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Professor Stephen M. Lyon, BSc (Goldsmiths'), PhD (Kent)

Personal web page

Chair of the Board of Studies, Department of Anthropology
Head of Department, Department of Anthropology
Travel Approver, Department of Anthropology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41597

(email at

Personal Website


Stephen Lyon obtained a BSc in Social Anthropology from Goldsmiths' College, London in 1993 and his PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Kent in 2002. His primary research interests focus on local politics, patron-client networks and cultural models in Punjab, Pakistan. He has also conducted research on ethnicity and identity both in Pakistan and among Pakistani diaspora.

He has worked with Department for International Development, the International Water Management Institute and the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council on agricultural development in rain fed and canal areas of Punjab. His research on cultural models of nature seeks to address the ways in which Punjabi subsistence farmers might effectively adapt to profound environmental, political and economic changes occurring across Pakistan. His research incorporates computer modelling and ethnographic research to develop robust predictive, explanatory and testable models of social relations in environmental contexts.

He has also carried out research on Jodoshinshu Buddhist Temple networks in western Japan. He is the author of An anthropological analysis of local politics and patronage in a Pakistani village. (2004 Edwin Mellen Press). He is currently one of the managing editors of Structure and Dynamics (University of California eJournal) and was the editor of History and Anthropology (a Routledge journal) from 2009-2015.

Main research themes

I argue throughout the body of my research that, operationally, the only defensible concept of culture is one of competing specialised cultural systems. Such systems are not all equally powerful, nor are they all equally pervasive; an important thread throughout my work is a focus on those cultural systems which would seem to be core to the culture in question. So for example, from the ethnographic body of evidence available, it would appear that the symbolic systems which generate genealogical relationships between people (i.e. kinship terminologies), is a core cultural system in most, if not all extant cultures. Indeed, it may be that some rudimentary form of kinship terminology exists among the great apes suggesting that something we might call proto-cultural systems must have been present in our common ancestors. Other core cultural systems for specific cultures (such as that found in and around both halves of Punjab in South Asia) almost certainly must include basic floral and faunal taxonomic hierarchies, colour classifications, basic principles of honour/self control and of social organisation such as the logic factions. Other cultural systems then build upon core cultural systems and in real life, people must respond to shifting contingencies in ways which best maximise their attainment of their own goals (within the context). Hence, we have unpredictability because there is not a single cultural system guiding attitudes and behaviours, but rather sets of discreet cultural systems which have informed non-core cultural systems (such as legal or religious systems).

Academic Software

Working with the Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing at the University of Kent, I have been involved in trialling purpose built software to deal with the complex data types we typically produce in anthropology. The software tools I have been most involved in testing are the CSAC XML Fieldnote Editor, VideoGROK, the CSAC XML Kinship Editor and KAES (the Kinship Algebra Expert System). I have also taught and use qualitative data analysis software (various flavours of QDA), social networks analysis (both 'easy' and 'impossible' packages). For more information on these and other potentially useful software tools for working with disparate data types please visit

Durham Global Security Institute

From 2011-2015, I was Deputy Directory of the Durham Global Security Institute (DGSi) and the leader of the Contextualising Conflict research strea within DGSi. Anthropology has much to contribute to understanding conflict around the world and to ensuring that attempts to change the world are done effectively. Too often, well intended interventions generate a host of unintended consequences which may appear to be far worse than the problems they were meant to solve. Anthropologists certainly don't offer any magic formulae for making the world an entirely better place, but we are in a good position to identify some of the risks and hopefully help design better solutions. DGSi brings together a diverse range of people with fairly different views about how the world should be and asks them to communicate and argue in productive and meaningful ways. While we can't promise solutions, I sincerely hope that our annual crop of interdisplinary postgraduate students go out in the world and make some of the messes out there a little less dangerous and frightening for everyone.

Research Groups

Department of Anthropology

Durham Global Security Institute

Research Projects

Department of Anthropology

Durham Energy Institute

Research Interests

  • Conflict resolution, political and legal anthropology
  • Cultural Systems
  • Kinship and Social Networks
  • Pakistan
  • Islam
  • Computing and Anthropology

Indicators of Esteem

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

  • Lyon, S.M. (2012), Conceptual Models of Nature in Pakistan, in Bennardo, G. eds, ESE Working Papers 1: Cultural Models of Nature and the Environment: Self, Space, and Causality. DeKalb, Illinois, Institute for the Study of the Environment, sustainability, and Energy, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb IL, 29-34.

Edited book

Edited Journal

Journal Article

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Computers: E-Social Science
  • Conflict and resolution: Pakistani politics
  • Anthropology: Cultural systems
  • Anthropology:
  • Conflict and resolution:
  • Politics & Society:
  • Middle eastern and Islamic studies:


Selected Grants

  • 2015: Transitory Lives: An Anthropological Research of the Migration Crisis in the Mediterranean (£140601.94 from ESRC)
  • 2013: Collaborative Research: Cultural Models of Nature Across Cultures: Space, Causality, and Primary Food Producers (£6645.69 from Northern Illinois University)
  • 2010: Wenner-Gren Workshop Grant for the first European Meeting of the Society for Anthropological Sciences in Pilsen, Czech Republic, $10,000
  • 2007: Wadsworth International Fellowship (Wenner-Gren) £39268.97
  • 2005: From the horses mouth (£6000.00 from C-SAP)
  • 2004: Contextual instantiation of indigenous domain knowledge: An e-science approach. ESRC £5000.
  • 2003: Genealogies of Knowledge - Developing Anthropological Middleware to Support Fieldwork-based Social Science (Investigators: M. Fischer, D. Zeitlyn, N. Ryan (Kent) P. Sillitoe, S. Lyon (Durham)). EPSRC £204,959