Navigation

Professor Pat Caplan MA PhD

Staff details

PositionEmeritus Professor of Anthropology
Department Anthropology
Email p.caplan (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone+44 (0)20 7919 7800
Professor Pat Caplan MA PhD

Professor Caplan was one of the founding members of the Anthropology Department at Goldsmiths. She taught in the department from 1977-2002, as well as at other universities in the UK, USA, Canada and South Africa. 

Her interests have included gender and social inequality; food, health and risk; reflexivity and anthropological ethics; social justice and human rights; personal narratives and biography. Fieldwork has been carried out on Mafia Island, Tanzania since 1965; Chennai (Madras) since 1974, and West Wales since 1992.

Professor Caplan has authored five monographs, edited five books and co-edited a further four, in addition to publishing some 80 journal articles and book chapters. In addition, she has constructed a number of websites about her research, and made a film about Mafia Island. 

Listen to an interview with Professor Caplan on the founding of the department

Academic qualifications

  • 1960‑3: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. B.A. Hons. African Studies (Swahili branch)
  • 1963‑5: University of London. M.A. Social Anthropology (by dissertation)
  • 1965‑8: Ph.D.in Social Anthropology, University of London. 

Teaching

When Pat Caplan was appointed to Goldsmiths College in 1977, there was no anthropology department in existence and only one other lecturer, Brian Morris (link), teaching the subject. By the mid 1980s, there were full degrees at undergraduate, masters and doctoral level, new courses, and a department which is now recognised as one of the best in the UK, receiving top ratings in recent assessment exercises.

While most of Pat Capan’s curriculum development and teaching has taken place at Goldsmiths, she has also taught at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, the London School of Economics, Birkbeck College London, and the University of Cape Town and given lectures at the University of Bergen, University of Oslo, York University Toronto, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Kyoto, University of Tokyo. She has also and acted as external examiner for a wide range of universities both in the UK and abroad.

Although no longer teaching full-time, Pat Caplan continues to give occasional lectures both in Goldsmiths and elsewhere. She recently gave the Annual Gold Lecture in Anthropology.

Professional activities 

  • British Association for the Advancement of Science: Committee member; 1994-8: President, Anthropology and Archaeology Section 1994-5.
  • Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 1998-2000
  • Chair of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth 1998-2002
  • Board member and Trustee, Actionaid UK, 2007-2010. During this period served on evaluations of AA country programmes in Uganda, Nepal, India and Rwanda.
  • Member, Advisory Board, Progress in Development Studies, Arnold Publishers
  • Member, Advisory Board, Journal of the Humanities, Dodoma University Tanzania
  • Member, Advisory Board, Anthropology in Action
  • Member, Editorial Board, Swahili Forum (e-journal from University of Leipzig)
  • Fellow, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1995-present, Trustee and Council member 2014-present

Featured work

Food research in UK

Research on Mafia Island, Tanzania

Research in Chennai (Madras) South India

  • Women’s organisations in South India 1974-1990. Primary research documents held in the archives of the School of Oriental and African Studies 
  • Madras women’s diaries, 1974-5. Diaries of a dozen middle-class women in Madras, primarily about daily activities and religious observances

Research in Nepal, 1969

  • Primary material on research in Nepal is held at the archives of the School of Oriental and African Studies
  • Nepal Historical Photo Gallery: this was a British Academy-funded project. They are also available, together with those of Lionel Caplan, on the Himalayan website of the University of Virginia. See the Caplan Collection held by the Tibetan and Himalayan Library and the collections held by SHANTI, the scholarly collections at the University of Virginia 

Featured media

Research Interests

Current projects

  • Research on food banks in UK

Past projects

UK

Concepts of Healthy Eating (in the UK)

All of the data from the ESRC food projects have now been archived in the ESDS ESRC Qualidata Archive.

Tanzania

India

Changes in Food Consumption Patterns in Middle-Class Households in Chennai (Madras), India 

Nepal

Photo gallery of pictures from the Far Western Hills of Nepal, taken in 1969

Publications

Book

‘Mikidadi wa Mafia: maisha ya mwanaharakati na familia yake nchini Tanzania’ (Mikidadi of Mafia: the life of an activist and his family in Tanzania).
Caplan, Pat. 2014. ‘Mikidadi wa Mafia: maisha ya mwanaharakati na familia yake nchini Tanzania’ (Mikidadi of Mafia: the life of an activist and his family in Tanzania). Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota Press. ISBN 978-9987082957

African Voices, African Lives: Personal Narratives from a Swahili Village
Caplan, Pat. 1997. African Voices, African Lives: Personal Narratives from a Swahili Village. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415137249

Edited Book

Swahili Modernities: Identity, Power and Development on the East African Coast
Caplan, Pat and Topan, Farouk, eds. 2006. Swahili Modernities: Identity, Power and Development on the East African Coast. Africa World Press. ISBN 978-1592210466

The Ethics of Anthropology: Debates and Dilemmas
Caplan, Pat, ed. 2003. The Ethics of Anthropology: Debates and Dilemmas. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415296434

Risk Revisited
Caplan, Pat, ed. 2000. Risk Revisited. London: Pluto Press. ISBN 978-0745314631

Food, Health and Identity: Approaches from the Social Sciences
Caplan, Pat, ed. 1997. Food, Health and Identity: Approaches from the Social Sciences. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415156806

Book Section

Women's voluntary social service in India - is it work?
Caplan, Pat. 1984. Women's voluntary social service in India - is it work? In: Kenneth Ballhatchet and David Taylor, eds. Changing South Asia. Hong Kong: Asian Research Service, pp. 69-80. ISBN 9622340210

Article

‘An anthropologist among the film-makers: A cautionary tale’. Part 2. ‘The politics of circulation’
Caplan, Pat. 2014. ‘An anthropologist among the film-makers: A cautionary tale’. Part 2. ‘The politics of circulation’. Anthropology Today, 30(1), pp. 15-19. ISSN 0268-540X

Changing Swahili cultures and identities in a globalising world: an approach from anthropology.
Caplan, Pat. 2013. Changing Swahili cultures and identities in a globalising world: an approach from anthropology. Swahili-Forum, 20, pp. 31-47. ISSN 1614-2373

An anthropologist among the film-makers: A cautionary tale’. Part 1. ‘The politics of production’
Caplan, Pat. 2013. An anthropologist among the film-makers: A cautionary tale’. Part 1. ‘The politics of production’. Anthropology Today, 29(6), pp. 23-26. ISSN 0268-540X

‘Cull or vaccinate? Badger politics in Wales’
Caplan, Pat. 2012. ‘Cull or vaccinate? Badger politics in Wales’. Anthropology Today, 28(6), pp. 17-21. ISSN 0268-540X

A ‘clash of civilizations’ on Mafia Island? The story of a dance festival.
Caplan, Pat. 2011. A ‘clash of civilizations’ on Mafia Island? The story of a dance festival. Anthropology Today, 27(2), pp. 18-21. ISSN 0268-540X

Something for posterity or hostage to fortune? Archiving anthropological field material
Caplan, Pat. 2010. Something for posterity or hostage to fortune? Archiving anthropological field material. Anthropology Today, 26(4), pp. 13-17. ISSN 0268-540X

Crossing the veg/non-veg divide: practising commensality among middle class women in Chennai
Caplan, Pat. 2008. Crossing the veg/non-veg divide: practising commensality among middle class women in Chennai. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 31(1), pp. 118-142. ISSN 0085-6401

Terror, Witchcraft and Risk
Caplan, Pat. 2006. Terror, Witchcraft and Risk. AnthroGlobe, ISSN 1481-3440

Anthropology, History and Personal Narratives: Reflections on Writing ‘African Voices, African Lives
Caplan, Pat. 1999. Anthropology, History and Personal Narratives: Reflections on Writing ‘African Voices, African Lives. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 9, pp. 283-290. ISSN 0080-4401

Why do people eat what they do? Approaches to food and diet from a social science perspective.
Caplan, Pat. 1996. Why do people eat what they do? Approaches to food and diet from a social science perspective. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1(2), ISSN 1359-1045

Distanciation or differentiation - what difference does it make?
Caplan, Pat. 1994. Distanciation or differentiation - what difference does it make? Critique of Anthropology, 14(2), pp. 99-115. ISSN 0308-275X

The cross cultural validity of feminism - a case study from Tanzania
Caplan, Pat. 1989. The cross cultural validity of feminism - a case study from Tanzania. Garcia de Orta. Série de Antropobiologia, 6(1), ISSN 0870-0168

The cross cultural validity of feminism - a case study from Tanzania
Caplan, Pat. 1989. The cross cultural validity of feminism - a case study from Tanzania. Garcia de Orta. Série de Antropobiologia, 6(2), ISSN 0870-0168

Engendering knowledge: the politics of ethnography (Part 1)
Caplan, Pat. 1988. Engendering knowledge: the politics of ethnography (Part 1). Anthropology Today, 4, pp. 8-12. ISSN 0268-540X

Engendering Knowledge: The Politics of Ethnography, (Part 2)
Caplan, Pat. 1988. Engendering Knowledge: The Politics of Ethnography, (Part 2). Anthropology Today, 5, pp. 14-17. ISSN 0268-540X

Women's Voluntary Social Welfare Work in India: the Cultural Construction of Gender and Class.
Caplan, Pat. 1985. Women's Voluntary Social Welfare Work in India: the Cultural Construction of Gender and Class. Bulletin of concerned Asian scholars, 17(1), pp. 20-31. ISSN 0007-4810

Development Policies in Tanzania: Some Implications for Women
Caplan, Pat. 1981. Development Policies in Tanzania: Some Implications for Women. The Journal of Development Studies, 17(3), pp. 98-108. ISSN 0022-0388

Joiners and non joiners: an Indian city suburb and its women's club
Caplan, Pat. 1980. Joiners and non joiners: an Indian city suburb and its women's club. Sociological Bulletin, 29(2), pp. 207-221. ISSN 0038-0229

Indian Women, Illusion and Reality: a Review of Some Recent Books
Caplan, Pat. 1979. Indian Women, Illusion and Reality: a Review of Some Recent Books. Women's studies international quarterly, 2(4), pp. 461-479. ISSN 0148-0685

Ascetics in Western Nepal
Caplan, Pat. 1976. Ascetics in Western Nepal. Eastern Anthropologist, 26(2), pp. 174-182. ISSN 0012-8686

Boys' circumcision and girls' puberty rites among the Swahili of Mafia Island Tanzania
Caplan, Pat. 1976. Boys' circumcision and girls' puberty rites among the Swahili of Mafia Island Tanzania. Africa, 46(1), pp. 21-33. ISSN 0001-9720

Cognatic Descent Groups on Mafia Island, Tanzania
Caplan, Pat. 1969. Cognatic Descent Groups on Mafia Island, Tanzania. Man; a monthly record of anthropological science, 4(3), pp. 419-431. ISSN 0025-1496

Perceptions of gender stratification
Caplan, Pat. Perceptions of gender stratification. Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute, 59(2), pp. 106-208. ISSN 0001-9720

Big Society or Broken Society?: Food Banks in the UK.
Caplan, Pat. Big Society or Broken Society?: Food Banks in the UK. Anthropology Today, 32(1), pp. 5-9. ISSN 0268-540X

Conference or Workshop Item

'Changing Swahili cultures in a globalising world: An approach from anthropology’
Caplan, Pat. 2009. ''Changing Swahili cultures in a globalising world: An approach from anthropology’'. In: ‘Cultural Dynamics of Pre-colonial and Colonial Swahili society’. Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea, Republic of 14-15th May 2009.

'But is it real food? Responses to globalisation in Tanzania and India
Caplan, Pat. 2006. ''But is it real food? Responses to globalisation in Tanzania and India'. In: SCOFF panel of the BSA Annual Conference on Order and Disorder. Harrogate, United Kingdom.

'Towards a feminist ethics of anthropology'
Caplan, Pat. 2005. ''Towards a feminist ethics of anthropology''. In: LOVA (Gender and Anthropology) conference. , Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands.

'Anthropology in the new world (dis)order' Keynote lecture at the Annual Conference of South African Anthropologists
Caplan, Pat. 2003. ''Anthropology in the new world (dis)order' Keynote lecture at the Annual Conference of South African Anthropologists'. In: Annual Conference of South African Anthropologists. University of Cape Town, South Africa.

'Anthropology as a moral discipline: social justice, ethics and human rights'
Caplan, Pat. 2002. ''Anthropology as a moral discipline: social justice, ethics and human rights''. In: Canadian Anthropology Society Conference, 'Social justice, culture and power'. University of Windsor, Canada.

'Risky Business: The Changing Landscapes of Anthropology'
Caplan, Pat. 2001. ''Risky Business: The Changing Landscapes of Anthropology''. In: Paul Stirling Memorial Lecture. University of Kent UKC, United Kingdom.

Audio

Interview with Paul Thompson in series ‘Pioneers of Research: National Life Stories’ 2009
Caplan, Pat. Interview with Paul Thompson in series ‘Pioneers of Research: National Life Stories’ 2009.

Film/Video

Hour-long interview with Alan Macfarlane for Anthropological Ancestors video archive.
Caplan, Pat. 2004. Hour-long interview with Alan Macfarlane for Anthropological Ancestors video archive..