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Department of Social Anthropology



Joe Ellis is the Sigrid Rausing Postdoctoral Fellow and an Affiliated Lecturer in the Mongolian and Inner Asian Studies Unit, within the Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge. 

He enrolled as a mature student onto a BSc degree in Anthropology at University College London (UCL) in 2009. After graduating, and completing a further MRes Degree, he came to Cambridge in 2013 to do a PhD in Social Anthropology based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Mongolia. Joe taught anthropology and social theory extensively prior, during and after his PhD and has since held academic, pastoral and teaching positions throughout the collegiate university.


Joe’s research is founded upon long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Mongolia, particularly in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar and the more remote provinces of Khovd and Bayan-Ölgii in the far west of the country. The overarching theme of his research interests is the manner in which cosmological, political and moral concepts come to impinge upon social life in Mongolia. This has led him to work on a range of topics, including: the dynamics of violence, shamanism, and alcoholism within intimate relations; the role of mythic-historical exemplars in generating ideas of ‘ethnic’ difference and tension; the impact of religious practices on the economic sphere; the cultivation of gendered mobilities within kinship ideologies; practices of deception and spheres of complicity; and the political salience of perceptions of environmental change.

More recently Joe has begun working with the Kazakh minority population who live in the Altai mountains on the borders of Mongolia, Russia, China and Kazakhstan. He is particularly interested in the transnational connections between the Kazakh diaspora in this region, and the ways it provides a window into political developments within and between ‘great power’ nation states in Central Asia and beyond. 

Teaching and Supervisions


Undergraduate Teaching


SAN1 – Social Anthropology: The comparative perspective (Witchcraft as Politics)

SAN3 – Anthropological theory and methods (Marxism, Material Culture, Ontological Turn)

SAN4 - The anthropology of an ethnographic area (Religious Revivals, Gender & Kinship in Inner Asia)

SAN6 - Power, economy and social transformation (Cosmological Transformations)

SAN9 – Science and environment (Moral environments)

A4 – Being Human: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Symbolism, Department of Archaeology)



Supervision of all SAN papers and dissertation


Postgraduate Teaching

MPhil Paper 2 - Systems of knowledge and power (Anthropology of Religion)

MPhil Paper 4 - Theory, methods and enquiry in Social Anthropology (Modes of enquiry)

MPhil Dissertation workshop


Affiliated Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology
Sigrid Rausing Postdoctoral Fellow, MIASU
Fellow, Graduate Tutor & Director of Studies, St. Catharine’s College,
By-Fellow & Director of Studies, Hughes Hall
Director of Studies, Gonville & Caius College
Office hours: appointment by email
Dr Joe  Ellis

Contact Details

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