SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Richard Fardon

BSc (Econ), PhD (London), FBA
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Richard Fardon
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor of West African Anthropology

Doctoral School

Head of Doctoral School

Professor Richard Fardon
Email address:
020 7898 4406
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Office Hours:
By Email Appointment


My time is currently split between headship of the SOAS Doctoral School and my Professorship of West African Anthropology in the Department. 

As an anthropologist of Africa, I have been equally interested in past and present anthropological theory, and in the historical and contemporary ethnography of West Africa. Specific topics within these broad interests have often been explored collaboratively through conferences and edited books on subjects such as: power and knowledge, ethnographic writing, global and local perspectives in anthropological theory, and, with specific reference to Africa, languages and development, radio, consumption and modernity.

I joined SOAS (from the University of St Andrews) in 1988 and have been professor here since 1996, serving terms as Chairman of the University of London Centre of African Studies (1993-97, 2001-5), and Head of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS (2006-10). In the last decade or so, outside SOAS, I have been Chair of the Association of Social Anthropologists (2001-05), a Vice-President of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2006-9), a member of the RAE subject panels (for the 2001 and 2008 exercises), and editor or co-editor of AFRICA, the journal of the International African Institute (2001-7). I am currently a Trustee of the International African Institute and recently served as a member of the Publications Committee of the British Academy (2007-13), the Publications Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2004-13), and the Research and Higher Education Policy Committee of the British Academy (2006-12).


Being Head of the Doctoral School means that I have only a part-time appointment in the Department of Anthropology, so I shall largely restrict my teaching and supervision (BA, MA and PhD) to subjects on West Africa.


My initial fieldwork in the mid-1970s, predominantly in Nigeria, was the basis of my UCL doctorate; further research, largely in Cameroon, allowed me to write a pair of monographs respectively on politics and religion among Chamba-speakers of Nigeria and Cameroon (1988 Raiders and Refugees & 1990 Between God, the Dead, and the Wild). I became particularly interested in ethnicity and issues of identity at that time, also writing more theoretically on the topic (some essays of this period are listed under my publications). Some of these essays were collected as 2014 Tiger in an African Palace.

During the 1990s I began to write more about the twentieth-century history of British social anthropology, particularly the biographies of the anthropologists Mary Douglas (1999), who was one of my teachers at UCL, and the Czech exile Franz Baermann Steiner, who was one of her teachers at Oxford (with Jeremy Adler 1999).

Much of my research published on Africa in the last decade or so has combined fieldwork, with archival and museum research, as well as the material evidences of history, to write comparatively about art and ceremony in central Cameroon and Nigeria.

A two volume account under the general title Chamba Arts in Context consisted of a book on figurative statues, co-authored with Christine Stelzig, Column to Volume: Formal Innovation in Chamba Statuary (2005), and another on masquerades Fusions: Masquerades and Thought Style East of the Niger-Benue Confluence, West Africa (2007). This comparative interest in artworks was broadened further for collaboration on a major exhibition and catalogue, Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley (with Marla Berns and Sidney Kasfir). The exhibition opened at the Fowler Museum (UCLA) in February 2011, before travelling to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, the Cantor Center at Stanford and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris where it closed in February 2013.

Over the same period I undertook research in German and Swiss archives that added a historical dimension to my fieldwork so I could write an account of the ceremony called Lela which Chamba emigrants introduced to the Grassfields of Cameroon during the nineteenth century (Lela: History through Ceremony in Cameroon, 2006). Lela developed into a festival that is now of regional significance on which there are photographic resources stretching back a century. Finding and understanding this record was as challenging as it was fun.

On the anthropological side, the Association of Social Anthropologists’ Handbook of Social Anthropology, of which I was managing editor, appeared in two hefty volumes with Sage in mid-2012. And, as her literary executor, I have edited the final two volumes of Mary Douglas’s writings which were published, also with Sage, in early 2013 under the main titles of: A Very Personal Method and Cultures and Crises.

I recently shared the Triennial Award for the best multi-authored book on African Arts, published between 2011 and 2013, from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association for Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley.

So much for the past; I am currently working on two book-length projects: one, at an exploratory stage, is a collaborative comparative analysis of language hegemonies in sub-Saharan African states. The other, also collaborative and submitted to press, explains some of the main ideas of the anthropology of West Africa to a wider audience by way of an African film.


For help in contacting SOAS academics and advice on services to business and the community, please contact SOAS Enterprise on +44(0)20 7898 4837 or email
For all press and media enquiries please call +44 (0)20 7898 4135 or email

Available for
  • Press
  • Briefings
Regional Expertise
  • Africa
Country Expertise
  • Cameroon
  • Nigeria


Authored Books

Fardon, Richard (2014) Tiger in an African Palace, and other thoughts about identification and transformation. Cameroon: Langaa RPCIG.

Berns, Marla C. and Fardon, Richard and Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield (2011) Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Fardon, Richard (2007) Fusions: Masquerades and Thought-Style East of the Niger-Benue Confluence, West Africa. Saffron Press. (Saffron Afriscopes Series)

Fardon, Richard (2006) Lela in Bali: History through Ceremony in Cameroon. Oxford: Berghahn.

Fardon, Richard and Stelzig, Christine (2005) Column to volume: formal innovation in Chamba statuary. London: Saffron Books. (Saffron Afriscopes: illustrated arguments about African culture)

Fardon, Richard (1999) Mary Douglas: an Intellectual Biography. London; New York: Routledge.

Fardon, Richard (1999) Contrast and comparison : notes from a middle-belt West African practice. London: School of Oriental and African Studies.

Fardon, Richard (1990) Between God, the dead and the wild: Chamba interpretations of religion and ritual. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press for the International African Institute.

Fardon, Richard (1988) Raiders and refugees: trends in Chamba political development, 1750-1950. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Edited Books or Journal Volumes

Fardon, Richard, ed. (2013) Mary Douglas. A very personal method: anthropological writings drawn from life. London: Sage.

Fardon, Richard, ed. (2013) Mary Douglas. Cultures and criss: understanding risk and resolution. London: Sage.

Berns, Marla and Fardon, Richard, eds. (2012) Nigeria: arts de la vallee de la Benoue. Paris: Musee du Quai Branly.

Fardon, Richard and Harris, Olivia and Marchand, Trevor H.J. and Nuttall, Mark and Shore, Cris and Wilson, Richard A., eds. (2012) Handbook of Social Anthropology. London: Sage.

Alder, Jeremy and Fardon, Richard and Tully, Carol, eds. (2003) From Prague Poet to Oxford Anthropologist: Franz Baermann Steiner Celebrated - essays and translations. Munich: Ludicium; London: London Institute of Germanic Studies.

Fardon, Richard and Furniss, Graham, eds. (2000) African Broadcast Cultures: Radio in Transition. Oxford: J. Currey; Westport, Conn.: Praeger; Cape Town: David Philip; Harare: Baobab.

Fardon, Richard and van Binsbergen, Wim and van Dijk, Rijk, eds. (1999) Modernity on a shoestring : dimensions of globalization, consumption and development in Africa and beyond : based on an EIDOS conference held at The Hague, 13-16 March 1997. Leiden: EIDOS in association with the African Studies Centre Leiden and the Centre of African Studies London.

Fardon, Richard and Adler, Jeremy, eds. (1999) Franz Baermann Steiner: Selected Writings. Vol. 1, Taboo, truth and religion. Oxford; New York: Berghahn.

Fardon, Richard and Adler, Jeremy, eds. (1999) Franz Baermann Steiner: Selected Writings. Vol. 2, Orientpolitik, Value and Civilisation. Oxford; New York: Berghahn.

Fardon, Richard, ed. (1995) Counterworks: managing the diversity of knowledge. London; New York: Routledge.

Fardon, Richard and Furniss, Graham, eds. (1994) African Languages, Development and the State. London: Routledge.

Fardon, Richard and Baxter, Paul, eds. (1991) Voice, genre, text: anthropological essays in Africa and beyond. Manchester: John Rylands University Library. (Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 73(3). ISSN 0301-102X)

Fardon, Richard, ed. (1990) Localizing strategies : regional traditions of ethnographic writing. Edinburgh : Scottish Academic Press; Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Fardon, Richard, ed. (1985) Power and knowledge: anthropological and sociological approaches. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

Book Chapters

FARDON, Richard (2014) 'Franz Baermann Steiner as contemporary anthropologist: an anachronistic suggestion.' In: Adler, Jeremy and Dane, Gesa, (eds.), Literatur und Anthropologie. H.G. Adler, Elias Canetti und Franz Baermann Steiner in London. Goettingen: Wallstein, pp. 197-210.

Fardon, Richard (2008) 'Cosmopolitan nations, national cosmopolitans.' In: Werbner, Pnina, (ed.), Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism: rooted, feminist and vernacular perspectives. Oxford: Berg, pp. 233-259. (Association of Social Anthropologists monographs series; 45)

Fardon, Richard (2005) 'Tiger in an African Palace.' In: James, W. and Mills, D., (eds.), The Qualities of Time: Anthropological Approaches. Oxford: Berg, pp. 73-93. (Association of Social Anthropologists monographs series; 41)

Fardon, Richard (2004) 'Turner, Victor Witter (1920–1983).' In: Matthew, H.C.G. and Harrison, Brian, (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Furniss, Graham and Fardon, Richard (2000) 'African broadcast cultures.' In: African Broadcast Cultures: Radio in Transition. Oxford: James Currey, pp. 1-20.

Fardon, Richard and Boyd, Raymond (2000) 'Sauvé par un chanson: patriarchie et experience dans les versions Tchamba de <<La Fille Difficile>>.' In: Seydou, Christiane and Görög, Veronika, (eds.), La fille difficile: un conte-type africain. Paris: CNRS.

Fardon, Richard (1999) 'Ethnic pervasion.' In: Allen, Tim and Seaton, Jean, (eds.), The Media in Conflict: War Reporting and Representations of Ethnic Violence. London: Zed, pp. 64-80.

Fardon, Richard (1999) 'Consumption and identification: the question of public goods.' In: Fardon, Richard and van Binsbergen, Wim and van Dijk, Rijk, (eds.), Modernity on a Shoestring: Dimensions of Globalization, Consumption and Development in Africa and Beyond. Leiden: EIDOS in association with the African Studies Centre Leiden and the Centre of African Studies London, pp. 401-416.

Fardon, Richard (1993) 'Alliance et ethnicité: un système regional de l’Adamawa.' In: Héritier-Augé, Françoise and Copet-Rougier, Elisabeth, (eds.), Les Complexités de l’Alliance, Volume III Economie, politique et fondements symboliques (Afrique). Paris: Editions des Archives contemporaines, pp. 165-210.

Fardon, Richard (1992) 'Post modern anthropology? Or, an anthropology of post-modernity.' In: Doherty, J. and Graham, E. and Malek, M., (eds.), Post-modernism and the Social Sciences. London: Macmillan, pp. 33-47.

Fardon, Richard and Davies, Catherine (1991) 'African fictions in representations of West African and Afro-Cuban culture.' In: Fardon, R. and Baxter, P., (eds.), Voice, Genre, Text - Anthropological Essays in Africa and Beyond. John Rylands University Library, pp. 125-145. (Special Issue of the Bulletin of the John Ryland’s University Library of Manchester, 73 (3))

Fardon, Richard (1987) 'African Ethnogenesis: limits to the comparability of ethnic phenomena.' In: Holy, L., (ed.), Comparative Anthropology. London: Basil Blackwell, pp. 168-188.

Journal Articles

Fardon, Richard (2015) ''Do you hear me? It is me Akiga' Akiga’s 'Story' and Akiga Sai’s 'History’.' Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 85 (4). pp. 572-598.

Boyd, Raymond and Fardon, Richard (2014) 'Naming powers: Hausa tsafi and Tiv tsav.' Journal of African Cultural Studies, 26 (1). pp. 33-55.

Fardon, Richard (2013) 'Citations out of place: or, Lord Palmerston goes viral in the nineteenth century but gets lost in the twentieth.' Anthropology Today, 29 (1). pp. 25-27.

Fardon, Richard (2011) 'Feigning the market: funding anthropology in England.' Anthropology Today, 27 (1). pp. 2-5.

Berns, Marla C and Fardon, Richard (2011) 'Central Nigeria unmasked. Arts of the Benue River Valley.' African Arts, 44 (3). pp. 16-37.

Fardon, Richard (2010) 'Margaret Mary Douglas 1921-2007.' Proceedings of the British Academy, 166. pp. 133-158.

Fardon, Richard and Iyenda, Guillaume (2007) 'Dame Mary Douglas (1921-2007) with bibliographic supplement.' Anthropology Today, 23 (5). pp. 25-27.

Fardon, Richard (1996) '<< Destins croisés >> : histoires des identités ethniques et nationales en Afrique de l’Ouest.' Politique Africaine, 61. pp. 75-97.

Fardon, Richard and Boyd, Raymond (1992) 'Bisiweeri: the songs and times of a Muslim Chamba woman.' African Languages and Cultures, 5 (1). pp. 11-41.

Fardon, Richard (1990) 'Malinowski's Precedent: The Imagination of Equality.' Man (New Series), 25 (4). pp. 569-587.

Fardon, Richard (1985) 'Sisters, wives, wards and daughters: a transformational account of the political organisation of the Tiv and their neighbours, Part Two: ‘The neighbours’.' Africa, 55 (1). pp. 77-91.

Fardon, Richard (1984) 'Sisters, wives, wards and daughters: a transformational account of the political organisation of the Tiv and their neighbours, Part One: ‘The Tiv’.' Africa, 54 (4). pp. 2-21.

Book Reviews

Fardon, Richard (2008) 'Fabian as investigative style.' African Studies Review . pp. 165-168.


Fardon, Richard (2016) 'Preface to the 2000 Frazer Lecture, “Time and difference in the anthropology of religion” by J. D. Y. Peel.' HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 6 (1). pp. 531-532.

This list was generated on Fri Dec 9 00:31:31 2016 GMT.