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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Dr Alex Flynn

Personal web page

British Academy Fellow in the Department of Anthropology


I work on cultural politics, ethico-aesthetic practice, and political subjectivities, and I have conducted ethnographic research on these issues in Brazil since 2007. I explore how diverse forms of protest, artistic practice, and social mobilisation can be understood as generative and transformational processes, instantiating models of action within the existing real, and rendering beholders into interlocutors. Premised therefore on a perspective which views political performance as participatory public gesture rather than a static object, I research how actors enter upon new ethical engagements with society, and, through processes of 'relational reflexivity', participate in the collective elaboration of meaning.

The majority of my fieldwork on these questions has been conducted with the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), the largest social movement in Latin America. Currently, I am conducting a 3 year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship on the participatory and open-ended potential of relational art in São Paulo. Centred on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in private galleries, state museums, and with artists addressing perceived state violence and injustice, the project traces how relational art intersects with aesthetic and political subjectivities. More widely, the project addresses what an ethnography of an art world can tell us about the emancipatory potential of cultural politics. 

As a result of my work on social mobilisation with an explicitly transformative telos, I am increasingly interested in anthropology's relationship with engagement and how anthropologists envisage and construct a more public anthropology. I am the co-convenor (with Jonas Tinius) of the Anthropologies of Art [A/A] network.


Research Interests

  • Cultural politics
  • Ethico-aesthetic practice
  • Relational aesthetics
  • Social mobilization theory
  • Social movements
  • Contemporary art theory
  • Politics and protest
  • Brazil and the UK
  • Academe and engagement


Chapter in book

  • Flynn, A. & Tinius, J. (2015). Re-imagining Political Subjectivities: Relationality, Reflexivity, and Performance in Rural Brazil. In Anthropology, Theatre, and Development: The Transformative Potential of Performance. Flynn, A. & Tinius, J. Palgrave Macmillan. 33-52.
  • Flynn, A. & Tinius, J. (2015). Reflecting on Political Performance: Introducing Critical Perspectives. In Anthropology, Theatre, and Development: The Transformative Potential of Performance. Flynn, A. & Tinius, J. Palgrave Macmillan. 1-32.

Edited book

Journal Article

Other (Print)

Research Groups