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Dr Chris Kaplonski


Chris was one of the first English-speaking anthropologists to carry out extensive fieldwork in post-socialist Mongolia, where he has worked on memory, identity, and political violence and its aftermath. He currently works on the intersection of consumption, sustainability and the sense of taste through a study of wine-making and consumption in Austria and the UK.

Subject groups/Research projects


Research Interests

Consumption; Sustainability; Post-socialism; Sovereignty; Political Violence; Anthropology of the senses; Identity; Memory; Digital Anthropology; Inner Asia

My current research project examines the intersection of consumption, sustainability and ethics through the lens of the sense of taste. Phrased concisely, the project asks: ‘how do our beliefs about the world affect the way we taste?’ More specifically, the project looks at several types of sustainable wine-making in Austria, and how both consumers and producers negotiate the potential conflict between taste and belief.

The most radical forms of sustainable wine-making, biodynamic and natural (also known as low-intervention) wine-making often lead to wine that tastes, looks and even smells substantially different than the wine most consumers will be familiar with. This presents a unique opportunity to understand how people enact beliefs not simply when they are challenged by other beliefs, but by their own sensual experiences. If an ethical stance leads to strange, discomforting or even unsettling sensory experiences, how is this reconciled?

This project encompasses not only issues of personal taste and consumption, but also political economy more broadly. For many types of wines the ‘typical taste’ is determined by a panel of experts, and expectations of taste thus play a key role in how wine is labelled and presented to the public.

The project distinguishes itself from other work on ethical eating, such as vegetarianism, veganism, or even the Slow Food movement, insofar as these are based on including or excluding categories of items, and by extension, taste, as a result of beliefs. Anthroenology on the other hand engages directly with the sensual experience of consumption as a primary focus of research.


SAN6: Political Economy and Social Transformations: Political Economy of Food


Key Publications

2015    ‘Intimate documents: trust and secret police files in post-socialist Mongolia', Intimacy, Trust and the Social, V. Broch-Due and M. Ystanes, eds. Berghahn.

2015    ‘Criminal lamas: court cases against Buddhist monks in early socialist Mongolia.’ Buddhism in Mongolian history, culture and society, Vesna Wallace, ed. Oxford University Press.

2014    The lama question: violence, sovereignty and exception in early socialist Mongolia, University of Hawai’i Press

2012    ‘Resorting to violence: technologies of exception, contingent states, and the repression of Buddhist lamas in 1930s Mongolia’ Ethnos 77(1):72-92.
2011    ‘Archived relations: repression, rehabilitation and the secret life of documents in Mongolia’ The Political Life of Documents, special issue of History and Anthropology 22(4): 431-444.

2011      ‘The Political Life of Documents: Archives, Memory and Contested Knowledge,’ special issue of History and Anthropology, 22(4) edited with Catherine Trundle

2010    The history of Mongolia. Editor, with David Sneath (3 volumes) Folkstone, Kent: Global Oriental.

2008    ‘The end of post-socialism? An account of the 1st of July riots in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia,’ with Gregory Delaplace and David Sneath; Inner Asia 10(2): 353-365.

2008    ‘Prelude to violence: show trials and state power in 1930s Mongolia’ American Ethnologist 35(2):321-337.

2008    ‘Neither truth nor reconciliation: political violence and the surfeit of memory in post-Socialist Mongolia’ Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions. 9(2):371-388.

2005     ‘The case of the disappearing Chinggis Khaan: dismembering the remembering’  Ab Imperio  4/2005: 147-173.

2004    Truth, History and Politics in Mongolia: the Memory of Heroes London: RoutledgeCurzon. Paperback edition, 2014.

2002    ‘Thirty thousand bullets: remembering political repression in Mongolia’ in Historical  Injustice and Democratic Transition in Eastern Asia and Northern Europe: Ghosts at the Table of Democracy, Kenneth Christie and Robert Cribb, eds. London: RoutledgeCurzon.

1999    ‘Blame, guilt and avoidance: the struggle to control the past in post-socialist Mongolia’  History and Memory 11(2):94-114.

1998    ‘Creating national identity in socialist Mongolia.’ Central Asian Survey. 17(1):35-49.