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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor Edward Simpson



Edward Simpson
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor of Social Anthropology

SOAS South Asia Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies


Professor Edward Simpson
Email address:
020 7898 4481
020 7898 4699
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
On Sabbatical:
2014/15 Term 2


I was awarded a PhD by the London School of Economics in 2001. I then held a post-doctoral award from the Economic and Social Research Council followed by a Nuffield Foundation New Career Development Fellowship. My first lectureship was at Goldsmiths College. I joined SOAS in 2007. I am currently on research leave, but continue to teach post-graduate courses on research methodology and to supervise doctoral students.


Courses Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Amit Kisku, Santals, Forest, and State Relationships: Interplay of Ethnic Identity and Environmentality in Jungle Mahals, India (Working Title).
  • Cristiana Strava, At Home with Modernity: Exploring Place-making on the Margins of Casablanca.
  • Edoardo Siani,
  • Emily Rose Stevenson, The Postcolonial Consumption of Colonial Legacies: The Contemporary Social Life of Postcards from British India.
  • Indrė Balčaitė, A borderless village: transborder lives of Plong migrant workers in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Jas Kaur, Towards an Anthropology of Coups in Fiji.
  • Khadija Chennoufi-Gilkes, Insiders and Insider-Outsiders: A comparative discourse-network study of the Algerian and Moroccan Amazigh cultural movements via social media
  • Mak's Mabiala,
  • Michele Serafini, Playing at Football: Time, Pleasure and Identity Politics in Transnational Nepal.
  • Mukta Das, Social Delicacies: Indian Restaurants in Guangzhou.
  • Seamus Murphy, CONTESTED MEANINGS THROUGH SOCIAL CHANGE; An Ethnography of Institutions, Organisations, Ideologies and Power in the Market Development of the Lake Chilwa Commons, Southern Malawi.
  • Zoë Goodman,

I am interested in supervising students seeking to undertake anthropological research in South Asia, as well as those wishing to work elsewhere in the world who are interested in the broader themes of history, religion, development and natural disaster.


I am interested in the anthropology of boats, buildings, villages and roads in South Asia.

Thematically, I have written about the anthropology of history, religion, mobility and catastrophe. I am most interested in how abstract ideas are made to appear real in the lives of ordinary people. I am also interested in the past, memory and nostalgia.

Most of my research has been conducted in Gujarat, western India, focused on the regions of Kutch (also spelled Kachchh and Cutch) and Saurashtra.

Boats: Muslim society and the western Indian Ocean: The seafarers of Kachchh (2006) is about the politics and social organisation of Gujarat’s contemporary seafaring Muslims, their conceptions of self, learning and society. It is also about ship-building and the modern ‘dhow’ trade. This work is framed against a backdrop of the Indian Ocean as a space of migration, movement and social change. It is also, crucially, about being Muslim in modern Gujarat.
I currently collaborate with Mumbai-based contemporary artists, CAMP, on a film and book project on Indian Ocean themes. CAMP was short-listed for the Skoda Prize in 2013. Early cuts of the film were shown at dOCUMENTA(13) and the Sharjah Biennial in 2013. The film From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf was screened as part of the 2013 London film festival. Our book, Land and sea, will be published soon.

Buildings: The political biography of an earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat, India (2013) is about the aftermath of an earthquake of 2001. I explore the politics of disasters, and the ways in which people use the shock of disaster to change the order of things by rebuilding and renaming things in particular ways. I have been particularly interested in the concentration and consequences of extreme emotions associated with catastrophic events, notably terror, the ‘sublime’, nostalgia and avarice, as well as in ideas about death, memory and retribution. The book was recently reviewed in the UK’s Financial Times.

Villages: I am the Principle Investigator on a large project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) looking at rural change in post-colonial India. The project is called: Rural change and anthropological knowledge in post-colonial India: A comparative 'restudy' of F.G. Bailey, Adrian C. Mayer and David Pocock. The project is 'restudying' the work of anthropologists who conducted research in India in the 1950s. The research team is looking at what has changed in villages over the last six decades and what this might tell us about the history of post-colonial India. It is also something of an experiment in inter-generational ethnography and the production of anthropological knowledge.

Roads: From 2014, SOAS will host a major project called: Roads and the politics of thought: Ethnographic approaches to infrastructure development in South Asia.


For help in contacting SOAS academics and advice on services to business and the community, please contact SOAS Enterprise on +44(0)20 7898 4837 or email enterprise@soas.ac.uk.
For all press and media enquiries please call +44 (0)20 7898 4135 or email comms@soas.ac.uk

Available for
Regional Expertise
  • South Asia
Country Expertise
  • India


Authored Books

Simpson, Edward (2013) The political biography of an earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat, India. London: Hurst.

Simpson, Edward (2006) Muslim society and the western Indian Ocean: The seafarers of Kachchh. London: Routledge.

Edited Books or Journal Volumes

Simpson, Edward, ed. (2011) Society and history of Gujarat since 1800: A select bibliography of the English and European language sources. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.

Simpson, Edward and Kapadia, Aparna, eds. (2010) The idea of Gujarat: History, ethnography and text. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.

Simpson, Edward and Kresse, Kai, eds. (2007) Struggling with history: Islam and cosmopolitanism in the western Indian Ocean. London: Hurst and Company.

Book Chapters

Simpson, Edward (2012) 'The anthropology of a "Disaster Boom" economy in western India.' In: Luig, Ute, (ed.), Negotiating disasters: Politics, prepresentation, meaning. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 235-252.

Simpson, Edward (2012) 'The anthropology of aftermath.' In: Fardon, Richard and Harris, Olivia and Marchand, Trevor and Nuttall, Mark and Shore, Cris and Strang, Veronica and Wilson, Richard A., (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology (vol. 2). London: Sage, pp. 329-338.

Simpson, Edward (2011) 'Kutch and the sea.' In: Varadarajan, Lokita, (ed.), Gujarat and the sea. Vadodara: Darshak Ithias Nidhi, pp. 537-548.

Simpson, Edward (2008) 'Sailors that do not sail: Hinduism, anthropology and parochialism in the western Indian Ocean.' In: Basu, Helene, (ed.), Journeys and dwellings: Indian Ocean themes in South Asia. Hyderabad: Orient Longman, pp. 90-120.

Simpson, Edward (2008) 'Whay Bhatiyas are not "Banias" and why this matters: Economic success and religious worldview among a mercantile community of western India.' In: Lachaier, Pierre and Clémentin-Ojha, Catherine, (eds.), Divine richesses: religion et économie en monde marchand indien. Paris: École français d’Extrême-Orient, pp. 91-111.

Simpson, Edward and Kresse, Kai (2007) 'The history of Bhuj as told by its own historians.' In: Simpson, Edward, (ed.), Struggling with history: Islam and cosmopolitanism in the western Indian Ocean. London: Hurst, pp. 93-124.

Corbridge, Stuart and Simpson, Edward (2006) 'Militant cartographies and traumatic spaces: Ayodhya, Bhuj and the contested geographies of Hindutva.' In: Raju, Saraswati and Kumar, Satish, M and Corbridge, Stuart, (eds.), Colonial and post-colonial geographies of India. New Delhi: Sage, pp. 70-84.

Simpson, Edward (2006) 'The rituals of rehabilitation: Rebuilding an urban neighbourhood after the Gujarat earthquake of 2001.' In: De Neve, Geert and Donner, Henrike, (eds.), The meaning of the local: Politics of place in Urban India. London: Routledge, pp. 206-231.

Simpson, Edward (2004) ''Hindutva' as a rural planning paradigm in post-earthquake Gujarat.' In: Zavos, John and Wyatt, Andrew and Hewitt, Vernon, (eds.), The politics of cultural mobilization in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 136-165.


Sbriccoli, Tommaso and Simpson, Edward (2013) 'Enacting nationalist history: Buildings, processions and sound in the making of a village in Central India.' Quaderni Asiatici, 104 . pp. 13-44.

Parry, Jonathan and Simpson, Edward (2011) 'David Pocock's Contributions and the legacy of Leavis.' Contributions to Indian Sociology, 44 (3). pp. 331-359.

Simpson, Edward (2011) 'Blame Narratives and Religious Reason in the Aftermath of the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake.' South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 34 (3). pp. 421-438.

Simpson, Edward (2009) 'The influence of Hindu nationalism on rural reconstruction after the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake (translated into Chinese by Dong Wenqi).' China Non Profit Review, 3 . pp. 82-112.

Simpson, Edward and de Alwis, Malathi (2008) 'Remembering natural disaster: Politics and culture of memorials in Gujarat and Sri Lanka.' Anthropology Today, 24 (4). pp. 6-12.

Simpson, Edward (2007) 'State of play six years after Gujarat earthquake.' Economic and Political Weekly, XLII (11).

Simpson, Edward (2007) 'The changing perspectives on three Muslim men on the question of saint worship over a 10-year period in Gujarat, western India.' Modern Asian Studies, 42 (2 & 3). pp. 377-403.

Simpson, Edward (2006) 'Apprenticeship in western India.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 12 (1). pp. 151-171.

Simpson, Edward (2006) 'The state of Gujarat and the men without souls.' Critique of Anthropology, 26 (3). pp. 331-348.

Simpson, Edward and Corbridge, Stuart (2006) 'The geography of things that may become memories: The 2001 earthquake in Kachchh-Gujarat and the politics of rehabilitation in the pre-memorial era.' Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 96 (3). pp. 566-585.

Simpson, Edward (2005) 'The 'Gujarat' earthquake and the political economy of nostalgia.' Contributions to Indian Sociology, 39 (2). pp. 219-249.

Simpson, Edward (2003) 'Migration and Islamic reform in a port town in western India.' Contributions to Indian Sociology, 37 (1 & 2). pp. 83-108.


Kresse, Kai and Simpson, Edward (2011) Between Africa and India: Thinking comparatively across the western. ZMO Working Papers 5.

Simpson, Edward (2008) Was there discrimination in the distribution of resources after the earthquake in Gujarat? Imagination, epistemology, and the state in western India. London: London School of Economics and Political Science.

Simpson, Edward (2008) The rise and fall of collective public action in the aftermath of the Gujarat Earthquake of 2001. London: London School of Economics and Political Science.

Simpson, Edward The politics of loss, alienation and nostalgia after the ‘Gujarat’ Earthquake. Colombo: International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

This list was generated on Sun Apr 26 00:36:37 2015 BST.