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Professor Rebecca Cassidy BA MPhil PhD

Position held:

+44 (0)20 7919 7802

r.cassidy (

Department of Anthropology
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross
SE14 6NW

Office hours:
On leave 2014-15

I studied Anthropology at Cambridge before heading to Edinburgh where I wrote my PhD thesis about the thoroughbred racing industry in Newmarket. A British Academy postdoctoral fellowship enabled me to conduct additional research into thoroughbred racing in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. I came to Goldsmiths in 2001 and continued to develop my interests in both horse centered societies and also the productive life of risk, gambling, betting and money.

My responsibilities within the department have included acting as Examinations Officer between 2002 and 2006 and Chair of Learning and Teaching between 2006 and 2009. I convened the MA in Social Anthropology until 2009.

I am currently principal investigator of GAMSOC, a European Research Council funded project.

Gambling in Europe is worth an estimated E89billion and is a rapidly expanding and changing industry. Gambling legislation is not harmonised at the European level and national governments are currently moving at varying speeds between containment and revenue generation. Operators use constantly evolving technology to create new markets and exploit loopholes in existing ad hoc and obsolete legislation. Like legislators, the research community has failed to keep pace with these changes and continues to focus on quantifying and categorising gamblers and gambling activities within national boundaries. This focus ignores the changing regulatory and technological realities framing the production of gambling and fails to capture gambling as it occurs across national boundaries.

GAMSOC consists of four case studies: the remote gambling industry, spread betting among financial services workers in Europe, land based gaming in Cyprus and gamblers and non-gamblers in the Italo-Slovenian borderlands. The four case studies are integrated at the level of planning, midterm goals, and findings. The project will establish the value of a systematic ethnographic approach to gambling by conducting research in a number of contrasting settings, across a number of different boundaries and scales. It will form the basis of a new research paradigm that matches the dynamism and internationalism of the European gambling industry today.

Watch Rebecca's talk at the recent Falling Walls conference:

Areas of supervision

Rebecca has supervised PhD students interested in human animal studies, environmentalism and gambling. 

Completed PhD Students:

  • Kim Baker, Making Meat: People, Property and Pigs in East Anglia
  • Eva Liu, Problem Gambling reconsidered in the Chinese community in Britain
  • Claire Loussouarn, 'Buying moments of happiness': luck, time and agency among Chinese casino players

Research interests

My work focuses on uncertainty. I explore how particular groups and individuals engage with and even encourage uncertainty as a potentially productive aspect of social life. Risk can threaten, but it can also liberate, and in highly stratified societies, it can decouple established relationships between kinship and power, work and reward, to name just two dominant Euroamerican couplings. Because of their intriguing combination of the conservative and anarchic, and the richness of their historical and literary records, I have chosen to investigate these ideas within the horseracing and gambling industries of Europe and North America.

I’m currently working on a project about gambling in Europe funded by the European Research Council (GAMSOC). I head up a team of four researchers, and we are interested in how gambling in Europe might be studied in a way that preserves its cultural and historical variation. We have four case studies, intended to encourage us to study gambling across boundaries of various kinds: national, economic and conceptual. Claire Loussouarn will study spread betting among financial services workers. Julie Scott will work on domestic and commercial gambling in Cyprus. Andrea Pisac is studying casino gamblers and their families in Slovenia. I will focus on the online gambling industry. More information about GAMSOC can be found here:

Between 2006 and 2009 I ran a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Responsibility in Gambling Trust, exploring the everyday lives of inveterate gamblers. My fieldwork was based in betting shops in London. I was particularly interested in punters, betting shop workers, the betting shop environment, licensing, legislation, and the social history of the gambling industry. This related to more general interests in money, stakes, risk, luck, work, deregulation, machines and numbers.

Since 2002, I have been working on a comparative study of the British and North American thoroughbred breeding and racing industries, conducting fieldwork in Newmarket, England, and in the Bluegrass of Kentucky, focusing on kinship, gender and class. My monograph about Newmarket, Sport of Kings, was published in 2002. A second monograph Horse People, based on my fieldwork in Kentucky, was published in 2007. This project is part of a broader interest in people’s relationships with their environment, including plants and animals. In 2004, Professor Molly Mullin and I organised a Wenner Gren international symposium on the future of the concept of domestication within anthropology. The symposium, held in Tucson in 2005, involved anthropologists, archaeologists, linguists, biological anthropologists and historians from New Zealand, Australia, Norway, the United States and the United Kingdom. The resulting edited collection was published by Berg in 2007. In 2006 I embarked upon an Isaac Newton Trust supported project with Dr Mim Bower of the McDonald Institute of Cambridge University, combining ethnographic and DNA data in order to explore horse domestication in central Asia.

Selected publications

Books and reports

Cassidy, R, C. Loussouarn and A. Pisac (2014). Fair Game: producing gambling research.

Cassidy, R, C. Loussouarn and A. Pisac (eds.) (2013). Qualitative Research in Gambling: Exploring the production and consumption of risk. London: Routledge.

Cassidy, R. (2013). Cambridge Companion to Horseracing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cassidy, R. (2007). Horse People: thoroughbred culture in Lexington and Newmarket. John Hopkins University Press.

Cassidy, R. and Mullin, M. (2006). Where the wild things are now: domestication reconsidered. Oxford: Berg.

Cassidy, R. (2002). The Sport of Kings: Kinship, class and thoroughbred breeding in Newmarket. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Articles and Chapters

Cassidy, R. (2014). 'A place for men to come and do their thing': constructing masculinities in betting shops in London. British Journal of Sociology, 65(1):170-91.

Cassidy, R (2013). ‘Partial Convergence: Social Gaming and Real Money Gambling.’ In Cassidy, R, C. Loussouarn and A. Pisac (eds.) Qualitative Research in Gambling: Exploring the production and consumption of risk, London: Routledge, pp. 74-91.

Cassidy, R. (2013). Against the Odds: A Professional Gambler’s Narrative of Achievement. In: N. Long and H. Moore (eds). The social life of achievement. New York: Berghahn, pp. 43-60.

Cassidy, R. (2013). 'Introduction'. In Cassidy, R. (ed.) Cambridge Companion to HorseracingCambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1-10.

Cassidy, R. (2012). 'Horse versus Machine: battles in the betting shop'. Journal of the Royal Anthropology Institute 18(2), 266-284.

Cassidy, R. (2012). 'Lives with others: climate change and human-animal relationships'. Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 21-36.

Cassidy, R. (2010). Gambling as exchange: horserace betting in London. International Gambling Studies 10(2): 139 - 149.

Cassidy, R. (2009). An anthropologist in the bookies'. Newsletter of the Society for the Study of Gambling 43.

Cassidy, R. (2009). 'The horse, the Kyrgyz horse and the "Kyrgyz horse"'. Anthropology Today 25 (1).

Cassidy, R. (2009). 'Casino capitalism and the financial crisis'. Anthropology Today, Volume 25, Number 4, pp. 10-13, August 2009.

Cassidy, R. (2008). ‘Symbols and symbolism: animal’. In Middleton, J. & Miller, J. (eds.) New Encyclopaedia of Africa. Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Cassidy, R. (2008). 'Zoophilia reconsidered’. In Donnan, H. and Magowan, F. (eds.) Transgressive sexualities. Oxford: Berghahn Press.

Cassidy, R. (2008). 'Arborescent Culture'. In Leach, J. and Bamford, S. (eds.) Kinship and Beyond: the Genealogical model reconsidered. Oxford: Berghahn Press.

Cassidy, R. (2008). 'Rethinking Cruelty'. Review of Just a Dog: understanding animal cruelty and ourselves, Arnold Arluke. Current Anthropology, August.

Cassidy, R. (2008). Review of The Animals Reader: the essential classic and contemporary writings, Linda Kalof & Amy Fitzgerald (eds.), Anthrozoos.

Cassidy, R. (2008). Review of Dolly mixtures: the remaking of genealogy, By Sarah Franklin. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 14(1), pp. 227-228(2)

Cassidy, R. (2007). 'Zoosex'. Stimulus Respond: for the urban anthropologist 18: 083-092

Cassidy, R. (2007). Review of Gambling and survival in native North America, Paul Pasquaretta. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13(3): 753-754

Cassidy, R. (2007). 'I want to know about the dogs', Review of Companion Species Manifesto, Donna Haraway. Theory, Culture & Society  23: 324-328.

Cassidy, R. (2007). '"Bon sang ne saurait mentir". Reproduction d’hommes et de chevaux à Newmarket’, Ethnologie française 2007 / 2 – April, 233 – 242

Cassidy, R. (2007). 'Le pur-sang dans la course, de Newmarket au Kentucky' in A cheval! Ecuyer, amazons & cavaliers, Association pour l'academie d'art equestre de Versailles.

Cassidy, R. (2004). Falling in love with horses: the international thoroughbred auction’ , Society and Animals, September (special edition edited by Garry Marvin).

Cassidy, R. (2004). ‘Where is racing going?’ National Equine Student, Issue 1, March/April, 16-19.

Cassidy, R. (2003). ‘Turf Wars: Arab dimensions to British racehorse breeding’, Anthropology Today 19(3), 13-18.

Cassidy, R. (2002). ‘The social practice of racehorse breeding’. Society and Animals 10(2): 151-171.

Cassidy, R. (2001). ‘On the human-animal boundary’. Anthrozoos 14(4): 194-203.

Cassidy, R. (2000). Are all men equal on the turf and under it?’. Newsletter for the Society for the Study of Gambling, April, Spring 2000 no.34.

Content last modified: 13 Jan 2015

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