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Professor in the Department of AnthropologyD106B+44 (0) 191 33 41622
Associate Member in the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS)  


I read English Literature at Durham, later moving to social anthropology at Cambridge University. Inbetween I worked for a number of central government departments in Britain and Turkey. I moved to the Durham Anthropology Department in 2012 after ten years in Goldsmiths.

I’ve carried out fieldwork in Turkey, Kazakhstan and Britain. Most of that has been on changing relations between state, market and the third sector, the built environment, local and central bureaucracy, migration, and various forms of waste and recycling (repair, reuse, recovery etc). My last period of fieldwork explored how formerly elite closed ‘nuclear’ towns in Kazakhstan were trying to re-connect to broader economies.

I’m currently on a Leverhulme Trust research fellowship (2019-2022) thinking about how different forms and fears of failure affect complex organisations, such as large science collaborations, and how they are experienced by the people who work within them.

Research interests

  • Economic and political anthropology
  • Changing property regimes
  • Privatisation
  • Third / voluntary sector
  • wastes (including recycling)
  • Bureaucracy
  • Indeterminacy
  • Failure
  • Inequalities
  • Migration
  • Urban anthropology
  • Social/public housing
  • post-socialism
  • Middle East (Turkey)
  • Central Asia (Kazakhstan)
  • Britain

Research groups


Authored book

  • Alexander, C. (2002). Personal States: making connections between people and bureaucracy in Turkey. Oxford University Press.

Chapter in book

Edited book

  • Alexander, Catherine & Sosna, Daniel (2022). Thrift and its Paradoxes: From Domestic to Political Economy. Max Planck Studies in Anthropology and Economy. Berghahn Books.
  • Alexander, C. & Sanchez, A. (2018). Indeterminacy: waste, value and the imagination. Wyse Series in Social Anthropology, 7. New York Oxford: Berghahn Books.
  • Alexander, C. & Reno, J. (2012). Economies of Recycling: The global transformation of materials, values and social relations. London & New York: Zed Books.
  • Alexander, C., Buchli, V. & Humphrey, C. (2007). Urban life in post-Soviet Asia. UCL Press (Routledge).

Edited Journal

  • Alexander, Catherine (2023). After Failure. Special Issue. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Wiley.
  • Alexander, C & O'Hare, Patrick (2020). Technologies of unknowing waste: displacement, depoliticisation and disappearance. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, Taylor &Francis.
  • Alexander, Catherine, Hojer Bruun, Maja, & Koch, Insa (2018). Moral Economies of Housing. Critique of Anthropology, 38 (2): Sage Publications Ltd.

Journal Article


  • Gregson, N & Alexander, C (2017). What is Waste? Government Office for Science.

Supervision students