Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor Johan P J Pottier

Key information

Department of Anthropology and Sociology Emeritus Professor
BA DPHIL (Sussex)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address


Now enjoying retirement, I keenly continue my interests in the social dynamics of food security, including urban security; media representations of conflict; and the politics of humanitarian intervention. 

In recent years I have also researched the emergence of a commercial Bangladeshi cuisine in East London. Key publications include Anthropology of Food: The Social Dynamics of Food Security (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999); Re-Imagining Rwanda: Conflict, Survival and Disinformation in the late 20th Century (Cambridge University Press, 2002); and the co-edited Researching Violence in Africa: Ethical and Methodological Challenges (Brill, 2011). I am expanding my interest in urban food security, based on fieldwork in low-income settlements in Lilongwe (2011) and Kampala (2012), beyond African borders.

Research interests

Over the years, my research has focused on the social dynamics of food and livelihood security; humanitarian intervention during conflict, including media representations of conflict and intervention; and post-conflict development. Much of this research has been undertaken in Central Africa, the Great Lakes Region (Rwanda, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) in particular. 

I have published on local-level perceptions of food security; anthropology and food policy; post-drought and post-famine recovery; international press coverage of the crisis in Rwanda; refugee perceptions of humanitarian aid; and aspects of the local-global development interface. 

My current research deals with the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), notably the Ituri region. Recent research in Bunia, capital of Ituri, has focused on how humanitarian organisations attempt to negotiate access in the course of a complex emergency. I also have an interest in social development analysis and experience with running participatory workshops. This interest grew out of a collaborative research programme on social development and food security, carried out in the mid-1990s with academic colleagues and development practitioners in Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Botswana. This collaboration consolidated my interest in the Anthropology of Food and led me to write a book on the subject detailing ethnographic contributions to the study of food and food policy. 

Closely related to this is my interest in the role of ‘local knowledge’ in development and in the mechanisms through which local knowledge is generated for development intervention. I co-convened the ASA 2000 conference entitled Indigenous Knowledge and Development.


Contact Johan