Alpa Shah announced as new Statutory Professor in Social Anthropology

The School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography is delighted to announce Alpa Shah as Statutory Professor in Social Anthropology and Fellow of All Souls College from 1 October 2024.


alpa shah is a south aisian woman wearing black sitting in an office

Professor Alpa Shah

“I am delighted to be joining the vibrant School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and am looking forward to learning more from everyone at Oxford. In a time of rising inequality, with authoritarian regimes promoting unspeakable crimes between neighbours, and on the brink of a global climatic catastrophe, we really need the wisdom of anthropologists to provide important hidden insights, offer better ways of organising society and economy, and reframe our relationship with the environment and with each other. Indeed, it is a crucial time for us to come together and celebrate the virtues of anthropology, to showcase its different possibilities, and highlight why it matters so much for the world. There is no better place to do this than the School, and I am extremely excited to take up this Chair and work with colleagues at Oxford and beyond, to help protect, strengthen and promote the abiding significance of anthropology for the world.” Professor Alpa Shah.

Professor Shah joins us from the London School of Economics. Her research covers themes ranging from social inequalities, human rights and environmental justice, to agrarian change, labour migration and insurgency. She has worked with forest dwelling indigenous Adivasi communities and also with “untouchable” Dalits communities in India. Her deep, immersive field research has inspired several books, including the award-winning Nightmarch: Among Revolutionary Guerrillas in India. Her most recent book The Incarcerations pulls back the curtain on Indian democracy to tell the remarkable and chilling story of the Bhima Koregaon case, in which 16 human rights defenders and intellectuals – professors, lawyers, journalists, poets – have been imprisoned, without credible evidence and without trial. Featured in the Financial Times “What to Read in 2024” list, The Incarcerations has garnered acclaim in The Times, New Statesman, Telegraph and Nature.

In 2022 Professor Shah was awarded the European Research Council’s Public Engagement with Research Award for her work through the project CounterOppression. This work exploded the myth of trickle-down economics to show how economic growth entrenches caste/race and tribe-based oppression and exclusion. She has worked with the BBC and written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The New Statesman and The Times of India. 

Her substantial theoretical contributions to anthropology have sought to marry culturalist approaches with a wider political economy lens, shedding light on the processes of social transformation that both unite and differentiate communities. Her scholarly works have been published widely in top anthropology journals but also in journals of geography, history, sociology and international development.

Professor Shah was raised in Nairobi, read Geography at Cambridge and completed her PhD in Anthropology at the London School of Economics. You can find out more about her work at

The Professorship of Social Anthropology was established in 1937. Alpa Shah will be the eighth person to hold the post, the first woman and the first person of the global majority. She will replace Professor David Gellner, who has held the post since 2008 and will retire in September 2024. The post holder provides academic leadership to the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at The University of Oxford. The school is the largest anthropology department in the UK. It tackles real world problems through a uniquely wide-ranging approach. It is known for its internationally recognised research and teaching on challenging issues. At the heart of the School is an ethos of openness and tolerance that guides its work.
In 2024 the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography was ranked number 1 in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Anthropology for the third consecutive year.