Dr Henrike Donner

Staff details

Position Reader, PGR Admissions
Department Anthropology
Email h.donner (@gold.ac.uk)
Phone +44 (0)20 7078 5036
Dr Henrike Donner

I joined Goldsmiths in 2015 and have previously taught at LSE, Georg August Universität Göttingen, and Oxford Brookes. Most of my research to date focuses on gender and class, and how marriage, the family, parenthood and consumption reproduce middle-class identities and class relations. I also work on urban politics, and have written on the role of neighbourhoods, on the Naxalite movements, urban restructuring, and gendered access to housing.

Academic qualifications

  • PhD Social Anthropology, London School of Economics 1999
  • MA Social Anthropology, Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München 1992

Teaching and Supervision

I supervise research students working on class, gender and kinship, reproductive change, and urban politics.
I invite proposals on gender and kinship, class, urban politics and reproductive labour.
My curent doctorate students are
Bianca Griffani
Sonia Crivello
Haya Al-Shawani
Daisy Swift
Sarah Ramandhita
Isla Francis

Research interests

My research is based on fieldwork in India and focuses on middle-class family life, parenting and reproductive change, love and marriage, consumption and the effects of economic liberalization. I am also interested in gendered effects of urban spatial politics and neoliberal property regimes, and have published on homeownership, possessive individualism, and consumer identities in the context of economic liberalisation.
At the moment I am the PI on a collaborative project, which explores poor women's access to housing and home-making practices from a comparative perspective.

Publications and research outputs


Donner, Henrike. 2008. Domestic Goddesses: Maternity, Globalisation and Middle-Class Identity in Contemporary India. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0754649427

Edited Book

Bhattacharya, Bhaswati and Donner, Henrike, eds. 2020. Globalising Everyday Consumption in India: History and Ethnography. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 9780367178529

Donner, Henrike, ed. 2011. Being Middle-Class in India: A Way of Life. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415671675

Donner, Henrike and De Neve, Geert, eds. 2006. The Meaning of the Local: Politics of Place in Urban India. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415596237

Edited Journal

Donner, Henrike and Santos, Goncalo, eds. 2016. Special Issue: Comparative Perspectives on Love and Marriage in India and China, Modern Asian Studies, 50(4). 0026-749X

Donner, Henrike and De Neve, Geert, eds. 2015. Special Issue: Revisiting Urban Property in India, Journal of South Asian Development, 10(3). 0973-1741

Donner, Henrike and Chari, Sharad, eds. 2010. Special Special Double Issue: Ethnography and Activism, Cultural Dynamics, 22(2). 0921-3740

Book Section

Donner, Henrike. 2023. Feminist Ethnography as a Collective Project. In: Martin Fotta; Cecilia McCallum and Silvia Posocco, eds. The Cambridge Handbook of the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 65-93.

Donner, Henrike. 2020. The Housewife goes to Market: Food, Work, and Neoliberal Selves in Kolkata Middle-class Families. In: Bhaswati Bhattacharya and Henrike Donner, eds. Globalising Everyday Consumption in India: History and Ethnography. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 185-205. ISBN 9780367178529

Bhattacharya, Bhaswati and Donner, Henrike. 2020. Introduction. In: Bhaswati Bhattacharya and Henrike Donner, eds. Globalising Everyday Consumption in India: History and Ethnography. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 1-26. ISBN 9780367178529

Donner, Henrike. 2018. Domesticating Markets: Early Years Education and Middle-class Parenting in India. In: Marylin Fleer and Beert van Oers, eds. International Handbook on Early Years Education. London/New York: Springer, pp. 1541-1561. ISBN 978-94-024-0925-3

Donner, Henrike. 2015. Making middle-class families in Calcutta. In: James Carrier and Don Kalb, eds. Anthropologies of Class: Power, Practice, Inequality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 131-148. ISBN 9781107087415

Donner, Henrike. 2015. Liberalisation. In: Gita Dharampal-Frick; Rachel Dwyer; Monica Kirloskar-Steinbach and Jahnavi Phalkey, eds. Key Concepts in Modern Indian Studies. Delhi: Oxford University Press and New York University Press, pp. 160-161. ISBN 978-0199452750

Donner, Henrike. 2014. Gender and Property in Neoliberal Middle-class Kolkata: Of untold riches and unruly homes. In: Leela Fernandes, ed. Routledge Handbook of Gender in South Asia. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 189-203. ISBN 9780415523530

Donner, Henrike. 2013. West Bengal: Colonial Legacy, Class Formation and Politics. In: Peter Berger and Frank Heidemann, eds. The Modern Anthropology of India: Ethnography, Themes and Theory. London: Routledge, pp. 309-326. ISBN 978-0415587235

Donner, Henrike. 2012. Between the Veranda and the Mall: Fieldwork and the Spaces of Femininity. In: Italo Prado and Guiliana Prato, eds. Anthropology in the City. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 173-190.

Donner, Henrike. 2011. Gendered Bodies, Domestic Work and Perfect Families: New Regimes of Gender and Food in Bengali Middle-class Lifestyles. In: Henrike Donner, ed. Being Middle-class in India: A Way of Life. London: Routledge, pp. 47-72. ISBN 978-0415671675

Donner, Henrike and De Neve, Geert. 2011. Introduction. In: Henrike Donner, ed. Being Middle-class in India: A Way of Life. London: Routledge, pp. 1-22. ISBN 978-0415671675

Donner, Henrike. 2011. Radical Masculinity: Morality, Sociality and Relationships through Recollections of Naxalite Activists. In: Alpa Shah and Judith Pettrigrew, eds. Windows to the Revolution: Ethnographies of Maoism in India and Nepal. London: Orient Black Swan, pp. 139-159. ISBN 978-8187358497

Donner, Henrike and De Neve, Geert. 2006. Space, Place and Globalisation: Revisiting the Urban Neighbourhood in India. In: Henrike Donner and Geert De Neve, eds. The Meaning of the Local: Politics of Place in Urban India. London: Routledge, pp. 1-20. ISBN 978-1844721146

Donner, Henrike. 2006. The Parlour and the Para: Class and Gender in a Neighbourhood of Central Calcutta. In: Geert De Neve and Henrike Donner, eds. The Meaning of the Local: Politics of Place in Urban India. Routledge: London, pp. 141-158. ISBN 978-0415596237

Donner, Henrike. 2005. Children are Capital, Grandchildren are Interest: Changing Educational Strategies and Kin-relations in Calcutta Middle-class Families. In: Jackie Assayag and Chris Fuller, eds. Globalizing India: Perspectives from Below. London: Anthem Press, pp. 119-139. ISBN 978-1843311959

Donner, Henrike. 2005. Reflections on Gender and Fieldwork in the City. In: Geert De Neve and Maya Unnithan-Kumar, eds. Critical Journeys: The Making of Anthropologists. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 165-189. ISBN 978-0754648093

Donner, Henrike. 2004. Labour, Privatisation, and Class: Middle-class Women’s Experience of Changing Hospital Births in Calcutta. In: Maya Unnithan-Kumar, ed. Reproductive Agency, Medicine and the State: Cultural Transformations in Childbearing. Oxford: Berghahn Books, pp. 113-135. ISBN 978-1845450441


Donner, Henrike. 2023. ‘The Girls are Alright’: Beauty Work and Neoliberal Regimes of Responsibility Among Young Women in Urban India. Critique of Anthropology, 43(4), ISSN 0308-275X

Donner, Henrike. 2022. Liminal States: Propertied Citizenship and Gendered Kin Work in Middle-Class Kolkata Families. Critique of Anthropology, 42(4), pp. 457-476. ISSN 0308-275X

Donner, Henrike. 2017. Two steps forward, one step back ? Does India’s new maternity leave policy enhance gender equality? Policy Forum, April 10th,

Donner, Henrike. 2017. The Anthropology of the Middle Class Across the Globe. Anthropology of this Century, 18(1),

Donner, Henrike and Santos, Goncalo. 2016. Love, Marriage, and Intimate Citizenship in Contemporary China and India: An introduction. Modern Asian Studies, 50(4), pp. 1123-1146. ISSN 0026-749X

Donner, Henrike. 2016. Doing it our way: Love and marriage in Kolkata middle-class families. Modern Asian Studies, 50(4), pp. 1147-1189. ISSN 0026-749X

Donner, Henrike. 2015. 'Daughters are Just Like Sons Now': Negotiating Kin-work and Property Regimes in Kolkata Middle-class Families. Journal of South Asian Development, 10(3), pp. 318-344. ISSN 0973-1741

Donner, Henrike and De Neve, Geert. 2015. Introduction: Revisiting Urban Property in India. Journal of South Asian Development, 10(3), pp. 255-266. ISSN 0973-1741

Donner, Henrike. 2012. Love and Marriage, Globally. Anthropology of this Century, 4(2),

Donner, Henrike. 2012. Middle-class Imagination and Urban Restructuring in Twenty-first Century Kolkata. New Perspectives on Turkey(46), pp. 129-155. ISSN 0896-6346

Donner, Henrike. 2010. Locating Activist Spaces: The Neighbourhood as a Source and Site for Urban Activism in 1970s Calcutta. Cultural Dynamics, 23(1), pp. 21-40. ISSN 0921-3740

Donner, Henrike and Chari, Sharad. 2010. Ethnography and Activism: A Critical Introduction. Cultural Dynamics, 22(2), pp. 75-84. ISSN 0921-3740

Donner, Henrike. 2009. Radical Masculinity: Morality, Sociality and Relationships through Recollections of Naxalite Activists. Dialectical Anthropology, 33(3), pp. 327-343. ISSN 0304-4092

Donner, Henrike. 2008. New Vegetarianism: Food, Gender and Neo-Liberal Regimes in Bengali Middle-Class Families. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 31(1), pp. 143-169. ISSN 0085-6401

Donner, Henrike. 2006. Committed Mothers and Well-adjusted Children: Privatisation, Early-Years Education and Motherhood in Calcutta Middle-class Families. Modern Asian Studies, 40(2), pp. 339-364. ISSN 0026-749X

Donner, Henrike. 2004. The Significance of Naxalbari: Accounts of Personal Involvement and Politics in West Bengal. Cambridge Centre for South Asian Studies Occasional Paoers(14), pp. 1-14. ISSN 1476-7511

Donner, Henrike. 2003. The Place of Birth: Pregnancy, Childbearing and Kinship in Calcutta Middle-class Families. Medical Anthropology, 22(4), pp. 303-341. ISSN 0145-9740

Donner, Henrike. 2002. One’s Own Marriage: Love Marriages in a Calcutta Neighbourhood. South Asia Research, 22(1), pp. 79-94. ISSN 0262-7280

Donner, Henrike. 1997. Gender and Urbanisation in a Calcutta Neighbourhood. Journal of the Anthropological Survey of India, 46(1), pp. 1-44. ISSN 0970-3411

Exhibition Catalogue

Donner, Henrike; Nicolescu, Gabriela and Santos, Dominique. 2016. Austerity Bites: Food Stories from Lewisham.

Further profile content

Professional projects

I led the project ‘Austerity Bites: Food Stories from Lewisham’ – which engaged with the effects of austerity politics on food security, social equality, and local foodscapes.
As main marker of identity food is omnipresent in the way we make sense of ourselves and changing times. Lewisham, one of the most culturally diverse but also one of the most deprived areas of London has been particularly affected by the politics of austerity and food is materially and symbolically at the heart of the anxieties residents share. From food banks to allotments, cooperatives and soup kitchens to the rise of independent coffee shops, farmers’ markets and gastro pubs, the Austerity Bites exhibition provide food for thought on how residents perceived the changing local foodscape and how they cope with the pressures of austerity policies, which have an impact on this very intimate part of individual and collective identities and self-making.

I led the project ' A Room for Ones Own: Gender and Urban Housing in India' that was developed in collaboration with School of Women's Studies Jadavpur University, Kolkata; Women's Studies Centre, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata; Centre for Study of Developing Societies, TATA Institute of Social Sciences to address issues of women's access to shelter, rights in housing and the provision of legal support to insure rights housing in marginal urban communities. The project was supported through UKRI Global Challenges funding between 2018-2020.

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