Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Nikita Simpson

Key information

Department of Anthropology and Sociology Lecturer in Anthropology
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Support hours
Office Hours: Monday 1:00pm-3:00pm


Nikita is a Lecturer in Anthropology. She researches, develops interventions, and provides policy advisory on mental health and inequality in India, Southern Africa, and the UK.

Nikita completed her doctoral studies at LSE. Her doctoral thesis (2021), funded through an LSE Doctoral Fellowship, focused on embodied forms of illness and mental distress amongst Gaddi tribal women in Himalayan North India. Based on fifteen months of fieldwork, she focused on the condition of ‘tension’ as an emic form of distress indexing inequalities of class, caste, gender and tribe in this community. She argues that attention to such embodied forms can shed light on the intimate experiences of structural change beyond the Gaddi context. Nikita’s doctoral work has been awarded a number of prizes, including the Alfred Gell Prize, the Rosemary and Raymond Firth Prize, and the Firth Prize. In 2022, Nikita engaged in a UCHRI Residential Research Program at the University of California, Irvine, where developed the foundations of a book manuscript titled Tension: The Frequencies of Distress, based on this research.

Prior to joining SOAS, Nikita was a Postdoctoral Research Officer in the Department of Anthropology at LSE, where she was involved in the EU-Horizon funded Periscope project. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she worked with Prof. Laura Bear to establish the Covid and Care Research Group, an intergenerational collective of researchers who have influenced policy on Covid-19 at the highest levels of government in the UK and the EU. Nikita’s work has addressed issues such as death and burial, care provisioning, furlough, stigma and racism, and local authority relations. Her work is published in a number of co-authored reports and policy briefs that have been widely read across the UK and EU. It is also communicated through a number of public media such as podcasts, and through a participatory film on Somali women’s experiences of Covid-19 in Birmingham that she co-directed.

Since 2015, Nikita also held the position of Head of Research at the SHM Foundation, where she led the design, implementation and evaluation of psychosocial support programs that leverage digital technology for people living with HIV in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In this role, she also co-founded Ember Mental Health, an initiative that funds and supports community-based mental health organisations to grow and thrive.

Nikita’s current research is focused on healing and racial trauma in the UK and India. She is Co-PI on the ESRC funded ‘Trust in a Post-Covid World’ grant, focused on using participatory methods to investigate trust and racial inequality in Birmingham. She is also involved in the 2023 Commission on Social Infrastructures, led by the LSE.

Key publications

  • Simpson (Accepted, forthcoming) ‘Ghar ki tension: Domesticity and Distress in India’s Aspiring Middle Class’ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
  • Simpson (2022) ‘Kamzori: Aging, Care, and Alienation in the Post-Pastoral Himalaya.’ Medical Anthropology Quarterly. 36, 3
  • LarrietaMiguel EspondaGandhi, Simpson et al. (2022) Supporting community-based mental health initiatives: insights from a multi-country programme and recommendations for funders BMJ Global Health 7:e008906.
  • Simpson & Storer (2022) An Elusive Animal: Trust in an Uncertain Present. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. Part of special collection for Critical Care.
  • Simpson et al.  (2021) ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic: insights from a rapid qualitative study BMJ Global Health 6:e005509.
  • Simpson & Atujuna et al. (2021) Khuluma: Using Participatory, Peer-Led and Digital Methods to Deliver Psychosocial Support to Young People Living With HIV in South Africa.  Frontiers in Sexual and Reproductive Health 3: 10.rph.3389/f2021.687677 
  • Simpson et al. (2021) ‘Insaka: Mobile phone support groups for adolescent pregnant women living with HIV’ BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 21, 663 
  • Bear, James & Simpson et al. (2020) 'Changing Care Networks in the United Kingdom' In: Eckert and Hentschke (eds.) Corona and Work around the Globe. Work in Global and Historical Perspective (11)
  • Simpson (2019) ‘A Lonely Home: Intimacy and Estrangement in the Field’ in Lenhard, J. & Samanani, F. (eds.) Home: Ethnographic Encounters London: Bloomsbury
  • Bear & Simpson, et al. (2022) Best Practice in Multi-Level Governance During Pandemics. Periscope Report. 
  • Bear & Simpson, et al. (2021) Social Infrastructures for post-covid recovery in the UK. Monograph. LSE, London, UK.
  • Bear, James & Simpson et al. (2020) ‘A Good Death’ During the Covid-19 Pandemic in the UK,” Monograph. LSE, London, UK.
  • Bear, James & Simpson et al. (2020) “The Right to Care: The social foundations of recovery from Covid-19” Monograph. LSE, London, UK


Research interests

India, South Asia, UK, Southern Africa, Mental health, HIV, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Digital health, Feminist anthropology, Care, Aging, Inequality, Stigma, Covid-19 pandemic policy, Participatory and co-design methods.


Contact Nikita