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Dr Joe Ellis

Dr Joe Ellis

Affiliated Lecturer

College Lecturer, Bye-Fellow & Director of Studies, Pembroke College

Director of Studies, Gonville & Caius College

Research Interests

My research examines the manner in which cosmology and morality come to impinge on social life in Mongolia. It is based on long-term fieldwork in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar and Khovd province in the far west of the country. I focus on a range of moral dilemmas that Mongolians navigate in everyday life. These include: 1) the dynamics of violence, shamanism, and alcoholism within intimate relations, 2) the role of mythic-historical exemplars in generating ideas of ‘ethnic’ difference, 3) the impact of religious practices on the economic sphere, and 4) the cultivation of gendered mobilities and technologies of deception. It argues that attending to moral claims made in the context of the aforementioned spheres of life may elucidate how cosmological content comes to actually matter in Mongolia.

Theoretically, I engage with the ontological turn and the anthropology of ethics as part of a project designed to transcend reductive ‘techniques of contextualisation’ I argue are found in the wider discipline of anthropology. Yet I employ both of these corpuses more as diagnostic starting points rather than full-blown interpretative apparatuses, and seek solutions to the problems the authors in these schools identify. My research programme thus involves strategies of abstraction (from ethnographic particularities) in order to re-theorise ‘structure’ as an analytic construct. In doing so I seek a model of structure, that while accounting for relations of obligation, necessity and power, also intensifies resultant representations of subjectivity, rather than reducing them to mere emanations.


Undergraduate Supervision

SAN1 – Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective

SAN2 – The Foundations of Social Life

SAN3 – Anthropological Theory and Methods

SAN5 – Ethical Life & The Anthropology of the Subject


Undergraduate Lectures

SAN3 – Anthropological Theory and Methods

SAN6 - Advanced Social Anthropology II - Political Economy and Social Transformations

SAN9 – Science & Society

A4 – Being Human: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Postgraduate Lectures

MPhil Paper 2: Systems of Knowledge and Power – Anthropology of Religion 

MPhil Paper 3: The Anthropological Method