SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Edward Simpson

BSoc.Sci(Manchester) PhD(London)
  • Overview
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications


Edward Simpson
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Professor of Social Anthropology

Centre for Ethnographic Theory


Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies


SOAS South Asia Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute

Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Academic Staff, Centre for the Study of Pakistan​

Professor Edward Simpson
Email address:
+44 (0)20 7898 4481
+44 (0)20 7898 4699
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Office Hours:
By appointment
On Sabbatical:
On research leave, 2016-17


I was awarded a PhD by the London School of Economics in 2001. I then held a post-doctoral award from the Economic and Social Research Council followed by a Nuffield Foundation New Career Development Fellowship. My first lectureship was at Goldsmiths College. I joined SOAS in 2007. I am currently on research leave, but continue to teach post-graduate courses on research methodology and to supervise doctoral students.


PhD Students supervised
  • Chris Weeks, Human trafficking in the wake of natural disaster: the case of Typhoon Haiyan
  • Edoardo Siani,
  • Elisa Tamburo, "Anthropology of Moving House: the re-making of home among the mainlanders’ diaspora in Taiwan"
  • Emily Rose Stevenson, The Postcolonial Consumption of Colonial Legacies: The Contemporary Social Life of Postcards from British India.
  • Jas Kaur, Towards an Anthropology of Coups in Fiji.
  • Jonathan Galton, The word on the street: language use, language attitudes and identity in the context of urban change in Mumbai
  • Khadija Chennoufi-Gilkes, Insiders and Insider-Outsiders: A discourse-network study of regional Amazigh cultural movements in Morocco and Algeria
  • Mak's Mabiala,
  • Michele Serafini, Playing at Football: Time, Pleasure and Identity Politics in Transnational Nepal.
  • Mukta Das, Social Delicacies: Indian Restaurants in Guangzhou.
  • Mustafa Khan, Development and Nation-Building in the Sindh Borderlands of Pakistan
  • Zoë Goodman, 'Asian' spaces in an 'African' city: an ethnography of postcolonial Mombasa

I am interested in supervising students seeking to undertake anthropological research in South Asia, as well as those wishing to work elsewhere in the world who are interested in the broader themes of history, religion, development and natural disaster.


Anthropology allows us to confront global challenges on a human scale. My research confronts such challenges through the analysis of mobility, disasters, and social change in South Asia.

I am currently interested in the relationship between infrastructure investment, petro-mobility and the global sustainability agenda. Theoretically, this research addresses the question of how ideologies become worth acting on or fighting for, and why some forms of knowledge become more convincing than others.

In addition to these anthropological questions about how conviction functions in political economies, I am also interested in methodology, writing and forms of representation.

ANT-IMG- Edwards Simpson Ships Gujarat 2006
The Indian Ocean fleet, River Estuary, Mandvi, Gujarat (2006).

For my doctoral work, I conducted long-term fieldwork in Gujarat, western India. I researched life in shipyards where massive, hulking arks are still made. I wrote a book, The Seafarers of Kachchh, on labour and travel, which was an attempt to unsettle regional Indian Ocean scholarly paradigms. This work led to more recent creative film and writing partnerships with CAMP, a collective of contemporary artists based in Mumbai.

> Read more


Between 2001 and 2012 I conducted research on the consequence of a catastrophic earthquake in western India. Through this exploration of the politics of a disaster, I discovered how people use the shock of mass death to change the social and political order by rebuilding and renaming things. This research resulted in the publication of The political biography of an earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat, India (2013).  

> Read more

Ed Simpson Interview Jayadev 2012
Edward Simpson in conversation with Jayadev Bisoi, Odisha. He was F.G. Bailey's research assistant in the 1950s (2012).

I am the Principle Investigator on a large project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC; Award £700,000) looking at rural change in post-colonial India through ‘restudying’ the anthropology of this region from the 1950s. The project is called: Rural change and anthropological knowledge in post-colonial India: A comparative 'restudy' of F.G. Bailey, Adrian C. Mayer and David Pocock. This project has allowed us to identify some fundamental shifts in the way people think about themselves and the future. We are contemplating how such major changes have occurred within just two generations.

> Read more


 I am currently also Principle Investigator (2015-2020) on a European Research Council (ERC; Award €2,000,000) project examining road-building and infrastructure projects in South Asia. 

ANT- Edward Simpson ROADS Project Odisha 2012
On the road, Odisha. India intends to increase its production of four-lane highways to 50 km per day by 2050 (2012)

The five-year project 'Roads and the politics of thought: Ethnographic approaches to infrastructure development in South Asia' will provide the first ethnographic account of the culture of road builders, their knowledge practices, interrelations and motivations.This project explores the relationship between intense investment and a global sustainability paradigm to contribute to critical debates about power, global justice and environmental futures.

> Read more


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
Regional Expertise
  • South Asia
Country Expertise
  • India


Authored Books

Simpson, Edward (2013) The political biography of an earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat, India. London: Hurst.

Simpson, Edward (2006) Muslim society and the western Indian Ocean: The seafarers of Kachchh. London: Routledge.

Edited Books or Journal Volumes

Simpson, Edward and Tilche, Alice, eds. (2016) The future of the rural world? India's villages 1950-2015. London: SOAS.

Simpson, Edward, ed. (2011) Society and history of Gujarat since 1800: A select bibliography of the English and European language sources. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.

Simpson, Edward and Kapadia, Aparna, eds. (2010) The idea of Gujarat: History, ethnography and text. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.

Simpson, Edward and Kresse, Kai, eds. (2007) Struggling with history: Islam and cosmopolitanism in the western Indian Ocean. London: Hurst and Company.

Book Chapters

Heitmeyer, Carolyn and Simpson, Edward (2014) 'The culture of prohibition in Gujarat, India.' In: Fischer-Tine, Harald and Tschurenev, Jana, (eds.), A history of alcohol and drugs in modern South Asia: Intoxicating affairs. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 203-218. (Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia)

Simpson, Edward (2012) 'The anthropology of a "Disaster Boom" economy in western India.' In: Luig, Ute, (ed.), Negotiating disasters: Politics, prepresentation, meaning. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 235-252.

Simpson, Edward (2012) 'The anthropology of aftermath.' In: Fardon, Richard and Harris, Olivia and Marchand, Trevor and Nuttall, Mark and Shore, Cris and Strang, Veronica and Wilson, Richard A., (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology (vol. 2). London: Sage, pp. 329-338.

Simpson, Edward (2011) 'Kutch and the sea.' In: Varadarajan, Lokita, (ed.), Gujarat and the sea. Vadodara: Darshak Ithias Nidhi, pp. 537-548.

Simpson, Edward (2008) 'Sailors that do not sail: Hinduism, anthropology and parochialism in the western Indian Ocean.' In: Basu, Helene, (ed.), Journeys and dwellings: Indian Ocean themes in South Asia. Hyderabad: Orient Longman, pp. 90-120.

Simpson, Edward (2008) 'Whay Bhatiyas are not "Banias" and why this matters: Economic success and religious worldview among a mercantile community of western India.' In: Lachaier, Pierre and Clémentin-Ojha, Catherine, (eds.), Divine richesses: religion et économie en monde marchand indien. Paris: École français d’Extrême-Orient, pp. 91-111.

Simpson, Edward and Kresse, Kai (2007) 'The history of Bhuj as told by its own historians.' In: Simpson, Edward, (ed.), Struggling with history: Islam and cosmopolitanism in the western Indian Ocean. London: Hurst, pp. 93-124.

Corbridge, Stuart and Simpson, Edward (2006) 'Militant cartographies and traumatic spaces: Ayodhya, Bhuj and the contested geographies of Hindutva.' In: Raju, Saraswati and Kumar, Satish, M and Corbridge, Stuart, (eds.), Colonial and post-colonial geographies of India. New Delhi: Sage, pp. 70-84.

Simpson, Edward (2006) 'The rituals of rehabilitation: Rebuilding an urban neighbourhood after the Gujarat earthquake of 2001.' In: De Neve, Geert and Donner, Henrike, (eds.), The meaning of the local: Politics of place in Urban India. London: Routledge, pp. 206-231.

Simpson, Edward (2004) ''Hindutva' as a rural planning paradigm in post-earthquake Gujarat.' In: Zavos, John and Wyatt, Andrew and Hewitt, Vernon, (eds.), The politics of cultural mobilization in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 136-165.


Simpson, Edward (2016) 'Village restudies: Trials and tribulations.' Economic and Political Weekly, LI (26-27). pp. 33-42.

Otten, Tina and Simpson, Edward (2016) 'F.G. Bailey's Bisipara revisited.' Economic and Political Weekly, L! (26-27). pp. 25-32.

Simpson, Edward (2016) 'Prospecting in Rajasthan.' Religion and Society: Advances in Research, 7. pp. 27-31.

Simpson, Edward (2016) 'Is anthropology legal? Earthquake, blitzkrieg, and ethical futures.' Focaal: European Journal of Social Anthropology, 74 (1). pp. 113-128.

Simpson, Edward and Serafini, Michele (2015) 'The neoliberal aftershock.' Himal (Southasian), 28 (2). pp. 12-25.

Sbriccoli, Tommaso and Simpson, Edward (2013) 'Enacting nationalist history: Buildings, processions and sound in the making of a village in Central India.' Quaderni Asiatici, 104. pp. 13-44.

Parry, Jonathan and Simpson, Edward (2011) 'David Pocock's Contributions and the legacy of Leavis.' Contributions to Indian Sociology, 44 (3). pp. 331-359.

Simpson, Edward (2011) 'Blame Narratives and Religious Reason in the Aftermath of the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake.' South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 34 (3). pp. 421-438.

Simpson, Edward (2009) 'The influence of Hindu nationalism on rural reconstruction after the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake (translated into Chinese by Dong Wenqi).' China Non Profit Review, 3. pp. 82-112.

Simpson, Edward and de Alwis, Malathi (2008) 'Remembering natural disaster: Politics and culture of memorials in Gujarat and Sri Lanka.' Anthropology Today, 24 (4). pp. 6-12.

Simpson, Edward (2007) 'State of play six years after Gujarat earthquake.' Economic and Political Weekly, XLII (11).

Simpson, Edward (2007) 'The changing perspectives on three Muslim men on the question of saint worship over a 10-year period in Gujarat, western India.' Modern Asian Studies, 42 (2 & 3). pp. 377-403.

Simpson, Edward (2006) 'Apprenticeship in western India.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 12 (1). pp. 151-171.

Simpson, Edward (2006) 'The state of Gujarat and the men without souls.' Critique of Anthropology, 26 (3). pp. 331-348.

Simpson, Edward and Corbridge, Stuart (2006) 'The geography of things that may become memories: The 2001 earthquake in Kachchh-Gujarat and the politics of rehabilitation in the pre-memorial era.' Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 96 (3). pp. 566-585.

Simpson, Edward (2005) 'The 'Gujarat' earthquake and the political economy of nostalgia.' Contributions to Indian Sociology, 39 (2). pp. 219-249.

Simpson, Edward (2003) 'Migration and Islamic reform in a port town in western India.' Contributions to Indian Sociology, 37 (1 & 2). pp. 83-108.


Kresse, Kai and Simpson, Edward (2011) Between Africa and India: Thinking comparatively across the western. ZMO Working Papers 5.

Simpson, Edward (2008) Was there discrimination in the distribution of resources after the earthquake in Gujarat? Imagination, epistemology, and the state in western India. London: London School of Economics and Political Science.

Simpson, Edward (2008) The rise and fall of collective public action in the aftermath of the Gujarat Earthquake of 2001. London: London School of Economics and Political Science.

Simpson, Edward The politics of loss, alienation and nostalgia after the ‘Gujarat’ Earthquake. Colombo: International Centre for Ethnic Studies.

This list was generated on Wed Apr 26 03:22:59 2017 BST.