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Anthropology Research at Durham spans a wide range of activity from the production of knowledge to advance the discipline, to applied research for the public benefit. This has been a fundamental hallmark of our Department for many decades. Here we showcase some of the projects in which we apply anthropological perspectives to create benefit for people both here in the UK and around the world. We engage with the public, external organisations, and public bodies in numerous ways to convey the importance of Anthropology to everyday life.



Russell Hill works with commercial and communal farmers in South Africa to understand the perceptions of, and factors leading to, livestock predation by predators and crop-raiding by primates, to develop viable solutions for mitigating human-wildlife conflict.

Who does the work benefit? Local landowners farming in the regions surrounding the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa.

What does the work comprise? We explore the dynamic nature interactions between farmers and wildlife in the areas surrounding the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa. Often labelled of human-wildlife, we seek to understand the human dimensions of farming alongside nature and how animals survive in mountainous environments. We assess actual levels of livestock predation alongside stakeholder perceptions and help implement more effective methods of animal husbandry; similarly our studies of diurnal primate behaviour and the factors leading to crop-raiding help us work with farmers to develop viable mitigation strategies.

Where does it take place? Soutpansberg Mountains, Limpopo Province, South Africa

What are the main external [non-academic] organisations involved? Panthera, Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment & Tourism, Agri South Africa, Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Primate and Predator Project website


Museum Practice

Paolo Fortis works to translate his ethnographic research on indigenous visual and material culture into museum practice.

Who does the work benefit? Museum curators, conservators and visitors, school pupils and teachers.

What does the work comprise? Providing consultancy to develop exhibition content based on research, writing exhibition texts, providing field photographs and videos.

Where does it take place? Panama with Guna people living in the San Blas Archipelago (Guna Yala) and Panama City.

What are the main external [non-academic] organisations involved? Ethnographic Museums

Find out more:

Dr Paolo Fortis staff profile

Ethnographic Museums Website


Leadership-Interaction and Prestige

Matt Offord, Roger GillJeremy Kendal are interested in what causes effective leadership in social groups that engage in collaborative behaviour. In particular, we are interested in the behaviour of non-leaders in affecting leadership efficacy and the development of prestige through leader-non leader interactions.

Following the legacy of Nelson, the Royal Navy typically identifies leaders by an assessment of their qualities, experience and rank. Yet, their end goal is team performance so the quality of interaction between leaders and non-leaders is critical.

Our research is developing impact for the Royal Navy by identifying types of leader-non-leader interactions that can improve team performance. We use mixed methods including identifying forms of interaction, including covert forms of resistance to the leader or 'levelling', through a series of group interviews (grounded theory); quantitative characterisation of social networks and measures of prestige across a ship's company; statistical correlations between prestige afforded to group leaders and their team performance during training exercises at sea; comparing observed patterns by which information spreads across social networks against predictions generated by computer simulation.

Our research challenges the traditional top-down view of leadership communication. The resulting leadership interaction process describes a series of mundane and contested encounters through which prestige is given to dispersed leaders within a group.


Giving Vunerable People a Voice

Gina Porter works with vulnerable people in sub-Saharan Africa towards improving their access to quality services and livelihoods, including through enhanced daily mobility.

Who is the research is aimed at helping? Women, children and young people, older people, those living in remote locations

Where? Sub-Saharan Africa

What does the work comprise? Developing field methodologies which can help give vulnerable people voice (notably through co-investigation/peer research), then working with community co-researchers to investigate and evidence current conditions, identify key needs and promote improved policy and practice.

Which are the main external (non-academic) organisations involved? International Forum for Rural Transport and Development and other transport-related NGOs; HelpAge International; youth and disability NGOs; ReCAP; in-country government departments in Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania; African Development Bank.

Find out more:

Women, Transport and Employment in Africa

Professor Gina Porter staff profile


Child Mobility and Health

Kate Hampshire's work aims to improve access to effective health care for people across Sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on young people and other vulnerable groups.

Who does the work benefit? People across Sub-Saharan Africa who currently lack access to effective healthcare.

What does the work comprise? Understanding and attempting to address structural inequalities that limit access to care, especially for poor and vulnerable groups.

Where does it take place? Sub-Saharan Africa (currently Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi and Ethiopia).

What are the main external [non-academic] organisations involved? Funding from Wellcome, MRC, ESRC, DFID. Partnerships with the World Health Organisation and national governments (Ministries of Health).

Find out more: 

Professor Kate Hampshire staff profile


Infant Sleep

Helen Ball founded and runs the Durham Infancy and Sleep Centre (DISC). Her work informs UK and international practice and policy in the areas of infant sleep, breastfeeding and sudden infant death.

Parents, Health Professionals, Parent Support NGOs and Policymakers all benefit from the research conducted by Helen and her team in the Centre. Our work involves research in the community, DISC, and hospital settings exploring all aspects of parent-infant sleep and night-time infant care. We work closely with parent support organisations (e.g. UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, La Leche League, NCT, Lullaby Trust), and NHS Trusts (hospitals and community Trusts). We created the Baby Sleep Information Source (Basis) in partnership with several organisations.

Find out more:

Helen Ball staff profile