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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


We are one of the largest departments of Anthropology in the UK, spanning social anthropology, evolutionary anthropology and the anthropology of health. In each of these fields we are opening up novel areas of enquiry and have world-leading expertise in a range of topics such as primatology, aesthetics, the evolution of brain and cognition, cultural evolution, rhetoric and public persuasion, energy use, and infant sleep.

We are committed to a broad-based, integrated and interdisciplinary vision of anthropology. We use methods, theories and analysis from biological and social anthropology to understand the human condition in our rapidly-changing world and provide research for public benefit. From work concerned with development and health to cultural evolution and palaeoanthropology, human/animal relations and conservation, we believe that all our research can have positive effects in the wider world and wework actively to make sure this happens.

Our research in the anthropology of health has been enthusiastically taken up and used in medical and domestic settings across the world – our research has been cited and used by UNESCO, UNICEF, the NHS, the World Bank, and Mumsnet. Other instances where we reach beyond academia are the anthropology of bioethics and tensions between energy efficiency and architectural heritage conservation. Our regular research collaborators range from regional partnerships here in Britain’s North East to NGOs in South Asia and Africa, hospitals, conservation groups and energy companies.

Many of these collaborations have emerged from our work in Durham with the university’s interdisciplinary Research Institutes and Research Centres. Members of the department play leading roles in several of these, including the Behaviour, Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, the Centre for the Coevolution of Biology and Culture, and the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab. We have a large and expanding group of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom have come here because of the exciting, interdisciplinary environment in the department and our integrated approach to Anthropology.

Our academics are strongly represented on the editorial boards of international journals: Dr Jo Setchell is Editor-In-Chief of the International Journal of Primatology, Dr Sarah Elton is Editor of the Journal of Human Evolution, Dr Tom Widger is Editor of Medicine Anthropology Theory (Interventions section). Nine of our academics sit on the ESRC peer-review college and Dr Rachel Kendal is the current President-Elect of the Cultural Evolution Society. Our research is supported by a wide range of funding bodies including the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Earthwatch, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), European Commission, The British Academy, The Leverhulme Trust, The Wellcome Trust, and Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Find out more about our research groups in Social Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology, and the Anthropology of Health, or take a look at a Research Showcase of interdisciplinary research strengths and impact case studies