We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Email and Telephone Directory

Staff Profile

Professor Bob Simpson, BA, PhD

Emeritus Professor in the Department of Anthropology

(email at


Bob Simpson is a social anthropologist whose research interests focus broadly on Bioethics, Biomedicine and Biotechnologies.

His current research interests centre on tissue economies and moralities as these relate to organs, gametes and embryos. One of his main research interests is the procurement and use of cadaveric tissue [see New Immortalities]

His work has also explored the encounter between challenging technological developments and local systems of values and beliefs in South Asia. 

Between 2002-04 he held a Wellcome Biomedical Ethics Fellowship which enabled him to carry out research into the reception of new reproductive and genetic technologies in Sri Lanka.

He has also written numerous articles and essays on pedagogy and anthropology.

Recently completed projects include:

  • Biomedical Health Experimentation in South Asia 2010-2012 [£500k- ESRC/DfID - Bob Simpson CI along with Dr Salla Sariola (Durham) and Professor Roger Jeffery and Dr Ian Harper (Edinburgh)].
  • International Science Collaborations and Bioethics. 2007 to 2010 [£1.4million - ESRC - Professor Marilyn Strathern as Principal Investigator and Bob Simpson Co-Investigator [Durham], along with Monica Konrad [Cambridge] and Margaret Sleeboom Faulkner [Sussex].
  • Infertility and the New Reproductive Technologies among British Pakistani Moslems. 2006-2010 [£167k - ESRC - Bob Simpson, Principal Investigator along with Kate Hampshire, Co-Investigator and Mwenza Blell Reseacher]
  • He was also Principal Investigator in 2006 on an ESRC funded Researcher Development Initiative project [£58k, along with Robin Humphrey of Newcastle University] to develop workshops and resources supporting third year PhD students writing up Qualitative data: Writing Across Boundaries. This project is now an advanced training workshop of the Northern Ireland and North East [NINE] Doctoral Training Partnership.

Research Groups

Department of Anthropology

Research Projects

Department of Anthropology

Research Interests

  • Death and Donation
  • Tissue economies [as these relate to organs, gametes and embryos]
  • 'Human subject research' and the ethics of experimentation involving humans
  • Comparative bioethics
  • Kinship and the new reproductive and genetic technologies
  • Kinship, divorce, and relationship breakdown in Western societies
  • Narrative and biography
  • Sri Lanka, ritual tradition and performance

Selected Publications

Authored book

Edited book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Religion: ritual
  • Religion: tradition
  • Religion: Sri Lanka


Indicators of Esteem

  • 2011: REF 2014 Panel Member [Anthropology and Development].:
  • 2010: Member of the editorial board of Anthropology in Action:
  • 2010: Member of the editorial board of LATISS [Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences]:
  • 2010: Member of the ESRC Peer Review College:
  • 2010: Member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Human Tissue Donation in Research and Therapy [2010-2011]:
  • 2010: Member of the Royal Anthroplogical Institute Publications Committee [2009-2011]:
  • 2010: Member of the Royal Anthropological Institute Council:
  • 2010: Member of the Royal Anthropological Institute Medical Anthropology Committee :

Selected Grants

  • 2016: Footprints and Futures: The Time of Anthropology (£12121.21 from Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research)
  • 2011: Volunteers, Donors and Vendors: A Study of the Ethics of Transacting Human Bodily Materials in Contemporary Sri Lanka (£104184.00 from Wellcome Trust)
  • 2010: Biomedical and health experimentation in South Asia (Collaboration with Edinburgh Univ) (£164161.00 from ESRC)
  • 2006: British Pakistani Moslems, infertility and the new (£169282.00 from ESRC)
  • 2006: WRITING ACROSS BOUNDARIES (£43505.27 from ESRC)
  • 2002: NEW REPRODUCTIVE & GENETIC TECHNOLOGIES SRI LANKA (£47614.00 from The Wellcome Trust)