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Durham University

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Dr Claudia Merli, PhD (Uppsala)

Honorary Fellow in the Department of Anthropology

(email at


I am a Cultural Anthropologist specialising in anthropology of health/medical anthropology. My path in anthropology developed during my Laurea in Literature and Philosophy (Summa cum Laude) from the University of Rome 'La Sapienza', with a dissertation in Cultural Anthropology on the colonial and postcolonial perceptions of two gender-specific Malay culture-bound syndromes, amok and latah. Expanding my area of investigation across the Malaysian northwestern border, my PhD research and dissertation (2008) in Cultural Anthropology at Uppsala University focused on reproductive health and bodily practices of Muslim women in Southern Thailand, and is published by Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. The book has been reviewed in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 2010 and I was invited to present it at the Royal Anthropological Institute's prestigious seminar series 'Reviewer Meets Reviewed' held at the British Museum (October 2011). At present my broad research interest is the Southeast Asian region and Thailand, and I am conducting fieldwork in Southern Thailand on male and female genital cutting, gendered bodily practices related to reproduction, Buddhist and Muslim female spirit mediums, ethno-religious conflict in Southern Thailand, and the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. I am also investigating matters of fertility and population growth in Thailand's policies. In 2016 I have started fieldwork in Japan with a project on local perceptions on health and volcanic ash, in the area of the Sakurajima volcano, as part of the HIVE consortium (Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions) .

Theoretically, my main aim is to investigate the possibilities offered by the intersections between Foucauldian biopower, biopolitics, governmentality, and phenomenological perspectives on the body, putting the body in context. I explore this theoretical approach together with students of level 4 module 'Body, Politics and Experience'. For my other strand of research, I apply critical perspectives in risk research and anthropological study of post-hazard social processes, especially theological discourses, contextual theodicies and related politics.

During my undergraduate studies I pursued my long-term musical passion and obtained a Diploma of Piano from the Conservatoire of Perugia, followed by one year at the Experimental School of Chamber Music at 'S. Cecilia' Conservatoire in Rome. I was active in both chamber music ensembles and as solo pianist until 2002. My drive for music has recently translated into joining the vibrant activity of the Durham Gamelan Society, where I am learning Javanese gamelan music. In 2014 I have attended a Taiko (Japanese drumming) workshop.

I am General Editor of the Durham Anthropology Journal and curator of the Anthropology of Health Research Group (AHRG) twitter account (at)AnthroHealthDU or

Research Groups

Department of Anthropology

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Research Interests

  • Medical anthropology
  • Body and embodiment
  • Reproductive health
  • Thailand, Muslim minority
  • Female genital cutting
  • Male circumcision
  • Natural hazards, tsunami, catastrophes and religion
  • Ethnopsychiatry, anthropology of mental illness, PTSD
  • Culture-bound syndromes

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2014: — present. Elected member of ASEASUK Executive Committee :
  • 2013: Swedish National Agency for Higher Education: Nominated member of the expert panel to evaluate education in ethnology and anthropology 2011-2014.
  • 2012: — present. Royal Anthropological Institute: Member of the Medical Anthropology Committee
  • 2012: Invitation to act as Rapporteur for ESRC: The Rapporteur is requested to reviewing a grant's End of Award report, Impact report and nominated outputs and then forming a judgement.
  • 2012: Italian Ministry of Education: Evaluator for the Italian Research Quality Exercise VQR 2004-10.
  • 2011: Invited presentation: Seminar "Reviewer meets Reviewed" organised by the Royal Anthropological Institute, British Museum's Centre for Anthropology, London, 20 October. Discussion between Dr Claudia Merli author of ‘Bodily Practices and Medical Identities in Southern Thailand’ and Alyson Brody who reviewed the work for the JRAI.
  • 2009: — present General Editor of Durham Anthropology Journal (DAJ) (from October 2009).:
  • 2009: Invited Chair for the panel 'Locating the subject/object of suffering and intervention' 6th Nordic Medical Anthropology Conference, Gothenburg 11–14 June.:
  • 2007: — present. Invited foreign Member : Research group ‘Pratiques thérapeutiques, transmission des savoirs’ at the Centre Asie du Sud-Est UMR 8170, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris.


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Infant and child health: Male and female genital cutting
  • Religion: Religion and natural hazard, local communities' recovery
  • Conflict and resolution: Thailand, ethno-religious conflict in Southern Thailand


Selected Grants

  • 2016: Seedcorn Funding for research in the Vajont dam disaster area (£13,744)
  • 2015: HIVE: A new evidence base for respiratory Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruption crises (£585963.00 from ELRHA)
  • 2015: HIVE: A new evidence base for respiratory Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruption crises (£7879.00 from ELRHA)
  • 2014: Seedcorn Funding Durham University (£2,315)
  • 2010: 2010: NordForsk Researcher Network "Nordic Network for Philosophical Anthropology" (co-applicant, 900,000 NOK/£96,800)
  • 2008: Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation project grant ‘Pregnancy loss and female spirit mediums in Southern Thailand’ (40,000 SEK/£3,370).
  • 2008: The Royal Society for Humanities and Science in Uppsala publishing support (20,000 SEK/£1,715).
  • 2007: The Lars Hierta Memorial Foundation project grant ‘Female and male circumcision in Southern Thailand’ (36,000 SEK/£3,085).
  • 2005: Margot and Rune Johansson Foundation project grant ‘Tsunami: Buddhist contra Islamic local discourses in Southern Thailand’ (20,000 SEK/£1,715).
  • 2003: Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography project grant (30,000 SEK/£2,580).
  • 2003: The Donner Institute of Åbo Academy, Finland for fieldwork (9,000 EUR).
  • 2002: Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography project grant (30,000 SEK/£2,580).
  • 2001: Full PhD funding Faculty Board Uppsala University