Staff profiles

Francesca Bray

Francesca Bray
Professor Francesca Bray
Professor of Social Anthropology
Social AnthropologySchool of Social and Political ScienceUniversity of Edinburgh
2.05, 58 George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9JU
+44 (0)131 651 3863
Research Interests
Material Culture, China and East Asia, Gender regimes, Agriculture and the politics of food, Technology and society

Guidance and Feedback Hours: by appointment, Room 5.02, 58 George Square

Biographical statement

I began my research career working on the history of agriculture and of science, technology and medicine in China. After a wonderful year of ethnographic fieldwork, which I spent in Kelantan, Malaysia splashing through the mud of paddy-fields and learning from farmers how they negotiated the challenges of Green Revolution technology, I expanded my interests to anthropology and issues of rural development. More recently, through my interest in the macro- and micro-politics of everyday technologies (including food, housing, communications and hygiene), I have become involved in collaborative projects not only with anthropologists, historians and development studies specialists, but also with STS scholars, and I have just been elected President of the international Society for the History of Technology (SHOT).

My publications include: The Rice Economies: Technology and Development in Asian Societies (1986; 1994); Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China (1997); and Technology and Society in Ming China, 1368-1644 (2000). More recently I have published on genetically modified crops, on spatial practices and on sustainable landscapes. The Warp and the Weft, a collection on technical illustration and visual representation in China, was published by Brill in 2007. Gender and Technology, a review article comparing anthropological and STS perspectives, is available in the Annual Review of Anthropology (36) 2007. I edited a special issue on 'Constructing intimacy: technology, family and gender in East Asia' in East Asian Science, Technology & Society in 2008. Technology, gender and history in imperial China: great transformations reconsidered will be published by Routledge in 2013. A co-edited book Global Rice: Promiscuity, Knowledge and Power is in press with Cambridge.

For more on my research and teaching interests, and for my online study of California's toilet culture, see

Selected Publications

 book cover, Bray                                   book cover: Bray

Topics interested in supervising

I am interested in supervising research that looks at the politics and culture of science, technology or medicine, and in particular projects on technologies of everyday life, and on material culture. A special interest is agriculture in the global economy, the politics of food, and related issues like the regulation of GM crops. I am also interested in supervising research on gender regimes. My special areas of expertise are China (or East Asia more generally) and California. Currently and recently supervised PhD topics include: Agrarian movements and rural economies in Highland Ecuador; Transplanting education: Weill-Cornell Medical College in Qatar; The war will go, but the war will stay: land, landmines and livelihoods in Northwest Cambodia; Barefoot technologies: an ethnographic study of learning and skill development in Rajasthan, India; 'To see the world in a grain of rice' -- contesting China's GE rice commercialisation, risk construction and policy-making; City planning and local resistance: the Caltongate project in Edinburgh; Delights in farm guest-houses: Nongjiale tourism, rural development, and the regime of leisure-pleasure in post-Mao China; "Reforming the child: childhood, citizenship and subjectivity in contemporary China".

If you are interested in being supervised by Francesca Bray, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Science and Technology Studies; PhD in Social Anthropology