David Sneath


Reader in Social Anthropology and Fellow Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Research interests: inner and central Asia; pastoralism; land use and the environment; decollectivisation and post-socialist social transformations; political culture and economic institutions in inner Asia; and the anthropology of development.

My latest research explores two main themes, directly connected with Tibetan and Mongolian notions of landscape, property and the individual’s place within it. First of these themes are the ‘ovoo’, stone cairns, used for ritual purposes and for demarcating the boundaries of religious and ethnic groupings. Second is ‘khiimor’, the notion of a person or collective’s fortune, or auspicious prospects, which is both represented and embodied in the fortune flags that are attached to ovoo and flown outside individual households. The project brought one scholar from Inner Mongolia for discussion and analysis of historical text, and sent another to Inner Mongolia and Qinghai for social anthropological research.

I am also involved in a project titled ‘Technologies of the Imagination’ – a relatively new departure for me, collaborating with anthropologists working in a wide range of locations to try and develop a new comparative approach to the anthropology of the imagination. We aim to to develop an innovative approach to the analysis of the social imaginary and the ways in which it is creatively shaped and communicated.