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Professor Bob Simpson

Emeritus Professor

Emeritus Professor in the Department of Anthropology
Emeritus Professor in the Durham CELLS (Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences)
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing


Bob Simpson is a social anthropologist whose research interests focus broadly on Bioethics, Biomedicine and Biotechnologies.

His current research interests centre on tissue economies and moralities as these relate to organs, gametes and embryos. One of his main research interests is the procurement and use of cadaveric tissue [see New Immortalities]

His work has also explored the encounter between challenging technological developments and local systems of values and beliefs in South Asia. 

Between 2002-04 he held a Wellcome Biomedical Ethics Fellowship which enabled him to carry out research into the reception of new reproductive and genetic technologies in Sri Lanka.

He has also written numerous articles and essays on pedagogy and anthropology.

Recently completed projects include:

  • Biomedical Health Experimentation in South Asia 2010-2012 [£500k- ESRC/DfID - Bob Simpson CI along with Dr Salla Sariola (Durham) and Professor Roger Jeffery and Dr Ian Harper (Edinburgh)].
  • International Science Collaborations and Bioethics. 2007 to 2010 [£1.4million - ESRC - Professor Marilyn Strathern as Principal Investigator and Bob Simpson Co-Investigator [Durham], along with Monica Konrad [Cambridge] and Margaret Sleeboom Faulkner [Sussex].
  • Infertility and the New Reproductive Technologies among British Pakistani Moslems. 2006-2010 [£167k - ESRC - Bob Simpson, Principal Investigator along with Kate Hampshire, Co-Investigator and Mwenza Blell Reseacher]
  • He was also Principal Investigator in 2006 on an ESRC funded Researcher Development Initiative project [£58k, along with Robin Humphrey of Newcastle University] to develop workshops and resources supporting third year PhD students writing up Qualitative data: Writing Across Boundaries. This project is now an advanced training workshop of the Northern Ireland and North East [NINE] Doctoral Training Partnership.

An open access introduction to ethnography for undergraduates.

First encounters with the work of creating ethnographic texts can be daunting and confusing. In the attached text I have tried to provide a brief and easily accessible introduction to the idea of worlds and how to go about studying these anthropologically.

Research interests

  • Death and Donation
  • Tissue economies [as these relate to organs, gametes and embryos]
  • 'Human subject research' and the ethics of experimentation involving humans
  • Comparative bioethics
  • Kinship and the new reproductive and genetic technologies
  • Kinship, divorce, and relationship breakdown in Western societies
  • Narrative and biography
  • Sri Lanka, ritual tradition and performance

Esteem Indicators

  • 2011: REF 2014 Panel Member [Anthropology and Development].:
  • 2010: Member of the editorial board of Anthropology in Action:
  • 2010: Member of the Royal Anthroplogical Institute Publications Committee [2009-2011]:
  • 2010: Member of the Royal Anthropological Institute Medical Anthropology Committee:
  • 2010: Member of the Royal Anthropological Institute Council:
  • 2010: Member of the editorial board of LATISS [Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences]:
  • 2010: Member of the ESRC Peer Review College:
  • 2010: Member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Human Tissue Donation in Research and Therapy [2010-2011]:


Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Supervision students