SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Elisa Tamburo

PhD Social Anthropology (SOAS), MA Anthropology of Media (SOAS)


Elisa Tamburo
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Teaching Fellow

Dr Elisa Tamburo
Email address:
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Thesis title:
“Moving House: place, time and the politics of urban relocation in a Taipei military village”
Internal Supervisors


Elisa recently completed her PhD in Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London. Her PhD thesis titled “Moving House: place, time and the politics of urban relocation in a Taipei military village” investigates the politics of resettlement of historical settlement created by the mainlander diaspora to Taiwan in 1949. Her interests include urban and economic anthropology, studies of migration and displacement, and the anthropology of infrastructure. Her area of expertise is on the Greater China region and on the Chinese diaspora elsewhere.

Elisa is currently a Teaching Fellow in the department of Social Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS, teaching Introduction to Social Anthropology. She is also working as a Teaching Fellow at UCL in the Social Science Division, where she teaches the MA course Qualitative Research Methods and the BA course Migration and Society.

PhD Research

My PhD thesis investigated the politics of urban relocation of a military settlement to high rise buildings in Taipei. In 1949, the Kuomintang (KMT) was exiled from China to Taiwan, as a result of the Chinese Civil War. Makeshift settlements were built for 600,000 military personnel and their families displaced to Taiwan, creating the so-called “military villages”, or juancun. From the mid-1990s, the government began to reclaim many of these sites and moved residents into new high-rise apartments.

The dissertation primarily asks how the uprooting of political exile, followed by emplacement in a makeshift settlement for sixty years, informs a second displacement in the form of urban relocation. Drawing on studies of urban relocation, time and urban informality, I examine the historical and political formation of the village, the rhythms and personalities of everyday life in the juancun as I encountered them during fieldwork, the temporality of the move from the low-lying village to vertical Taipei, and the subsequent adoption of new ways of living and relating.

My main argument is that the relocation of a community that has made pace through the experience of the exile for sixty years creates “social disarticulation” in the new setting. I suggest that the gains and the losses incurred during this urban relocation are fully understandable only by taking a longue durée approach, which pertains to the earlier experience of displacement/emplacement. By taking a processual, diachronic approach to repeated displacement, my thesis contributes to anthropological debates on urban relocation, planning and heritage in Asian cities, and to the ethnography of informality in Taipei.


Tamburo, Elisa (2020)
“High-rise social failures: regulating technologies, authority, and aesthetics in the resettlement of Taipei military villages”. Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 86:36-52.

Tamburo, Elisa (2018)
“Authoritarianism in the Living Room: Everyday Disciplines, senses and morality in Taiwan’s military villages”. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 47(2), 137-163.