Dr Nikita Simpson
Nikita is a Lecturer in Anthropology. She researches, develops interventions, and provides policy advisory on mental health, care, and inequality.
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: Mental Distress and Modern Time at the Himalayan Frontier 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. She was also involved in the 2023 Commission on Social Infrastructures, led by the LSE. She was a Co-PI on the LSE RIIF funded ‘Trust in a Post-Covid World’ grant, focused on using participatory methods to investigate trust and racial inequality in Birmingham.
Between 2015 and 2022, Nikita worked with 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 worked on the Ember Mental Health, an initiative that funds and supports community-based mental health organisations to grow and thrive.
Nikita is currently pursuing three new projects. The first is focused on housing, racial inequality, and embodied distress in the UK. In collaboration with the psychotherapist, Suad Duale, Nikita works on the ways in which encounters with mould, disrepair, and state discipline in temporary accommodation generate particular forms of racial trauma.
Her second new project is focused on ecological distress in the Himalayan region. With a team of shepherds and conservationists, Nikita is investigating the mental health impact of invasive weed species, changing weather patterns, and land dispossession on marginalised groups.
Thirdly, Nikita is a visiting research associate at the Sydney University Policy Lab, where she is advising on the Australia Cares project.
Expertise: India, South Asia, UK, Mental health, HIV, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Digital health, Feminist anthropology, Care, Aging, Inequality, Stigma, Covid-19 pandemic policy, Participatory and co-design methods.
- Simpson (In Press) ‘Encountering the dain: Gaddi Witchcraft, Tribal Belonging, and the Politics of Spacetime.’ Himalaya: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalaya Studies.
- Simpson (2023) ‘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
- Larrieta, Miguel Esponda, Gandhi, 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. https://medanthroquarterly.org/critical-care/2022/06/trust-in-an-uncertain-present/
- 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: 10.3389/frph.2021.687677
- 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
Selected Policy Publications
- 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
Selected Public Media
- The Call Centre
- LSE IQ Podcast – What’s the point of social science in a pandemic?
- LSE Public Events Podcast – Social Infrastructures for a Post-Covid world
- Shame and Stigma Podcast – “The Racism Pandemic.” Available online.
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.