Matei Candea


Lecturer in Social Anthropology and member of King's College, University of Cambridge

Research Interests: Europe; the Mediterranean; France; Anthropology of science, knowledge and ignorance; Anthropology of human-animal relations; Politics of language; Alterity and belonging; Ethnographic method; The history of social theory.

My doctoral research focused on identity, alterity and belonging on the island of Corsica. In the resulting book (Corsican Fragments, Indiana UP 2010) and a range of associated publications, I explored a number of interrelated themes: the historical politics of knowledge and mystery surrounding the island of Corsica and its emergence as a potent ‘internal other’ for France; the contemporary intersection between materiality, languages and senses of place on the island; the ways in which intimations of alterity and relatedness arise from everyday micro-interactions in village space; the politics and poetics of hospitality. This ethnographic research led me to reconsider a number of classic methodological and theoretical questions: in particular, the practice of bounding and extending ethnographic field-sites; the effect of current anthropological understandings of the category of ‘the political’; the question of what it might mean to ‘take seriously’ the people one is working with.

My more recent work has taken the question of knowledge and alterity to a different field: that of inter-species relations in scientific research. I have been studying the conceptual and material relations between humans and other animals in behavioural biology, with a particular focus on researchers who study meerkats. As in the Corsican case, my interest has been in the ways in which understandings of similarity and difference emerge from situated interactions, the intersections of materiality, sociality and language, and the ways in which knowing and not-knowing constitute and emerge from social, ethical and political relations. A key theme running through this research has been the role of detachment as a simultaneously ethical and epistemic goal (see Trundle, Candea, Cook and Yarrow (eds.), Reconsidering detachment, Manchester University Press, Forthcoming).

Alongside these empirical research projects, I have also been involved in the rediscovery and re-evaluation of the works of the forgotten 19th century French social theorist Gabriel Tarde, whose work provided a challenge to some key elements of what later became the Durkheimian canon, and arguably prefigured some recent developments in philosophy and the social sciences (see Candea (ed.)The social after Gabriel Tarde, Routledge 2010).

Aside from Cambridge, where I was a lecturer from 2006-2009, I have also taught at the University of Durham (2009-2013) and held the position of Velux Visiting Professor at the University of Copenhagen (in Summer-Autumn 2014).

I am a fellow and director of studies at King’s College, and the honorary editor of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2013-2017).

For further information, please see Dr Candea's faculty website or his personal website.