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Dr James Staples

Dr James Staples
Reader - Anthropology

Marie Jahoda 137

Research area(s)

  • South Asia
  • Medical anthropology (leprosy, disability, the body and pain)
  • Suicide
  • Anthropology of food
  • Biography and life history

Research Interests

I am a social anthropologist with a regional interest in South Asia and a long-standing fascination in how bodily differences are experienced, socially and viscerally, that continues to shape my work. I return regularly to the South Indian leprosy colony I have been visiting since 1984 to pursue ongoing fieldwork that has taken me in several directions, including a study of suicide; ongoing work on food and social mobility; and the writing of a detailed biographical account of a leprosy-affected man’s life. My current project explores how beef-eating Christians, Muslims and Dalits in South India are experiencing the State's clampdown on cattle slaughter, alongside vigilante attacks from cow-protectionists.

Research grants and projects


Project details

British Academy (SG-161306) Holy cows and chicken Manchuria: food and social mobility in provincial South India - James Staples (PI)  £6,154.37

This project develops my existing work on food in South Asia by documenting and then analysing how major socio-economic and ecological changes in the region – beginning with the Green Revolution in the late 1960s and continuing through the liberal economic reforms of the 1990s and beyond – also transform how people consume and relate to food on an everyday basis. In particular, through life history interviews and participant observation I aim to explore how the people I work with in rural and small-town South India, often on the peripheries of what was described as an ‘emergent middle class’, utilise food and dining relationships to assert positive identities and affect social mobility.


British Academy (SG-47129) Suicide, youth and farmers in South India£2,606 July 2007 - September 2009 James Staples (PI)

Disabled lives: understanding disability through ethnographic biography2009 - 2010 James Staples (PI)