Department of Anthropology and Sociology & Centre for Anthropology and Mental Health Research in Action

Professor David Mosse

Key information

Department of Anthropology and Sociology Professor of Social Anthropology SOAS South Asia Institute Academic Staff Food Studies Centre Member, SOAS Food Studies Centre Centre for Water and Development Member, Centre for Water and Development
Department of Anthropology and Sociology & Centre for Anthropology and Mental Health Research in Action
MA, DPhil (Oxon); FBA
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
020 7898 4426
Support hours
By email appointment only.


David Mosse is Professor of Social Anthropology who studied social anthropology at Oxford University from where he received a DPhil. 

He has published extensively on the anthropology of religion, environment, development and caste in India. Currently David's research focuses on the anthropology of mental health and psychiatry. He is a Fellow of the British Academy. David has worked for Oxfam as Representative for South India, and for other international development agencies as a social development adviser; and currently holds positions in various mental health and support organisations.


Research interests

My research spans interests in the anthropology of mental health and cultural psychiatry, caste and Dalit rights, development and activism, environmental history and water resources, the anthropology of Christianity, South Asian society and popular religion. I recently undertook a collaborative ESRC research project titled ‘Caste Out of Development: Civil Society Activism and Transnational Advocacy on Dalit Rights and Development’ examining the continuing significance of caste in the modern market economy and in contemporary development encounters and contentions in India, as well as caste and anti-discrimination law in the UK. 

The attention to NGOs, networks and the cultural politics of development took me back to my earlier career as a development worker (e.g., with Oxfam in India) and connected to interest in the ethnography of aid, international development and global governance (e.g. books The Aid Effect, 2005: Brokers and Translators 2006. ed with David Lewis), as well as in aid professionals and their knowledge practices (Adventures in Aidland, 2011). Such research followed on from my study of DFID policy and project practice focused on rural livelihoods development in western India (Cultivating Development, 2005).

A second research stream involved the study of religion and the rights of subordinated people focusing on Christianity and contemporary Dalit movements, on social action and the everyday politics of caste in south India. This built on long-term historical and ethnographic research examining the changing relationship between Christianity and caste society, and ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ more broadly (The Saint in the Banyan Tree, 2012).

I undertook historical and ethnographic research on indigenous water systems and state-community relations (The Rule of Water, 2003, 2012), and on practical and policy issues surrounding participatory or community-driven development and labour migration (in western India). Over 30 years, my focus on poverty and the socially subordinated Dalits and Adivasis combined academic anthropology with development practice. I worked as a social development adviser for DFID, as Regional Representative for Oxfam in south India, and as a rural development consultant for organisations such as the World Bank.

In recent years, I have turned my personal commitments and anthropological curiosity towards psychiatric crisis and mental healthcare, to therapeutic practices and public policy in the UK and South Asia. This includes ethnographic and public engagement in approaches to psychiatry, crisis care and suicide prevention across cultures. In 2018-2020, I designed and set up the ESRC-funded 'Anthropology of Peer-Supported Open Dialogue' (APOD) study, training as an Open Dialogue practitioner and mentor, and working in a Community Mental Health Team at an inner-London NHS Trust. I am also anthropologist member of an NHS Trust Cultural Consultation Service.

These interests are combined in teaching BA and MA courses on South Asian ethnography, the anthropology of development and ‘mind, culture and psychiatry’.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Cherry Briggs The politics and ethics of climate change adaptation in Sri Lanka's Dry Zone (working title)
Himalay Gohel Caste Genealogies: Myths and Histories of Dalit Communities from Saurashtra, India
Philip Hadley
Dr Vidya Venkat India’s Democratic Revolution: The Right to Information and the Anti-Corruption Discourse
Kiara Wickremasinghe Innovation in Psychiatric Crisis Care: An Ethnographic Investigation into Peer-Supported Open Dialogue (POD) in Inner London (working title)


Contact David