping control over their emotions all help keep migrants healthy. This book, therefore, raises the following question: Are the relatively positive health profiles of Mexican migrants because (rather than in spite) of their limited access to professional medical care?

The book can be purchased here.

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Call for Papers on Human-Plant relationships

For an upcoming symposium to be hosted by the Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD), we are seeking papers and posters that explore the diversity of Plant Worlds and their contemporary transformations, historically and cross-culturally, and while we are open to all topics that students might be pursing in this broad field, we highlight the following areas of interest:

  • The dynamics of plant knowledge: formation, instantiation, transmission and transformation
  • The new bioeconomy: bioprospecting in the new global disorder
  • Biocultural diversity conservation: experiences of engagement with salvage ethnobotany, language preservation and plant conservation
  • Multispecies ethnobotany: examining the dynamic relationships among people, plants and animals in the Anthropocene

Abstracts of 300 words (max.) for 20 minute oral, or poster, presentation on any of the themes outlined above are invited from masters and doctoral level students in any field concerned with plant knowledge and its production. Postgraduates, undergraduates, post-doctoral and early career researchers, as well as more senior academics are welcome to attend the conference.

Deadline for submission of abstracts: March 31st 2017
Abstracts should be emailed to

For full details of the symposium, please visit the event webpage.

Bursaries: A number of travel bursaries are available for student presenters.
If interested please enquire when submitting your abstract.

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It may not have been too late to save ‘extinct’ pigeon

The Passenger Pigeon, a species of pigeon that died out in the early years of the 20th century, could have been saved even after it was considered doomed to extinction.

As a result of this research, conservationists now have a model to test for functional extinction – defined as a total reproductive failure – allowing them to question species’ extinctions in the past, as well as those that may be heading towards extinction. In the case of the Passenger Pigeon, it dispels the theory that it underwent functional extinction.

Research by conservationists at DICE, with colleagues in Germany and the US, discovered that the species did not actually experience functional extinction prior to its actual extinction in the early years of the 20th century.

The team, led by Dr David Roberts, applied a new statistical method to a record of museum specimens of physical remains to test for functional extinction of the Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). Functional extinction is more difficult to detect because changes in reproductive events can be difficult to observe.

Although it is now too late for the Passenger Pigeon, the results of the research demonstrate that captive breeding efforts were not necessary if hunting controls had been put in places as had been proposed. The results suggest that proposals to reverse the Passenger Pigeon’s rapid decline in the late 19th century could have been successful. The demise of the Passenger Pigeon was a major impetus for Federal legislation to protect other wild birds from the same fate.

On the functional extinction of the Passenger Pigeon by David L. Roberts, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, Ivan Jarić, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin, Germany and Andrew R. Solow, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA, is published in Conservation Biology.

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DICE Annual Lecture 2017

The Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology and the School of Anthropology and Conservation are delighted to invite you to attend the annual DICE reception and lecture for 2017, presenting Tony Juniper as the speaker for the evening. The lecture is taking place on Thursday 9 March at 18.30 in Woolf Lecture Theatre. Tony Juniper is an independent sustainability and environment advisor, working as Special Advisor to the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit, as a Fellow with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, and as co-founder of the sustainability consultancy group Robertsbridge.

For more information about this event please visit our Facebook page. If you have any questions, please contact the Corporate Events team on 01227 824347 or email them.

Talk title: Why ecology and economy must embrace

The ongoing degradation of the natural world is often presented as a regrettable but inevitable ‘price of progress’. Conventional wisdom holds that in order to achieve economic ‘growth’, the environment must be sacrificed as part of a balance between the protection of habitats and prevention of pollution on the one hand, and promotion of people’s interests and combatting poverty on the other. While superficially believable, this line of thinking is, however, a dangerous and deeply flawed misconception. In reality, the healthy and functioning natural systems underpin all aspects of our welfare, from the recycling of nutrients in soils that sustain food production to the replenishment of water supplies by forests: the more we degrade ecosystems, the more in the end we will imperil development. We must urgently fuse ecology and economy, not only to protect nature, but the interests of people too.

Tony Juniper biography

Tony Juniper is an independent sustainability and environment advisor, working as Special Advisor to the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit, as a Fellow with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, and as co-founder of the sustainability consultancy group Robertsbridge. He is President of the Wildlife Trusts and of the Society for the Environment, a Trustee of Fauna and Flora International, and a Harmony Professor of Practice at the University of Wales Trinity St David. Juniper speaks and writes widely on conservation and sustainability themes and is the author of many books, including the multi-award winning best-seller “What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?” published in 2013.

He began his career as an ornithologist, working with Birdlife International. From 1990 he worked at Friends of the Earth, initially leading the campaign for tropical rainforests, and from 2003 to 2008 was the organisation’s Executive Director. From 2000 to 2008 he was Vice Chair of Friends of the Earth International. Juniper was the first recipient of the Charles and Miriam Rothschild medal (2009) and was awarded honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the Universities of Bristol and Plymouth. His latest books are “What’s Really Happening To Our Planet?: The Facts Simply Explained”, published in June 2016, and “Climate Change (A Ladybird Expert Book)”, which was co-authored with HRH the Prince of Wales and Emily Shuckburgh, and published in January 2017.

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Professor João de Pina-Cabral publishes new book

Professor João de Pina-Cabral has had a new book published by HAU books at the University of Chicago Press entitled World: An Anthropological Examination. The book explores the conditions of possibility of the ethnographic gesture and how these shed light on the relationship between humans and the world in which they find themselves.


What do we mean when we refer to world? How does the world relate to the human person? Are the two interdependent and, if so, in what way? What does world mean for an ethnographer or an anthropologist? Much has been said of worlds and worldviews, but do we really know what we mean by these words? Asking these questions and many more, this book explores the conditions of possibility of the ethnographic gesture, and how these shed light on the relationship between humans and the world in the midst of which they find themselves.

As Pina-Cabral shows, recent decades have seen important shifts in the way we relate human thought to human embodiment—the relation between how we think and what we are. The book proposes a novel approach to the human condition: an anthropological outlook that is centered around the notions of personhood and sociality. Through a rich confrontation with ethnographic and historical material, this work contributes to the ongoing task of overcoming the theoretical constraints that have hindered anthropological thinking over the past century.

World: An Anthropological Examination is available as an open access publication, but can also be purchased from the University of Chicago Press.


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Postgraduate Open Event – Tuesday 7th March

The next Postgraduate Open Event is to be held on Tuesday 7th March between 17:00 and 19:00. It will provide an opportunity to talk to academic and admissions staff about postgraduate study at our campuses in the UK and specialist centres in Tonbridge and across Europe.

Kent’s open events give you the chance to:

  • Find out more about Kent’s £9m postgraduate scholarship fund
  • Get all the latest information about the new £10,000 loans for Master’s students
  • Get answers to your questions about postgraduate taught and research opportunities at Kent
  • Meet current postgraduate students
  • Speak to staff for expert advice about the application process, funding, accommodation and future career options
  • Talk to the Graduate School about how they support all Kent’s postgraduate students with additional training, study facilities and social events

Book your place at this open event now.

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Can religion make us more environmentally friendly?

In an article for BBC Earth, DICE alumna Niki Rust highlights the fact that eight out of ten people around the world consider themselves religious. Whilst in many countries religion is not as dominant as it once was, it still has a huge influence on us.

But what does that mean for the environmental movement? Does a belief in God or the supernatural make people more or less likely to take care of animals and the environment?

Drawing on a wide-range of sources, including DICE alumna Emma Shepheard-Walwyn’s PhD thesis, Niki articulates that conflicts arising in the perception of protected areas and endangered species depend on not whether a person is religious, but rather the form their religion takes, be it different branches of a single faith or level of devotion to it. She argues that conservationists must frame their messages differently depending on their audience, and need to integrate their ideas into religious thinking.

Yet conservationists and religious leaders have grown apart, mostly because the former have ignored the opinions of religious communities because of a false belief that religion and science do not mix. Niki highlights some groups that are trying to bridge the gap, including The Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC), a secular body that helps faith leaders to create environmental programmes based on their faith’s core beliefs and practices, and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), an organisation that was a cornerstone in the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change.

Niki provides tentative evidence that this sort of approach can work. A 2013 study in Indonesia by one of our honorary research associates, Jeanne McKay, showed that incorporating conservation messages into Islamic sermons increased both public awareness and levels of concern. Beyond that, the ARC argues that conservationists can learn a lot from religion about how to engage people and build support. After all, religions are famously good at garnering lots of followers all devoted to a common cause, and telling compelling stories that can inspire and inform. Crucially, they also tend to celebrate what we already have rather than focusing on what we have lost.

In the words of McKay, when so many conservation stories confront their audience with narratives of doom and gloom, “using faith-based approaches can prove to be a positive way forward and has the potential to gain far-reaching benefits rather than staying confined to a conventionally science-based approach.”

The full article can be read here.

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‘Make Social Science Great’ – Call for papers.

Title: Make Social Science Great: Shifting the Political Voice of the Social Sciences.
Date: Saturday 13th May, 2017, 10:30 – 17:30, University of Kent.

The world is asking for better ways of ordering and ideas for grasping the complexity of life that exists in the gulf between the individual and a globalised planet. What does social science have to offer? May the 13th will be a day to share and discuss answers to this question emerging from the work of social science research, as well as a keynote speech from world-leading economic anthropologist Professor Keith Hart.

Call for submissions by Postgraduate students (deadline 27th March 2017) is now open. Registration is also open for Staff, Post/Undergraduate Students for Keynote and/or Presentations/Discussions. Both can be applied for through the event’s website.

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John (Horsley Russell) Davis, 1938-2017

The death has just been announced of John Davis, on 15 January. John was on the anthropology staff of the University of Kent from 1966 to 1990, and Professor of Social Anthropology from 1982. In 1990 he moved to Oxford as head of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, became Warden of All Souls College in 1995, where he remained until his retirement in 2008.

Between 1958 and 1961, John read history as an undergraduate at University College Oxford, after which he moved to the London School of Economics for postgraduate studies. It was here that he first met three individuals who were to shape his enduring preoccupations. The first was Paul Stirling, who was at the time undertaking pioneer work in Mediterranean ethnography; the second was Raymond Firth, who influenced his thought in the area of economic anthropology; and the third Lucy Mair, whose sharp mind and no-nonsense concise writing style he much approved of and actively emulated. Under Stirling’s supervision he undertook fieldwork in southern Italy, completing his PhD in 1969, a study published as Land and Family in Pisticci, 1973. His debt to Mair was later to be reflected in his editing of a festschrift (Choice and Change, 1974) and by christening the first Kent Anthropology server with the name ‘Lucy’.

In 1966 John moved to Kent, part of a group of other LSE staff and students who were to form the nucleus of a board of studies later to become the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology. John often said that he was ‘made at Kent’, and certainly this was where his best work was undertaken: his influential essays on exchange, his synthesis of Mediterranean ethnography (People of the Mediterranean, 1977), and his ground-breaking work on long-distance traders in Gaddafi’s Libya (Libyan politics: tribe and revolution, 1987). In the early days at Kent, John both benefited from and contributed to the intellectual synergy between his own work and that of his colleagues in sociology, such as Ray Pahl (with whom he shared an interest in the informal economy) and Derek Allcorn (whose theoretical acumen and sense of humour he much admired). This synergy played an important role in integrating John’s Mediterranean interests into mainstream social theory, in developing a distinctive economic anthropology of complex industrial societies through ground-breaking analysis of gift-giving, sub-economies and exchange (Exchange, 1992), as well in his pioneering ethnography of Libya, which explored the interconnections between a modern ‘hydrocarbon society’ and a pre-existing segmentary lineage system.

As a teacher, John will be remembered for his innovations to the curriculum, such as ‘Understanding other cultures’ (a joint course with philosophy), and perhaps less so for ‘L’Année Sociologique‘ (an attempt to bring analytical rigour to the writings of Durkheim and allied thinkers associated with this early twentieth century French periodical). ‘L’Année Sociologique‘ was disappointingly short-lived and recruited few students, not only because of the intellectual rigour expected, but because a condition of registration was complete fluency in reading French. More popular, instructively entertaining several cohorts of students during the 1980s, was his creation of ‘Potlatch’, a simulation game that sought to capture the dynamic properties of the eponymous Kwakiutl institution of competitive exchange. It was also John Davis who founded the Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing in 1985, which was to place Kent at the forefront of innovations in computing applications that have now become standard throughout academia. John liked good wine and fine dining, and would seldom be seen without his pipe. He was a raconteur of the first order, eminently clubbable, and with a self-conscious ‘donnish’ wit.  Entertaining and amusing both as guest and host, during the 1980s he would invite the Tuesday anthropology research seminar back to his spacious kitchen in St Thomas Hill, where discussion would often continue over pasta and salad, even after John himself had discretely withdrawn to his bed. During his period at Kent, John married Dymphna Hermans (later separated) with whom he had three children.

John made an important contribution to the professional life of anthropology, being Chairman of the European Association of Social Anthropologists from 1993 to 1994 and President of the Royal Anthropological Institute between 1997 and 2001. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1988. On moving to Oxford he spent five years as head of ISCA before becoming Warden of All Souls, a position he relinquished in 2008.

At All Souls John enthusiastically embraced the role of Warden, researching and writing the history of the college fellowship, from an inevitably anthropological perspective and in his inimitable style. With Scott Mandelbrote (2013) he produced The Warden’s Punishment Book of All Souls College, Oxford, 1601-1850, for the Oxford Historical Society. His retirement was unfortunately plagued by ill-health and a premature withdrawal from mainstream academic life. He will be remembered as a clever man, by turns charming, funny, intellectually incisive, and always supportive of students, friends and colleagues.

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