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Department of Social Anthropology



Helen Watson studied Anthropology at the Queen's University of Belfast and was a PhD student at Girton College, Cambridge. She came to St John’s College as a Research Fellow in 1990 and was appointed University Lecturer in Social Anthropology from 1991 to 1999. She has been a Director of Studies in Anthropology for several colleges and a Lecturer and Teaching Fellow in Social Anthropology in St John’s from 1999. She also currently serves as a Tutor, Director of Studies in Archaeology and Anthropology and the Admissions Tutor.


Teaching and research interests include religion and conflict, gender, migration and development, experiences of exile and political-religious conflict (Egypt, France, Ireland). She supervises students in all three years of the Tripos in Social Anthropology. Her teaching at Part II covers the Anthropology of Politics, Ritual and Religion, Production and Reproduction and Cognition, Knowledge and Belief.

Helen has undertaken fieldwork research in Egypt, Morocco, France and Ireland and is particularly interested in the relationship between ethnography, life history and experience.  Her doctorate, Migration, Money and Marriage, was based on fieldwork in an informal squatter settlement in Cairo. Her ethnography, Women in the City of the Dead, is based on autobiographical narratives and accounts of everyday life collected during fieldwork in Egypt.  She has written on inter-communal violence, sexual harassment, the ‘new’ veiling and marital conflict, radical religion and spirit possession in marginal Arab- Muslim communities and migration and identity. On-going research interests relate to perceptions of diaspora and the transmission of identity. Current research plans involve exploring the relationship between memory and belief in religious experience.

Fellow and Director of Studies, St John's College
Dr Helen  Watson

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