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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Professor Jamie Tehrani

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41631

(email at


My research focuses on how culture evolves as it gets transmitted from person to person and from generation to generation. I am interested in understanding what makes some things catch on, others die out, and how these processes shape patterns of cultural diversity within and across populations. I was trained in social anthropology at the London School of Economics and gained a Master's degree in Human Evolution and Behaviour at University College London. I remained at UCL to study for a PhD in Anthropology (2005), writing my thesis on the transmission of craft traditions in Iranian tribal groups. In 2006 I took up a postdoctoral research fellowship at the AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity (CECD) at University College London, before joining Durham in 2007 as a RCUK Fellow. I was appointed as a Lecturer in Anthropology at Durham in 2012 and made a Chair in 2020. My current work focuses mainly on the transmission of popular narratives, such as traditional folktales, urban legends and modern day conspiracy theories.

Research Groups

Department of Anthropology

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Research Interests

  • Cultural evolution
  • Phylogenetic analysis of culture
  • Social learning
  • Cognitive anthropology
  • Oral traditions
  • Fairy tales

Selected Publications

Edited Journal

  • Tehrani, J.J. (2018). Cultural Evolution Research Collection. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.
  • Kendal, J., Tehrani, J. & Odling-Smee, J. (2011). Human Niche Construction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 366 (1566).

Chapter in book

  • Tehrani, Jamshid J. (2020). Descent with Imagination: Oral Traditions as Evolutionary Lineages. In Evolutionary Perspectives on Imaginative Culture. Carroll, J., Clasen, M. & Jonsson, E. Springer. 273-289.
  • Tehrani, J. J. & d'Huy, J. (2017). Phylogenetics meets folklore: bioinformatics approaches to the study of international folktales. In Maths Meets Myths: Quantitative Approaches to Ancient Narratives. Kenna, R., McCarron, M. & McCarron, P. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. 91-114.
  • Tehrani, J. & Collard, M. (2013). Do Transmission Isolating Mechanisms (TRIMS) influence cultural evolution? Evidence from patterns of textile diversity within and between Iranian tribal groups. In Understanding Cultural Transmission in Anthropology: A Critical Synthesis. Ellen, R., Lycett, S. & Johns, S. Berghahn. 26: 148-164.
  • Tehrani, J. (2011). Missing links: species, artefacts and the cladistic reconstruction of prehistory. In Evolutionary and Interpretive Archaeologies - A Dialogue. Cochrane, E. & Gardner, A. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press. 245 - 263.
  • Tehrani, J. & Layton, R. (2009). Genes versus culture. In Thinking About Almost Everything. Amin, A. & O'Neill, M. Profile Books. 54 - 57.
  • Tehrani, J. & Collard, M. (2009). The evolution of material culture diversity among Iranian tribal populations. In Pattern and Process in Cultural Evolution. Shennan, S. University of California Press. 99-111.
  • Collard, M., Shennan, S. & Tehrani, J. (2006). Branching versus blending in macroscale cultural evolution: a comparative study. In Mapping Our Ancestors. Lipo, C., O'Brien, M., Collard, M. & Shennan, S. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction. 53-63.
  • Collard, M. & Tehrani, J. (2005). Phylogenesis versus ethnogenesis in Turkmen cultural evolution. In The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach. Mace, R., Holden, C. & Shennan, S. London: UCL Press. 109-132.

Journal Article

Book review

Newspaper/Magazine Article

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Anthropology: The evolution of cultural diversity
  • Anthropology: Cultural transmission
  • Anthropology: The evolution of fairy tales and folk stories
  • Anthropology: History of anthropological thought