SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor Richard Fardon

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

Emeritus Professor

Professor Richard Fardon
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I joined SOAS (from the University of St Andrews) in 1988, becoming professor in 1996, and retired from teaching in 2018. During those thirty years, I served terms as Chairman of the University of London Centre of African Studies (1993-97 & 2001-5), Head of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS (2006-10), and founding Head of the Doctoral School (2012-16).

Outside SOAS, I was Chair of the Association of Social Anthropologists (2001-05) and a Vice-President of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2006-9). Roles in Higher Education have included membership of the RAE subject panels (for the 2001 and 2008 exercises), and of the Research and Higher Education Policy Committee of the British Academy (2006-12).

My publications roles have included editor or co-editorship of AFRICA the journal of the International African Institute (2001-7), membership of the Publications Committee of the British Academy (2007-13) and of the Publications Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2004-13).

Current commitments include acting as Chair of Trustees of the International African Institute (2016-), and Chair of Section S3 (Anthropology and Geography) of the British Academy (2018-21).

In November 2019, I rejoined the Department of Anthropology as Interim Head of the Doctoral School reverting to Emeritus status in September 2020.



My initial fieldwork among Chamba living in Nigeria was carried out in the mid-1970s and provided the basis of a UCL doctorate in Anthropology (1980). Further research in Cameroon in the 1980s supplied the comparative ethnography that, along with archival materials, furnished a pair of monographs on Chamba, the first on politics and history, and the second on variations in religious practice (1988 Raiders and Refugees and 1990 Between God, the Dead, and the Wild). I was particularly interested in ethnicity and processes of identification around this time, writing theoretically and comparatively on the topic (some of these essays are among those collected in 2014 Tiger in an African Palace).

During the 1990s, I concentrated on writing about the twentieth-century history of British social anthropology: 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).

In the following decade, the main focus of my writing turned back to West Africa, particularly to art history, combining ethnography with archival and museum research. Two books, under the general title ‘Chamba Arts in Context’, examined figures and masquerades. The first, co-authored with Christine Stelzig [Kron], 2005 Column to Volume: Formal Innovation in Chamba Statuary, was motivated by the wish to solve the mystery around the originator of a stylistic departure in Chamba sculpture; the second returned to an early interest in patterns of transformation between societies of the region, on this occasion looking at masquerades, 2007 Fusions: Masquerades and Thought Style East of the Niger-Benue Confluence, West Africa. This comparative interest in artworks was broadened regionally for collaboration on a major exhibition and catalogue, 2012 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. The catalogue won the 2014 Triennial Award for the best multi-authored book on African Arts from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association.

During the same period I visited German and Swiss archives to add a historical dimension to my field experience of a ceremony that spread and mutated with the Chamba migrants who eventually reached the Grassfields of Cameroon during the nineteenth century (2006 Lela: History through Ceremony in Cameroon). Lela became a contemporary festival of regional significance the development of which, unusually, could be tracked for two centuries.

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 edited the final two volumes of Mary Douglas’s collected writings which were published, also with Sage, in early 2013 under the main titles of: A Very Personal Method and Cultures and Crises.

As is evident from this brief survey of some books, much of my work has been collaborative and inter-disciplinary, particularly often with the linguist Raymond Boyd and the literary specialist Graham Furniss. My most recently published collaborative book, 2017 Learning from the Curse, was created with the artist Sènga la Rouge in an exploration of contemporary anthropology through the Senegalese novelist and film maker Ousmane Sembene’s classic work Xala. I am currently writing an analysis of historical colour phenomena in African practice and conception, as well as researching a collaborative study (with Tim Chappel and Klaus Piepel) of the art, particularly in copper alloy, of the Verre of Nigeria. Jeremy Adler and I are revising our previous accounts of the life and work of Franz Baermann Steiner for a new biography.


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


Authored Books

Chappel, Tim and Fardon, Richard and Piepel, Klaus (2021) Surviving Works: context in Verre arts. Vestiges: trace of record.

Fardon, Richard and la Rouge, Senga (2017) Learning from the Curse: Sembene's Xala. London: C. Hurst and Co.

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. London: Saffron Press.

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.

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.


Fardon, Richard (2020) 'Negative spaces of Mumuye figure sculpture – style and ethnicity'. Afriques. Débats, méthodes et terrains d’histoire, (10).

Fardon, Richard (2018) 'Immortality yet? Or, the permanence of Mary Douglas'. Anthropology Today, (34) 4, pp 23-26.

Fardon, Richard and Sarró, Ramon eds. (2017) 'T'he Iconoclastic Impulse in Yoruba Culture [J.D.Y. Peel]'. Religion and Society: Advances in Research, (8) 1, pp 30-41.

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.

Hobart, Mark (1991) 'Criticizing genres: Bakhtin and Bali'. Voice, genre, text: anthropological essays in Africa and beyond, (73) 3, pp 195-216.

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.

Edited Books or Journals

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.

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 (2016) 'Purity as danger: “Purity and Danger revisited” at fifty'. In: Duschinsky, Robbie and Schnall, Simone and Weiss, Daniel H., (eds.), Purity and Danger Now: New Perspectives. Abingdon; New York: Routledge, pp 23-33.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Hobart, Mark (1990) 'Who do you think you are? the authorized Balinese'. In: Fardon, Richard, (ed.), Localizing strategies: regional traditions of ethnographic writing. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, pp 303-338.

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

Book Reviews

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


Fardon, Richard (2017) 'Peel, John David Yeadon, 1941-2015' Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy, XVI.

Fardon, Richard and Onyejiako, Joy (2017) 'From an African Score: artists, events and exhibitions in the Brunei Gallery, SOAS 1995-2015'.

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.

(2016) 'Letters from Liberia [J.D.Y. Peel]'.


This list was last generated on Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 00:58 Europe/London.