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Department of Social Anthropology



I am a social anthropologist with a particular interest in legal and political anthropology, carceral studies and local governance. My research has focused on imprisonment in Nepal, taking the prison as a prism foregrounding broader social changes and inequalities that are obfuscated in political and normative discourse.

I obtained a PhD in Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 2023. My doctoral thesis, “An ethnography of a rural Nepalese prison: exploring inequalities and the reach and limits of state control,” draws on 18 months of fieldwork conducted in 2018–2020 in and around a mid-hill district prison in western Nepal.

I hold an MSc in Anthropology and Development from the London School of Economics (2016) and a BA in History of Art (Asia, Africa, Europe) from SOAS, University of London (2012).


My work places the relational, rather than the structural, at the heart of conversations on the place of prisons in society, through a textured understanding of the lived experience of incarceration and the complex power dynamics at play. I am interested in the many ways in which ‘the carceral’, understood as strategies of control, coercion, and surveillance, is configured across the material boundaries of the prison. These boundaries appear to be porous and permeable as the prison both reflects, and is in constant dialogue with, the wider context around it. Ultimately, unexpected discoveries on the inside reflect the constraints and inequalities that shape ‘free’ society.


In my doctoral thesis, I explore the many socio-political changes Nepal has undergone in recent decades through an ethnography of the daily life of a rural prison. I question the presumed boundedness of a prison by placing an emphasis on the complex and dynamic relations within the prison, and with its wider social networks outside.


The prison is indeed a state institution of punishment and control, but the purpose of imprisonment is also adapted to local views of justice and the state in a remote region. Further, while some forms of social hierarchy are replicated inside the prison, new dynamics emerge as figures of authority depend on each other and compete for opportunities that arise in ever changing ways. Individuals’ approaches are informed by their character but also their social and economic backgrounds, which in turn are shaped by the country’s recent history, resulting in the co-existence of multiple orders in the internal organisation of the prison. I argue that material production, new encounters, prisoner transfers, and entrepreneurial endeavours can paradoxically open prisoners to opportunities and freedoms that would be unthinkable back home, where the absence of opportunities and ubiquity of tight social rules are claustrophobic and restrictive.


Research interests

Nepal; prison ethnography; carceral geography; local governance; structural inequalities; the everyday state; South Asia

Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Associate
Affiliated Lecturer
Office hours: appointment by email
Charlotte Ramble

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