SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Elizabeth Hull

BSc, MSc, PhD (London School of Economics)
  • Overview
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications


Elizabeth Hull
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Senior Lecturer in Anthropology; BA Programme Convenor

SOAS Food Studies Centre

Deputy Chair, SOAS Food Studies Centre

Dr Elizabeth Hull
Email address:
020 7898 4766
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Mondays 12.30-14.30


Elizabeth Hull is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Deputy Chair of the SOAS Food Studies Centre. She received her PhD from the London School of Economics in 2009. She worked as a post-doctoral fellow at LSE before joining SOAS in 2010. Her first book, Contingent Citizens: Professional Aspiration in a South African Hospital, was published in 2017 with Bloomsbury as part of the LSE Monographs Series.


Programmes Convened
Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Francesca Vaghi, The Food Practices of Young Children in Childcare and at Home: A Cross Context Approach in a Multi-ethnic London Region [working title]
  • Nafsika Papacharalampous, The Metamorphosis of the Greek Cuisine: National identity, tradition, heritage and memory as narratives of change from the Athens Market (working title).
  • Theodore Charles, Crossing Borders; The Evolution of Food Traditions in Post-Ottoman Thrace


Since 2006, I have been conducting ethnographic research in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Recent research has focused on diverse livelihood practices in a densely populated rural area where jobs in the formal sector are scarce. This has led to an interest in the feasibility of small-scale farming as a component of livelihoods, and the ways in which formal and informal systems of food production and distribution intersect. A project funded by the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH) and the British Academy explored the links between farming livelihoods and health.

Building on this work, new research considers how economic conditions affect people’s abilities to plan for the future. How are aspirations formed in precarious and unpredictable situations (including ‘professional’ and ‘middle-class’ identities)? A central theme concerns the ways in which familial and social values intersect with fluctuating values for labour, money or food. For instance, how do short-term constraints influence expectations of dependency and responsibility between family members, affecting the terms on which wider life choices are made?

Based on earlier research, my new book Contingent Citizens: Professional Aspiration in a South African Hospital (Bloomsbury, 2017) explores the ambiguous status of South Africa’s public-sector workers, and the implications for contemporary understandings of citizenship. It focuses on a group of nurses working in a rural government hospital in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, where staff shortages and a high burden of ill-health create severe challenges. Much like in the U.K. and elsewhere, audit culture increasingly influences workplace practice. My research at the hospital revealed that despite the freedom from control promised by liberal ideas of transparency, ‘rights’ and decentralization, often they generated fear and suspicion instead. Nurses’ criticisms of democracy as the source of contemporary ills highlights the contingencies of work, signaling the limits of the post-apartheid workplace to fulfil aspirations and contain discontent. The book describes how nurses navigate this challenging environment by drawing on a professional ethic shaped by a deep history of mission medicine as well as more recently emerging practices of international migration to new religious movements. The book argues that attention to ideologies of ‘professionalism’ can offer an important perspective on class formation and citizenship. The book manuscript won the London School of Economics First Monograph Competition in 2016.

Beyond SOAS, I serve on the editorial board of Africa: Journal of the International Africa Institute and co-convene the Southern Africa Seminar Series, a London-wide forum for the discussion and dissemination of research in the humanities and social sciences focusing on the Southern African region. I also serve on the management committee of the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH). This is a broad interdisciplinary network based at the London International Development Centre that aims to integrate research about agriculture and health.

Before joining SOAS I worked at the London School of Economics on an ESRC-funded project entitled ‘Investing, engaging in enterprise, gambling and getting into debt: popular economies and citizen expectations in South Africa’. We published the results in a special issue of Africa in 2012 which I co-edited.


Authored Books

Hull, Elizabeth (2017) Contingent Citizens: Professional Aspiration in a South African Hospital. London: Bloomsbury.


Waage, Jeff and Dangour, Alan and Haesler, Barbara and Shankar, Bhavani and Johnston, Deborah and Gohil, Ela and Gwan-Lim, Gek and Walls, Helen and Locke, Karen and Hull, Elizabeth and Smith, Richard and Green, Rosemary and Kadiyala, Suneetha (2019) 'Integrating agriculture and health research for development: LCIRAH as an interdisciplinary programme to address a global challenge.'. Global Challenges, (3) 4.

Johnston, Deborah and Stevano, Sara and Malapit, Hazel and Hull, Elizabeth and Kadiyala, Suneetha (2018) 'Time-Use Analytics: An Improved Way of Understanding Gendered Agriculture-Nutrition Pathways'. Feminist Economics, (25) 3, pp 1-22.

Walls, Helen and Johnston, Deborah and Tak, Mehroosh and Dixon, Jane and Hanefeld, Johanna and Hull, Elizabeth and Smith, Richard D. (2018) 'The impact of agricultural input subsidies on food and nutrition security: a systematic review'. Food Security, (10) 6, pp 1425-1436.

Johnston, Deborah and Stevano, Sara and Malapit, Hazel J and Hull, Elizabeth and Kadiyala, Suneetha (2018) 'Review: Time Use as an Explanation for the Agri-Nutrition Disconnect? Evidence from Rural Areas in Low and Middle Income Countries'. Food Policy, (76), pp 8-18.

Pritchard, Bill and Dixon, Jane and Hull, Elizabeth and Choithani, Chetan (2016) '‘Stepping back and moving in’: The Role of the State in the Contemporary Food Regime'. Journal of Peasant Studies, (43) 3, pp 693-710.

Hull, Elizabeth (2014) 'The Social Dynamics of Labor Shortage in South African Small-Scale Agriculture'. World Development, (59), pp 451-460.

Hull, Elizabeth and James, Deborah (2012) 'Introduction: Popular Economies in South Africa'. Africa: Journal of the International Africa Institute, (82) 1, pp 1-19.

Hull, Elizabeth (2012) 'Banking in the bush: waiting for credit in South Africa's rural economy'. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, (82) 1, pp 168-186.

Hull, Elizabeth (2012) 'Paperwork and the contradictions of accountability in a South African hospital'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, (18), pp 613-632.

Hull, Elizabeth (2012) 'The renewal of community health under the KwaZulu homeland government'. South African Historical Journal, (64) 1, pp 22-40.

Hull, Elizabeth (2010) 'International migration, "domestic struggles" and status aspiration among nurses in South Africa'. Journal of Southern African Studies, (36) 4, pp 851-867.

Edited Books or Journals

James, Deborah and Hull, Elizabeth, (eds.), (2012) Popular Economies in South Africa. Africa: Journal of the International Africa Institute. (Special Issue Vol. 82 No. 1).

Book Chapters

Hull, Elizabeth (2017) 'The Renewal of Community Health Under the KwaZulu "Homeland" Government'. In: Ally, S. and Lissoni, A., (eds.), New Histories of South Africa's Apartheid-Era Bantustans. Abingdon; New York: Routledge.

Hull, Elizabeth (2016) 'Supermarket Expansion, Informal Retail and Food Acquisition Strategies:An Example from Rural South Africa'. In: Klein, Jakob and Watson, James L, (eds.), The Handbook of Food and Anthropology. London: Bloomsbury.

Hull, Elizabeth (2014) 'Bringing the City to the Country: Supermarket Expansion, Food Practices and Aesthetics in Rural South Africa'. In: Domingos, Nuno and Sobral, José Manuel and West, Harry G., (eds.), Food Between the Country and the City. London: Bloomsbury.

Monographs and Working Papers

Johnston, Deborah and Stevano, Sara and Malapit, Hazel and Hull, Elizabeth and Kadiyala, Suneetha (2015) Agriculture, Gendered Time Use, and Nutritional Outcomes: A Systematic Review. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Book Reviews

Hull, Elizabeth (2017) 'Review of: 'Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution' by James Ferguson, Duke University Press, 2015.'. Politique Africaine, (145) March, pp 197-218.

Hull, Elizabeth (2016) 'Review of: 'Rethinking the South African crisis: nationalism, populism, hegemony' by Gillian Hart, University of Georgia Press, 2014.'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, (22) 1, pp 217-218.

Hull, Elizabeth (2010) 'Review of 'Ethnicity, Inc.' by John L. and Jean Comaroff'. American Ethnologist, (37) 4, pp 860-861.


This list was last generated on Monday, 16th September 2019, 09:26 Europe/London.