Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Kostas Retsikas

Key information

Department of Anthropology and Sociology Reader in Social Anthropology Academic Staff, Centre of South East Asian Studies Department of Anthropology and Sociology Doctoral Studies Convenor Food Studies Centre Member, SOAS Food Studies Centre Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Member Department of Anthropology and Sociology Convenor of MRes Social Anthropology
BA (Athens), MA (Kent), PhD (Edinburgh)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
020 7898 4432
Support hours
Thursdays 1:00pm - 3:00pm, subject to email appointment.

Research interests

Kostas Retsikas has been teaching social anthropology at SOAS since 2004, and he is the author of Becoming – An Anthropological Approach to Understandings of the Person in Java (2012, Anthem Press) and A Synthesis of Time: Zakat, Islamic Microfinance and the Question of the Future in 21st century Indonesia (2020, Palgrave), both springing from his fieldwork encounters in Java, Indonesia.

Recently his interests have expanded to the silver screen to include the films of Theo Angelopoulos. His work focuses on theoretical concerns which he explores both through ethnographic materials and engagements with post-structuralist philosophy. The ethnographic materials have been produced through field research in Java, Indonesia and by means of ethnographic engagements with cinematic images.

Kostas’ first fieldwork was conducted in the provincial town of Probolinggo in East Java in the late 1990s, with the project culminating in a monograph on the theme of personhood. Taking inspiration from the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, the book entitled Becoming – An Anthropological Approach to Understandings of the Person in Java, advances the concept of the diaphoron person – a person who constantly differs from him/herself and who is always already involved in an unlimited process of becoming – as a new figure for considering the problem of the subject in anthropology.

His second major field research was conducted in Surabaya and Jakarta in the early 2010s and was concerned with Islamic economics as a field of practice, especially as it pertains to zakat, the annual ritual of wealth transfer, and Islamic micro-finance. The project resulted in a monograph - A Synthesis of Time - which explores the social foundations of contemporary Islamic practices that strive to encompass the economic within an expanded domain of divine worship and elucidates the effects such encompassment has on time, its fissure and synthesis.

In order to elaborate on the question of time, the book looks beyond anthropology and Islamic studies, engaging with the post-structuralist of G. Deleuze, M. Foucault and J. Derrida, three of the most important figures of the temporal turn in contemporary philosophy.

More recently Kostas has turned his attention to cinema and the films of Greek auteur Theo Angelopoulos. He is particularly concerned with exploring the ways in which Angelopoulos produced a cinema founded on what he called ‘the other Greece’, conducting a cinematic as much as ethnographic experiment, based on an othering of the self. Key in this

exploration is status of the cinematic image as an artifice of communication: situated in the gap amongst its producers, characters and viewers, the cinematic image involves the relentless emitting of audio-visual signs in a dark room, occasioning a challenging re-staging of the real, coming between what is and what could be.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Hanming Cai Identification in Contemporary Hong Kong: Ethnographic Exploration on the Politics of Cantopop and Its Lyrics
Flora Hastings Occupied Orchards and Public Plant Rituals in Barcelona: An Ethnography of Shifting Relations to the Natural World and Spatial Re-Appropriations of the City


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