SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor David Mosse

MA, DPhil (Oxon); FBA
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications


David Mosse
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor of Social Anthropology

SOAS South Asia Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute

SOAS Food Studies Centre

Member, SOAS Food Studies Centre

Centre for Water and Development

Member, Centre for Water and Development

REF Steering Group

Academic Representative

Professor David Mosse
Email address:
020 7898 4426
020 7898 4699
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
See bio for details


Office Hours

In person - Fridays, please email to arrange an appointment

Online - Friday 10am-12pm, sign up on my SOAS calender.

David Mosse is Professor of Social Anthropology. He studied social anthropology at Oxford University from where he received a DPhil. He has published extensively on the anthropology of religion, environment and development and is a Fellow of the British Academy. He has worked for Oxfam as Representative for South India, and for other international development agencies as a social development adviser. He joined SOAS in 1997 and served on its Board of Trustees 2013-16.


Programmes Convened
Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Cherry Briggs, The politics and ethics of climate change adaptation in Sri Lanka's Dry Zone (working title)
  • Himalay Gohel, Caste Genealogies: Myths and Histories of Dalit Communities from Saurashtra, India
  • Kiara Wickremasinghe, Innovation in Psychiatric Crisis Care: An Ethnographic Investigation into Peer-Supported Open Dialogue (POD) in Inner London (working title)
  • Philip Hadley,
  • Vidya Venkat, India’s Democratic Revolution: The Right to Information and the Anti-Corruption Discourse


My research spans interests in the anthropology of development and activism, environmental history and natural resources management, the anthropology of Christianity, South Asian society and popular religion, and the anthropology of mental health and cultural psychiatry. I have recently undertaken a collaborative ESRC research project titled ‘Caste Out of Development: Civil Society Activism and Transnational Advocacy on Dalit Rights and Development’ examining the continuing significance of caste in the modern market economy and in contemporary development encounters and contentions in India, as well as caste and anti-discrimination law in the UK. The attention to NGOs, networks and the cultural politics of development takes me back to my earlier career as a development worker (e.g., with Oxfam in India) and connects to continuing interest in the ethnography of aid, international development and global governance (e.g. books The Aid Effect, 2005: Brokers and Translators 2006. ed with David Lewis), as well as in aid professionals and their knowledge practices (Adventures in Aidland, 2011). Such research followed on from my study of DFID policy and project practice focused on rural livelihoods development in western India (Cultivating Development, 2005).

A second research stream involved the study of religion and the rights of subordinated people focusing on Christianity and contemporary Dalit movements, on social action and the everyday politics of caste in south India. This builds on long-term historical and ethnographic research examining the changing relationship between Christianity and caste society, and ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ more broadly (The Saint in the Banyan Tree, 2012).

I have interests in environmental history, water resources management and state-community relations (The Rule of Water, 2003), and in practical and policy issues surrounding participatory or community-driven development and labour migration (in western India). My concern is especially with the socially subordinated Dalits and Adivasis. Over the last 30 years I have combined academic anthropology with development practice. I worked as a social development adviser for DFID, as Regional Representative for Oxfam in south India, and as a rural development consultant for organisations such as the World Bank.

My most recent research interest is in the anthropology of mental life, distress and survival, and in mental healthcare systems, therapeutic practices and public policy in the UK and South Asia. This includes ethnographic and public engagement in approaches to psychiatric crisis and suicide prevention across cultures.

These interests are combined in teaching BA and MA courses on South Asian ethnography, the anthropology of development and undergraduate and postgraduate modules on ‘mind, culture and psychiatry’. 


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
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Available for
Regional Expertise
  • South Asia
Country Expertise
  • India


Authored Books

Mosse, David (2012) The Saint in the Banyan tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mosse, David (2005) Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice. London; Ann Arbor, MI.: Pluto Press.

Mosse, David (2003) The Rule of Water. Statecraft, Ecology and Collective Action in South India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.


Marsh, Ian and Marzano, Lisa and Mosse, David and Mackenzie, Jay-Marie (2021) 'First-person accounts of the processes and planning involved in a suicide attempt on the railway.'. BJPsych Open, (7) e39, pp 1-7.

Mosse, David and Nagappan, Sundara Babu (2020) 'NGOs as Social Movements: Policy Narratives, Networks and the Performance of Dalit Rights in South India'. Development and Change, (52) 1, pp 134-167.

Mosse, David (2020) 'The Modernity of Caste and the Market Economy'. Modern Asian Studies, (54) 4, pp 1225-1271.

Mosse, David (2020) 'Outside Caste? The Enclosure of Caste and Claims to Castelessness in India and the United Kingdom'. Comparative Studies in Society and History, (62) 1, pp 4-34.

Mosse, David (2019) 'Can the Experience of Participatory Development Help Think Critically about ‘Patient and Public Involvement’ in UK Healthcare?'. Sociological Research Online, (24) 3, pp 444-461.

Mosse, David (2018) 'Caste and development: Contemporary perspectives on a structure of discrimination and advantage'. World Development, (110), pp 422-436.

Mosse, David and Jadhav, Sushrut and Dostaler, Ned (2016) 'Minds of caste – Discrimination and its Affects'. Anthropology Today, (32) 1, pp 1-2.

Mosse, David (2015) 'Class, Caste and the Reproduction of Privilege'. Anthropology of this Century, (14).

Mosse, David (2015) 'Misunderstood, misrepresented, contested? Anthropological knowledge production in question'. Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, (72), pp 128-137.

Mosse, David (2014) 'Knowledge as Relational: Reflections on Knowledge in International Development'. Forum for Development Studies, (41) 3, pp 513-523.

Mosse, David (2013) 'The Anthropology of International Development'. Annual Review of Anthropology, (42), pp 227-246.

Mosse, David (2012) 'Caste and Christianity'. Seminar, (633), pp 58-63.

Mosse, David (2010) 'A Relational Approach to Durable Poverty, Inequality and Power'. Journal of Development Studies, (46) 7, pp 1156-1178.

Mosse, David (2008) 'International policy, development expertise, and anthropology'. Focaal, (52), pp 119-126.

Mosse, David (2008) 'Epilogue: The cultural politics of water – a comparative perspective'. Journal of Southern African Studies, (34) 4, pp 937-946.

Mosse, David (2008) 'The anthropology of international institutions (Conference Report)'. Anthropology Today, (24) 5, pp 24.

Mosse, David (2006) 'Anti-social anthropology? Objectivity, objection, and the ethnography of public policy and professional communities'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, (12) 4, pp 935-956.

Mosse, David (2006) 'Rule and representation: transformations in the governance of the water commons in British south India'. The Journal of Asian Studies, (65) 1, pp 61-90.

Mosse, David (2006) 'Collective Action, Common Property, and Social Capital in South India: An Anthropological Commentary'. Economic Development and Cultural Change, (54) 3, pp 695-724.

Mosse, David and Lewis, David (2006) 'Encountering Order and Disjuncture: Contemporary Anthropological Perspectives on the Organisation of Development'. Oxford Development Studies, (34) 1.

Mosse, David (2005) 'On the margins in the city: adivasi seasonal labour migrants in western India'. Economic and Political Weekly, (40) 28, pp 3025-3038.

Mosse, David (2004) 'Is good policy unimplementable? Reflections on the ethnography of aid policy and practice'. Development and Change, (35(4)), pp 639-671.

Mosse, David and Gupta, S and Mehta, M and Shah, V and Rees, J (2002) 'Brokered livelihoods: debt, labour migration and development in tribal western India'. Journal of Development Studies, (38) 5, pp 59-88.

Mosse, David (1999) 'Colonial and contemporary ideologies of community management: the case of tank irrigation development in South India'. Modern Asian Studies, (33) 2, pp 303-338.

Mosse, David (1997) 'The symbolic making of a common property resource: history, ecology and locality in a tank irrigated landscape in South India'. Development and Change, (28) 3, pp 467-504.

Mosse, David (1996) 'South Indian Christians, purity/impurity and the caste system: death ritual in a Tamil Roman Catholic community'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, (2) 3, pp 461-483.

Edited Books or Journals

Mosse, David, (ed.), (2011) Adventures in Aidland: The Anthropology of Professionals in International Development. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Press. (Volume 6, Studies in Public and Applied Anthropology).

Mosse, David and Lewis, David, (eds.), (2006) Development Brokers and Translators. The Ethnography of Aid and Agencies. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press.

Mosse, David and Lewis, David, (eds.), (2005) The Aid Effect: Giving and Governing in International Development. London: Pluto Press.

Mosse, David and Farrington, John and Rew, Alan, (eds.), (1998) Development as Process: Concepts and Methods for Working With Complexity. London: Routledge.

Book Chapters

Mosse, David (2022) 'Reflections on Open Dialogue in mental health clinical and ethnographic practice'. In: Gilberthorpe, Emma, (ed.), Anthropological Perspectives on Global Challenges. New York & London: Routledge, pp 1-28. [Forthcoming]

Mosse, David (2018) 'Caste, Religion and Nation: The relationship between Christianity and caste society in India and its misconstrual'. In: Jodhka, Surinder and Manor, James, (eds.), Contested hierarchies, persisting influence: Caste and power in twenty-first-century India. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, pp 261-290.

Mosse, David (2017) '"Complexio oppositorum?" : religion, society, and power in the making of Catholicism in rural south India'. In: Napolitano, Valentina and Mayblin, Maya and Norget, Kristin, (eds.), The Anthropology of Catholicism: A Reader. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Mosse, David and Kruckenberg, Lena (2017) 'Beyond the Ivory Tower: Researching Development Practice'. In: Crawford, Gordon and Kruckenberg, Lena and Loubere, Nicholas and Morgan, Rosemary, (eds.), Understanding Global Development Research: Fieldwork Issues, Experiences and Reflections. London: Sage.

Mosse, David (2015) 'Caste and the conundrum of religion and development in India'. In: Tomalin, Emma, (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development. Oxon; New York: Routledge, pp 200-214.

Mosse, David (2015) 'Accommodation, reconciliation and rebellion in the history of Tamil Catholicism'. In: Malekandathil, Pius and Pachuau, Joy L.K. and Sarkar, Tanika, (eds.), Christianity in Indian History: Issues of Culture, Power and Knowledge. New Delhi: Primus Books, pp 185 -203.

Mosse, David (2011) 'Social analysis as corporate product: Non-Economists/anthropologists at work in the World Bank in Washington DC.'. In: Mosse, David, (ed.), Adventures in Aidland: The anthropology of professionals in international development. Oxford: Berghahn.

Mosse, David (2011) 'Politics and ethics: ethnographies of expert knowledge and professional identities'. In: Wright, Susan and Shore, Cris, (eds.), Policy Worlds: Anthropology and Analysis of Contemporary Power. Oxford & Nw York: Berghahn, pp 50-67.

Mosse, David (2011) 'Aid, adivasis and aspirations for development in western India'. In: Rycroft, Daniel and Dasgupta, Sangeeta, (eds.), The Politics of Belonging in India: Becoming Adivasi. London & New York: Routledge, pp 154-174.

Mosse, David (2011) 'Introduction: The Anthropology of Expertise and Professionals in International Development'. In: Mosse, David, (ed.), Adventures in Aidland: The Anthropology of Professionals in International Development. Oxford & New York: Berghahn.

Mosse, David (2010) 'The Catholic Church and Dalit Christian activism in contemporary Tamil Nadu'. In: Robinson, Rowena and Kujūra, Josepha Mariyānusa, (eds.), Margins of Faith. New Delhi: Sage.

Mosse, David (2009) 'Christian Dalit activism in contemporary Tamil Nadu'. In: Gellner, David N., (ed.), Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia. New Delhi: Sage.

Mosse, David (2009) 'The rule of water: uncertainty and the cultural ecology of water in south India'. In: Tvedt, Terje and Oestigaard, Terje, (eds.), Ideas of Water: From Ancient Societies to the Modern World. London: I.B. Tauris.

Mosse, David (2008) 'Collective action, common property and social capital in south India: an anthropological commentary'. In: Ray, Isha and Bardhan, Pranab, (eds.), The contested commons: conversations between economists and anthropologists. Oxford: Blackwell, pp 83-106.

Mosse, David (2006) 'Possession and Confession. Affliction and Sacred Power in Colonial and Contemporary Catholic South India'. In: Cannell, F., (ed.), The Anthropology of Christianity. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, pp 99-133.

Mosse, David (2005) 'Global Governance and the Ethnography of International Aid'. In: Mosse, David and Lewis, David, (eds.), The Aid Effect. Giving and Governing in International Development.. London: Pluto Press, pp 1-36.

Mosse, David (2004) 'Social analysis as product development: anthropologists at work in the World Bank'. In: Giri, Ananta Kumar and van Harskamp, Avan and Salemink, Oscar, (eds.), The development of religion / the religion of development. Amsterdam: Eburon B V, pp 77-87.

Mosse, David (2004) 'Power relations and poverty reduction'. In: Alsop, Ruth, (ed.), Power, rights and poverty: concepts and connections. Washington DC: The World Bank, pp 51-67.

Quarles van Ufford, Philip and Giri, Ananta and Mosse, David (2003) 'Interventions in development: towards a new moral understanding of our experiences and an agenda for the future'. In: Quarles van Ufford, Philip and Giri, Ananta, (eds.), A Moral Critique of Development: In Search of Global Responsibilities. London: Routledge, pp 3-43.

Mosse, David (2003) 'The making and marketing of participatory development'. In: Quarles van Ufford, Philip and Giri, Anta Kumar, (eds.), A Moral Critique of Development: In Search of Global Responsibilities. London & New York: Routledge, pp 43-75.

Mosse, David (2001) 'Social Research in rural development projects'. In: Gellner, David N. and Hirsch, Eric, (eds.), Inside organizations: anthropologists at work. Oxford: Berg Publications, pp 1577-182.

Mosse, David (2001) ''People's knowledge', participation and patronage: operations and representations in rural development'. In: Cook, Bill and Kothari, Uma, (eds.), Participation : the new tyranny?. London: Zed Press, pp 16-35.

Mosse, David (2001) 'Irrigation and statecraft in Zamindari south India'. In: Fuller, C. and Benei, V., (eds.), The everyday state and society in modern India. London: Hurst, pp 163-193.

Mosse, David (1999) 'Responding to subordination: identity and change among south Indian Untouchable castes'. In: Campbell, John R. and Rew, Alan, (eds.), Identity and affect: experiences of identity in a globalising world. London: Pluto Press.

Mosse, David (1998) 'Process-oriented approaches to development practice and social research: an introduction'. In: Mosse, David and Farrington, John and Rew, Alan, (eds.), Development as Process: Concepts and Methods for Working with Complexity. London: Routledge, pp 1-30.

Mosse, David (1998) 'Process documentation and process monitoring: cases and issues'. In: Mosse, David and Farrington, John and Rew, Alan, (eds.), Development as Process: Concepts and Methods for Working with Complexity. London: Routledge, pp 31-53.

Mosse, David (1997) 'Honour, Caste and Conflict: The Ethnohistory of a Catholic Festival in Rural Tamil Nadu (1730-1990)'. In: Assayag, Jackie and Tarabout, Gilles, (eds.), Altérité et identité. Islam et christianisme en Inde. Paris: Editions de l'Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Science, pp 71-120.

Mosse, David (1996) 'The Ideology and Politics of community participation tank-irrigation development in colonial and contemporary Tamil Nadu'. In: Grillo, R. D. and Stirrat, R. L., (eds.), Discourse of Development: anthropological perspectives. Oxford: Berg, pp 255-291.

Monographs and Working Papers

Dhanda, M and Waughray, A and Keane, D and Green, R and Mosse, David and Whittle, S (2014) Caste in Britain: Socio-legal Review: Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report no. 91.. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Dhanda, M and Mosse, David and Waughray, A and Keane, D and Green, R and Iafrati, S and Mundy, Jessie Kate (2014) Caste in Britain: Experts' Seminar and Stakeholders' Workshop: Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report no. 92.. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Mosse, David (2007) Power and the durability of poverty: a critical exploration of the links between culture, marginality and chronic poverty. CPRC Working Paper 107, pp1-57. ISBN: 9781906433062.


This list was last generated on Thursday, 26th May 2022, 20:44 Europe/London.