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Department of Anthropology


Durham Anthropology Ranked 3rd in Guardian’s University League Table 2016

Durham University Anthropology Department has been ranked 3rd in the Guardian’s University League Table, up 5 places from 8th in 2015.


The methodology focuses on subject-level league tables, ranking institutions that provide each subject. Measures relate to both input, eg expenditure by the university on its students, and output, eg a graduate’s probability of finding a graduate-level job. The measures are knitted together to get a Guardian score, against which institutions are ranked. Durham Anthropology’s score was 89.6 and only surpassed by UCL with a score of 90.2 and Oxford with a score of 100.


Durham University as a whole improved to 6th in the rankings up from 8th in the previous year. To view the League Table click here.

(27 May 2015)

Dr Jo Setchell Publishes article in The Conversation

Durham Anthropologist, Dr Jo Setchell has published an article in The Conversation. "Why men are not biologically useless afterall..." discusses new research that suggests the reason that we need two sexes is because it improves the overall genetic quality of a species and reduces the risk of population extinction.


To read the article click here.

(26 May 2015)

Durham Undergraduate publishes dissertation project

Laura Attwell, who focussed on anthropology as part of her Natural Sciences degree at Durham between 2010-2012, has recently first-authored a publication with supervisor Dr. Fire Kovarovic and Dr. Jeremy Kendal. “Fire in the Plio-Pleistocene: the functions of hominin fire use, and the mechanistic, developmental and evolutionary consequences” is now available from the Journal of Anthropological Sciences website:


The paper explores the history of our ancestors’ experience with fire in the context of niche construction theory, detailing phases in our increasing use and control of fire and the effect this may have had on biological, behavioural and cultural evolution. Says Dr. Kovarovic, “When we sat down to discuss how we had marked her dissertation, both Jeremy and I realised that she had pulled together information in a way that it had never been presented before. We were impressed and excited by what she had written and asked if she would consider publishing it. Fortunately for the scientific community, she said yes!”


Laura’s dissertation demonstrates the quality of research and insightfulness that undergraduates are capable of; the subsequent publication is a testament to her hard work. Transforming the dissertation into a publishable manuscript required significant dedication and had to weather not only Laura’s entry into the non-academic workforce, but periods of both co-authors’ parental leave! “It’s great to see that undergraduate dissertations can end up being published in academic journals” says Dr. Kendal, “and equally great that Fire has written a paper about fire.”

(26 May 2015)

Durham Anthropology Study takes the World by storm

A recent study from Durham University's Professor Robert Barton has been featured in media outlets totalling a circulation of 2.75 billion people worldwide. 


Dressing in red around the office might have your colleagues seeing you in a different light! The new study has found that when the same person is shown wearing a red-coloured top, rather than a blue one, they tend to be rated as dominant, aggressive, and even more anger-prone by others. 


Listen to the Radio 5 Podcast discussing the findings here or read the article in The Naked Scientist here.

(21 May 2015)

Wearing red can make you appear angry and dominant

Men who wear red clothes send out a signal that they are angry and aggressive, in much the same way as if their face had reddened, suggests research published today.

When 50 male and 50 female volunteers were shown images of men in different coloured t-shirts, they rated those wearing red as more aggressive and angry than those in blue or grey. 

However, while the male volunteers also tended to consider men wearing red as ‘dominant’, the female volunteers did not.

The results of the research may have parallels in nature and could provide insights into whether it is advisable to wear red in certain social situations, said Rob Barton, Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology at Durham University, who led the study.

Red often signals aggression in animals - and the tendency for men to turn red-faced when they are angry is believed to be inherited from our ancient ancestors as a warning sign. In some animal species, red may be displayed by competing males trying to dominate each other to win the right to mate with females, he said.

Professor Barton worked with colleagues Dr Russell Hill and PhD student Diana Wiedemann in the Department of Anthropology, and Dr Mike Burt, of the Department of Psychology, all at Durham University.

Ms Wiedemann, who conducted the experiments, said: “We know that the colour red has an effect on the human brain. This is embedded in our culture, for example the idea of wearing a red tie – known as a ‘power tie’ - for business, or issuing a red alert.

“The implications of our research are that people may wish to think carefully about wearing red in social situations and perhaps important meetings, such as job interviews. Being perceived as aggressive or dominant may be an advantage in some circumstances but a disadvantage in others, for example where teamwork or trustworthiness is important.”

Durham University researchers have previously shown that wearing red can have effects in sport, promoting aggression and competitiveness within teams and intimidating opponents. Professor Barton and his team are currently talking to organisers of combat sports about the possibility of introducing new rules on competitors wearing red, to avoid the colour being used to unfair advantage.

However, the study published today, in the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters, is believed to be the first into the effects of colour on social perceptions of dominance and aggression in neutral settings.

To carry out the research, images of men were digitally manipulated, so they appeared to wear a variety of differently coloured t-shirts. These were shown to the volunteers, who rated them on a scale of 1-7 for both aggression and dominance.

The volunteers were also asked to decide on the emotional state of the man in each image. They tended to choose ‘angry’ for those wearing red, in preference to the other choices of happy, frightened and neutral. 

Professor Barton said: “Taken together, our findings suggest a clear association between the colour red and perceptions of anger, possibly related to the role of facial reddening as a natural sign of anger.”

The Durham research team studied only the effects of men wearing red to limit the number of variables - the results would have been much harder to analyse if they had presented the volunteers with images of both sexes. However, the perceptions of women wearing red may be a topic for future research.

(14 May 2015)

Durham Anthropology at The British Academy Literature Week

Dr. Jamie Tehrani will moonlight at ‘Other Worlds… After Dark’ as part of the British Academy’s Literature Week, a feast of free public events exploring the magic of folk and fairy tales (11th-15th May). For details of Dr. Tehrani’s talk, as well as the rest of the program, please visit the British Academy’s website:

(8 May 2015)

London Anthrology Day 2015

Durham University is taking part in London Anthropology Day 2015 – a free university taster day for Year 12, 13 and FE students, teachers, careers advisors and parents. Join us on 2nd July 2015 at the British Museum to discover what anthropology is all about through interactive workshops, find out about careers and university admissions and meet anthropologists from 25 British universities. For more information and to book go to .

(8 May 2015)

Managing Health Crises after Ebola

The outbreak of Ebola that has affected West Africa since December 2013 is the largest to date, with enormous human and economic costs. It has also exposed weaknesses in the global response system, including the handling of communication and complex social responses. What can we learn from this to better manage future health emergencies?

Durham Anthropologist, Dr Hannah Brown has contributed to the Spotlight on Managing Health Crises after Ebola. To access the article click here.  

(1 May 2015)

Copying varies cross-culturally: People from China rely more on other people’s solutions to complex tasks than people from the UK

(12 Nov 2014) » More about Copying varies cross-culturally: People from China rely more on other people’s solutions to complex tasks than people from the UK

Durham University recognised for advancing gender equality

(4 Sep 2014) » More about Durham University recognised for advancing gender equality

Durham anthropologist Dr Kate Nowak warns about private hunting companies' impact on elephants

Durham anthropologist Dr Kate Nowak has written on the National Geographic's website about the dangers that private hunting companies pose for elephant populations.

She writes that while governments are making increasing efforts to protect elephants and their ecosystems, this effort is threatened by companies that allow trophy hunting and the shooting of wild game for sport.

She recommends that governments impose top-down bans on trophy hunting, lest previous efforts to curb elephant hunting be undone.

Read more on the National Geographic website.

(1 Sep 2014)

Durham MAnth graduate is awarded PhD studentship at Cardiff University

Harriet Quinn-Scoggins, a recent graduate of Durham's MAnth Medical Anthropology degree, has been awarded a fully-funded PhD studentship at Cardiff University sponsored by The Healing Foundation, and based in the School of Medicine and the Cochrane Institute of Primary Care and Public Health.

The MAnth programmes are four-year integrated masters programmes which combine three years of undergraduate study with an additional fourth year of masters-level study.

Harriet's MAnth thesis was conducted within the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab and supervised by Prof Helen Ball. She examined paternal-infant nighttime interactions and how the ideology of the 'new-father' shapes current paternal personal experiences, understanding and knowledge of infant sleep. Harriet says "Although I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate years and masters research at Durham University I am happy to have a change of direction and combine my academic studies with my personal interest in the teaching of first aid."

The Healing Foundation is a national charity championing those living with disfigurement through the funding of holistic research for physical and psychological healing treatments and rehabilitation techniques, alongside raising awareness and preventative measures. Harriet's PhD studentship, titled 'A school based intervention for childhood burns and scalds', will work towards raising awareness and preventative measures. She will be designing and testing a program of teaching for primary school aged children on the topic of burns, scalds and first aid. Childhood burns and scalds are a significant problem and have the potential for life long scarring and psycosocial consequences. While preschool children predominate, there is another peak prevalence in older children as they become involved in food preparation,domestic chores, and high risk behaviours outside the home. Most prevention programs address parents, thus effective prevention and first aid knowledge is limited amongst this age group. Thus there is a perfect gap for a school based intervention to reduce avoidable burns and increase effective first aid. Hopefully the message, if successful, will help to inform the next generation of parents.

Read more about the range of degrees offered by the Department of Anthropology at Durham, and the work of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab.

(1 Sep 2014)

Durham anthropology teaching rated highly in the National Student Survey (NSS)

Durham anthropology undergraduate students have reported high levels of satisfaction with teaching on their course, according to this year’s National Student Survey (NSS).

From a sample of 96 third-year Durham anthropology undergraduates, 94% agreed with the statement “Staff are good at explaining things”, 93% agreed that “Staff have made the subject interesting”, 96% agreed that “Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching”, and 95% agreed that “The course is intellectually stimulating”.

Overall, 91% of Durham anthropology respondents agreed that “Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course”. This is higher than the average of 87% for all UK anthropology departments.

Durham University as a whole achieved a top ten position among Higher Education Institutions, maintaining its position as one of the highest ranked mainstream UK universities for student satisfaction.

The National Student Survey (NSS) is an independent annual survey that evaluates how satisfied students are with the overall quality of their higher education experience. University-level data can be found on the NSS website, while subject-level data will be published in September on the Unistats website.

Read more about Durham’s success in the 2014 National Student Survey.

(12 Aug 2014)

Durham primatologist features on BBC's Talk To The Animals

Durham anthropology PhD student Andrea Donaldson features in BBC One's "Talk To The Animals" this Thursday, 10th July at 20.00

Andrea will be talking about her work with vervet monkeys in Kenya, and how they use alarm calls to communicate with each other about predators.

Find out more about the work of the Primates and Predators research group

Link to the programme (external BBC website)

(10 Jul 2014)

Anthropology PhD graduates attend graduation ceremony

Anthropology PhD graduates Martyn Hurst, Emilio Berrocal, Lyn Robinson, Carolyn O'Connor and Denise Crane attended their graduation ceremony earlier this month at Durham Cathedral.

The photo shows the PhD graduates with present and past Heads of Department Profs Helen Ball and Bob Simpson.

Find out more about PhD research in anthropology at Durham

(7 Jul 2014)

Haringey Bursary for Durham's MSc Energy and Society - deadline extended to July 21st

In partnership with Haringey Council, a student bursary is available for Durham University's MSc in Energy and Society. The deadline for applications has now been extended to July 21st

The bursary covers UK/EU fees plus an amount to cover expenses for dissertation research towards Haringey’s carbon reduction and inequality goals. Dissertation topics should be developed in dialogue with Haringey and their local partners within the following theme:

Changing households and improving domestic energy efficiency? The role of the Green Deal Communities Funding programme.

Applications will be considered on the quality of a research proposal put forward in relation to the above theme. The actual project undertaken will be developed with guidance from course tutors and in dialogue with Haringey council.

Applicants for the bursary should hold an offer of a place on the MSc Energy and Society. If you do not already have an offer, please apply via the university’s online application website.

Bursary applications should use the attached outline and be submitted by 21st July 2014 as email attachments to:

Find out more about Durham's MSc Energy and Society

For further information about Haringey Carbon Commission, see:

Priority will be given to applicants resident in the borough of Haringey.

(7 Jul 2014)

Dr Paolo Fortis organises Art & Anthropology Workshop

Durham anthropologist Dr Paolo Fortis has organised a workshop at the Royal Anthropological Institute on Art & Anthropology to be held on Friday 4th July 2014.

Five speakers, including Paolo, will address the past and future contributions that anthropology can make to the study of art. Paolo's talk is entitled "The aesthetics of power and alterity among Kuna people".

Find out more about the workshop


(2 Jul 2014)

Durham anthropologist Frances Thirlway appears on BBC Newcastle radio to discuss smoking in the NE

PhD researcher Frances Thirlway appeared on BBC Newcastle's Breakfast Show on 24th March to contribute to a discussion on smoking in the North-East of England.

Frances' research is a multi-generational ethnography of a former mining village in County Durham, with a specific application to smoking as cultural practice. Her work relates to identity, class and culture, and is strongly rooted in local history.

Click here to download an audio clip on Frances talking on the show (courtesy of BBC Newcastle)

(19 Jun 2014)

Dr Nayanika Mookherjee participates in Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

Dr. Nayanika Mookherjee from the Department of Anthropology at Durham was invited as an expert and delegate to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict held in London from 10-13th June, which was co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy and actor Angelina Jolie.

The summit brought together government representatives including 79 Ministers from 129 countries; 1,700 delegates in total including 8 UN Agency Heads, as well as presidents and prosecutors from the ICC and international tribunals, and over 300 delegates from conflict affected countries.

There were more than 20 expert sessions looking at every aspect of ending sexual violence in conflict from children affected by conflict to investigating and prosecuting these crimes, to the role of faith leaders, military and peace-keeping reforms and how to prevent and respond to sexual violence in humanitarian emergencies.

Dr. Mookherjee is currently on a British Academy mid career fellowship examining 'war babies.'

Read more about the summit on the BBC News website.

(18 Jun 2014)

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