Professor Pat Caplan MA PhD

Staff details

Position Emeritus 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

Caplan, Pat. 2016. Mikidadi: individual biography and national history in Tanzania. Sean Kingston Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907774-48-5

Caplan, Pat. 2016. About Mikidadi: Individual Biography and National History in Tanzania. Hertfordshire, United Kingdom: Sean Kingston Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907774-48-5

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

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

Caplan, Pat. 1985. Class and Gender in India: Women and their Organisations in a South Indian City. London: Tavistock Publications. ISBN 978-0422799706

Caplan, Pat. 1975. Choice and Constraint in a Swahili Community: Property. Hierarchy and Cognatic Descent on the East African Coast. London: Oxford University Press/International African Institute. ISBN 978-0197241950

Caplan, Pat. 1972. Priests and Cobblers: Social Change in a Hindu Village in Western Nepal. San Francisco: Chandler. ISBN 978-0810204546

Edited Book

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

Caplan, Pat and Topan, Farouk, eds. 2004. SWAHILI MODERNITIES : Culture, Politics, and Identity on the East Coast of Africa. Lawrenceville, NJ: AFRICA WORLD PRESS. ISBN 978-1592210466

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caplan, Pat and Bedani, Gino, eds. 1995. Understanding Disputes: The Politics of Argument (Explorations in Anthropology). Berg 3PL. ISBN 978-0854969258

Caplan, Pat; Bell, Diane and Karim, Wazir Jahan, eds. 1993. Gendered Fields: Women, Men and Ethnography. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415062527

Caplan, Pat and le Guennec-Coppens, Francoise, eds. 1992. Les Swahilis entre Afrique et Arabie. Paris: Karthala. ISBN 978-2865373253

Caplan, Pat, ed. 1987. The Cultural Construction of Sexuality. London: Tavistock Publications. ISBN 978-0415040136

Caplan, Pat and Bujra, Janet, eds. 1978. Women United, Women Divided: Cross cultural Perspectives on Female Solidarity. London: Tavistock and Blookington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0422764902

Book Section

Caplan, Pat. 2015. ‘The Transcendent Subject? Biography as a medium for writing ‘life and times’’. In: N. Rapport; James Staples; Isak Niehaus and Katie Smith, eds. Anthropology and Biography. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Publications.

Caplan, Pat. 2015. ‘Two weddings in northern Mafia – changes in women’s lives since the 1960s’. In: Erin Stiles and Katherine Daly Thompson, eds. Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean: Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coast. Ohio University Press. ISBN 978-0821421871

Caplan, Pat. 2013. ‘Death on the farm: badger culling in North Pembrokeshire’. In: Hilary Callan; Brian Street and Simon Underdown, eds. Introductory Readings in Anthropology. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books and RAI. ISBN 0857459694, 978-0857459695

Caplan, Pat. 2009. ‘Is It Real Food?’: Who Benefits from Globalization in Tanzania and India? In: David Inglis and Debra Gimlin, eds. The Globalization of Food. Oxford and New York: Berg, pp. 273-290. ISBN 978-1845208202

Caplan, Pat. 2009. ‘Understanding modernity/ies on Mafia Island, Tanzania: the idea of a moral community’. In: Kjersti Larsen, ed. Knowledge, Renewal and Religion: repositioning and changing ideological and material circumstances among the Swahili on the East African Coast. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute. ISBN 978-91-7106-635-0

Caplan, Pat. 2008. ‘Understanding difference, seeking transcendence: some personal reflections on a career in anthropology’. In: J. Kelso, ed. The Tao of Anthropology. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0813032628, 978-0813032627

Caplan, Pat. 2004. 'Introduction'. In: Pat Caplan and F. Topan, eds. Swahili Modernities. Lawrenceville, NJ: Africa World Press. ISBN 1592210465, 978-1592210466

Caplan, Pat. 2004. ‘Struggling to be modern: recent letters from Mafia Island’. In: Pat Caplan and F. Topan, eds. Swahili Modernities. Lawrenceville NJ: Africa World Press. ISBN 1592210465, 978-1592210466

Caplan, Pat. 2004. ‘Can Risk Management Be Universal? The Significance of Cultural and Social Differences’. In: R. Sakai, ed. Framework of Health Risk Management Science. Tokyo: URMPM Publishers.

Caplan, Pat. 2003. ‘Abner Cohen’. In: V. Amit, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Social And Cultural Anthropology. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415475538, 978-0415475532

Caplan, Pat. 2002. 'Introduction: The ethics of anthropology’. In: Pat Caplan, ed. Anthropology and Ethics: debates and dilemmas. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415296439, 978-0415296434

Caplan, Pat. 2002. ‘Joke Schrijvers: an Appreciation'. In: E. Lammers and L. Nencel, eds. Making Waves: inspiring critical and feminist research: a tribute to Joke Schrijvers. Amsterdam, Aksant, pp. 32-35. ISBN 9052600562

Caplan, Pat. 2001. Civilization and barbarism: an anthropological approach. In: E.S. Shaffer, ed. Comparative Criticism: Volume 23. Cambridge University Press, pp. 155-171. ISBN 978-0521808071

Caplan, Pat. 2000. 'Eating British Beef with Confidence': perceptions of the risk of BSE in London and West Wales. In: Pat Caplan, ed. Risk Revisited. London and Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press,. ISBN 0745314686, 9780745314686

Caplan, Pat. 2000. ‘Introduction: anthropology and risk’. In: Pat Caplan, ed. Risk Revisited. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0745314686, 978-0745314686

Caplan, Pat. 2000. 'Food in middle-class households in Madras, 1974-94'. In: B.C.A. Walraven and K. Cwiertka, eds. Food in Asia: the Global and the Local. Curzon Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-2544-7

Caplan, Pat. 2000. 'Monogamy, Polygyny or the single state? Changes in marriage patterns in a Tanzanian coastal village, 1965-94.'. In: C. Creighton and C.K. Omari, eds. Gender, Family and Work in Tanzania. Burlington USA, Singapore, Sydney: Ashgate, Aldershot,. ISBN 184014100X, 978-1840141009

Caplan, Pat and Keane, A.. 1999. 'Health Professionals' Concepts of Healthy Eating'. In: B.M. Koehler; E. Feichtinger; E. Dowler and G. Winkler, eds. Public Health and Nutrition: The Challenge. Berlin: Edition Sigma, Rainer Bohn Verlag, pp. 228-244.

Caplan, Pat. 1999. 'Where have all the young girls gone? Gender and sex ratios on Mafia Island, Tanzania'. In: P. Forster and S. Maghimbi, eds. Agrarian Economy, State and Society in Contemporary Tanzania. Avebury Press: Aldershot.

Caplan, Pat. 1998. 'Experiencing old age on Mafia Island, Tanzania'. In: M. Aguilar, ed. The Politics of Age and Gerontocracy in Africa. Trenton, N.J.: African World Press.. ISBN 978-0865435988

Caplan, Pat. 1998. 'La vie politique en mutation d'un village cotier de la Tanzanie'. In: F. le Guennec-Coppens and David Parkin, eds. Autorite et Pouvoir chez les Swahili. Paris: Karthala; IPRA, Nairobi, pp. 77-97. ISBN 2865378691

Caplan, Pat; Keane, A.; Willetts, A. and Williams, J.. 1998. 'Concepts of Healthy Eating: Approaches from a social science perspective.'. In: A. Murcott, ed. The Nation's Diet: the Social Science of Food Choice. London and New York: Longman, pp. 168-182. ISBN 978-0582302853

Caplan, Pat. 1995. "Anthropology and the Study of Disputes" Introduction to. In: Pat Caplan, ed. Understanding Disputes: the Politics of Law. Oxford: Berg Publishers, pp. 1-10. ISBN 9780854969241

Caplan, Pat. 1995. "Law and custom: marital disputes on Mafia Island, Tanzania". In: Pat Caplan, ed. Understanding Disputes: the Politics of Law. Oxford: Berg Publishers, pp. 203-222. ISBN 9780854969241

Caplan, Pat. 1995. '"Children are our wealth and we want them": a difficult pregnancy on Mafia Island, Tanzania'. In: , ed. Women Wielding the Hoe: Lessons from Rural Africa for Feminist Theory and Development Practice. Oxford: Berg Press. ISBN 978-1859730737

Caplan, Pat. 1995. "'In my office we don't have closing hours: gendered household relations in a Swahili village in northern Mafia Island". In: Colin Creighton and Cuthbert Omari, eds. Gender, Family, and Household in Tanzania. Avebury: Aldershot, pp. 118-138. ISBN 978-1856286510

Caplan, Pat. 1993. "Introduction II". In: D Bell; Pat Caplan and W. Karim, eds. Learning Gender: field work in a Tanzanian coastal village, l965 85. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 19-27.

Caplan, Pat. 1993. "Learning Gender: field work in a Tanzanian coastal village, l965 85". In: D. Bell; Pat Caplan and W. Karim, eds. Gendered Fields. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 168-181.

Caplan, Pat. 1992. "Engendering Knowledge". In: S. Ardener, ed. The Persons and Powers of Women. Oxford: Berg Press, pp. 65-87. ISBN 9780854968664

Caplan, Pat. 1992. "Socialism from above; the view from below". In: Peter Forster, ed. Tanzanian Peasantry: Economy in Crisis. Gower Press, pp. 103-123. ISBN 978-1856281553

Caplan, Pat. 1992. "Spirits and Sex: a Swahili informant and his diary". In: Judith Okely and Helen Callaway, eds. Anthropology and Autobiography. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 64-81. ISBN 978-0415051897

Caplan, Pat. 1985. "Celibacy as a solution? Mahatma Gandhi and Brahmacharya". In: Pat Caplan, ed. The Cultural Construction of Sexuality. London: Tavistock Publications, pp. 271-295. ISBN 978-0415040136

Caplan, Pat. 1985. 'Introduction’. In: Pat Caplan, ed. The Cultural Construction of Sexuality. London and New York: Routledge.

Caplan, Pat. 1983. "Women's Property, Islamic Law and Cognatic Descent". In: R. Hirschon, ed. Women and Property, Women as Property. London: Croom Helm, pp. 23-43.

Caplan, Pat. 1982. "Gender, Ideology and Modes of Production on the East African coast". In: J. de Vere Allen, ed. From Zinj to Zanzibar: History, Trade and Society on the Coast of East Africa. Berlin: Franz Steiner Verlag, pp. 29-43.

Caplan, Pat. 1978. "Women's organisations in Madras city, India". In: J. Bujra and Pat Caplan, eds. Women United, Women Divided: Cross cultural Perspectives on Female Solidarity. Tavistock: London and Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0422764902

Caplan, Pat. 1978. "The Swahili of Chole Island, Tanzania". In: A. Sutherland, ed. Face Values. BBC/RAI, pp. 140-75.

Caplan, Pat. 1978. "Hierarchy or Stratification: Two Case Studies from Nepal and East Africa". In: J. Fisher, ed. Himalayan Anthropology. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 53-65. ISBN 978-9027977007

Caplan, Pat. 1975. "Women in the Anthropology Profession". In: R. Rohrlich Leavitt, ed. Women Cross culturally: Change and Challenge. The Hague: Mouton, pp. 547-549. ISBN 978-0202011479

Article

Caplan, Pat. 2016. Big Society or Broken Society?: Food Banks in the UK. Anthropology Today, 32(1), pp. 5-9. ISSN 0268-540X

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caplan, Pat. 2010. ‘Child sacrifice in Uganda? The BBC, ‘witch doctors’ and anthropologists’. Anthropology Today, 26(2), pp. 4-7. ISSN 0268-540X

Caplan, Pat. 2010. Death on the Farm: culling badgers in North Pembrokeshire. Anthropology Today, 26(2), pp. 14-18. ISSN 0268-540X

Caplan, Pat. 2009. ‘Food, environment and entitlement: local perceptions in three globalising settings: Case studies from Tanzania, South India and West Wales, UK’. Literature and Environment, (Korea), 8(1), pp. 207-226.

Caplan, Pat. 2009. Freud in Minazini? Consulting a Swahili diviner. Utafiti, 7(2),

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

Caplan, Pat. 2008. Between socialism and neo-liberalism: Mafia Island, Tanzania, 1965-2004. Review of African Political Economy, 34(114), pp. 679-694. ISSN 0305-6244

Caplan, Pat. 2007. 'Never Again': Genocide Memorials in Rwanda. Anthropology Today, 23(1), pp. 20-23. ISSN 0268-540X

Caplan, Pat. 2007. ‘But the coast, of course, is quite different’: academic and local ideas about the East African littoral’. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 1(2), pp. 305-320. ISSN 1753-1055

Caplan, Pat. 2006. 'Is It Real Food?' Who Benefits from Globalisation in Tanzania and India? Sociological Research Online, 11(4),

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

Caplan, Pat. 2005. ‘In search of the exotic: a discussion of the BBC2 series ‘Tribe’’. Anthropology Today, 21(2), pp. 3-8. ISSN 0268-540X

Caplan, Pat. 2005. Towards a feminist ethics of anthropology. Lova: Landelijk Overleg Vrouwenstrudies in de Antropologie/ Tijdschrift voor Feministiche Antropologie (Journal of Women’s Studies in Anthropology / Feminist Anthropology), 26(2), pp. 3-23.

Caplan, Pat. 2004. ‘Can Risk Management Be Universal? The Significance of Cultural and Social Differences’. Journal of Medical Safety, 10, ISSN 1349-5232

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

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

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

Caplan, Pat. 1989. Perceptions of gender stratification. Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute, 59(2), pp. 106-208. ISSN 0001-9720

Caplan, Pat. 1989. The cross cultural validity of feminism - a case study from Tanzania. Garcia de Orta. Série de Antropobiologia, 6(1-2), ISSN 0870-0168

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference or Workshop Item

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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