Department of Social Anthropology


The Department has a number of academic specialisations, backed up by field work conducted across the globe.

Research centres and interests

We host, or are involved in, four research centres:

  • CAS—The Centre for Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies
  • CCS—The Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies
  • CPS—The Centre for Pacific Studies
  • LACNET—St Andrews Latin American and Caribbean Network (interdisciplinary network)

Research Projects

European Consortium for Pacific Studies (ECOPAS)

The University of St Andrews, Centre for Pacific Studies (CPS), is the UK member of the European Consortium for Pacific Studies (ECOPAS), a European Commission FP7 funded project consisting of six universities; four based in Europe and two in the Pacific. ECOPAS addresses issues and concerns arising from ‘climate change’ in the region by adopting a people centred approach that reflects Pacific needs.

In order to do this we are developing a long-term strategy for SSH research in the Pacific; we are forging links with climate research in the natural sciences, and engaging with policy communities in Europe and the Pacific with the aim of defining better options for sustainable development. You can find out more about CPS involvement and ECOPAS activities on the Centre’s homepage, the ECOPAS project website or by joining us on Facebook.

Rebellions, Alliances and Politics

The research project on Rebellions, Alliances and Politics aims to compare and contrast social unrest, upheaval and alliances in the Brazilian Amazon with the Guianas, Mexico and the Andes between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. This research breaks new ground by comparatively discussing ethnicity, race and class in territories that were under British, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch rule, in which people were subject to different laws, policies and economies, and where independence happened (if at all) at different moments.

This approach will bring to light how regional experience re-articulates itself (or not) in relation to global processes and pressures, and how uniqueness can be questioned or reaffirmed within its Latin American context. This research project is jointly funded by a Leverhulme Research Project Grant awarded to Dr. Mark Harris (2013-2016) and a British Academy Small Research Grant awarded to Dr. Silvia Espelt Bombín and Dr. Mark Harris (2014-2015).

Research fellows

An intergenerational analysis of forced child-relocation in Italy

This research is being conducted by Dr Stavroula Pipyrou under a 3 year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship from September 2014.

During the 1950s, following a series of natural disasters, tens of thousands of children aged 3-12 years old were sent from southern Italy to live with new families in the north. This nongovernmental aid initiative was invoked by the Italian Communist Party with the intention to save southern children from famine, illness and the immediate risk of death from natural disasters. The project explores the impact and long-term effects of this forced relocation, showing how political power struggles shaped post-disaster relief and the lives of stricken populations. A micro-historical and ethnographic analysis reveals how long-past national aid initiatives and disaster relief programmes continue to have profound effects in the present.

Fracking Dreams: Corporate morality and environmental politics in a new ‘energy economy’ in the United States

This research is being conducted by Dr Mette High under a 3 year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship from January 2014.

The technology of 'hydraulic fracturing', also known as 'fracking', has made headlines across the world for its potential to release incredible amounts of oil and natural gas from the underground's shale formations. But it has also received criticism for polluting water sources, setting in motion earthquakes, and prolonging our dependence on fossil fuels. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, this project, which runs from 2013 to 2016, explores how oil and gas company workers make sense of the fracking boom. Ethnographic research is being carried out primarily in Weld County, Colorado, which to date hosts roughly 18,000 oil and gas wells. At a time when 'fracking' is becoming an increasingly sensitive issue, this project seeks to offer a rare apolitical lense on how liberal political reforms and fears of energy dependency relate to new forms of value creation.