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Joe Ellis

Joe Ellis

Teaching Associate and Affiliated Lecturer

Research Interests

My PhD thesis (Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge) examined the manner in which cosmology and morality come to impinge on social life in Mongolia. Based on two years fieldwork in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar and Khovd province in the far west of the country, the thesis presented ethnographic material on violence, shamanism, and alcoholism within intimate relations, mythic-historical exemplars and ethnicity, religious practices and the economic sphere, and finally 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 matter in Mongolia.


Theoretically, I critically 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 – Comparative Social Analysis

SAN3 – Anthropological Theory and Methods  

SAN13 – Gender, Kinship and Care



Undergraduate Teaching

SAN3 – Anthropological Theory and Methods  

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

SAN13 – Gender, Kinship and Care


Postgraduate Teaching 

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

MPhil Research Methods Workshops