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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Francesca Bray

Francesca Bray
Francesca Bray
Professor Emerita of Social Anthropology
Research Interests
Material Culture, China and East Asia, Gender regimes, Agriculture and the politics of food, Technology and society


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 recently served as President of the international Society for the History of Technology (SHOT).

See my personal website for more!

Current collaborative research projects include: Moving crops and the scales of history; Making modernity in East Asia: technologies of everyday life, 19th - 21st centuries

For my online study of California's toilet culture, soon to be revived and updated, see

Recent and key publications

‘Science cultures’, in Laura Grindstaff, Ming-Cheng Lo and John R. Hall (eds), Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology, 2nd ed., due 2018.

‘Feeding the farmers, feeding the nation: the Long Green Revolution in Kelantan, Malaysia’, in James L. Watson and Jakob Klein (eds), Handbook of Food and Anthropology, London: Bloomsbury, 2016: 173-199.

Rice: Global Networks and New Histories (Cambridge, 2015):

Technology, Gender and History in Imperial China: Great Transformations Reconsidered (Routledge, 2013):

'Tools for virtuous action: technology, skills and ordinary ethics', in Charles Stafford (ed): Ordinary Ethics in China (LSE Monographs on Social Anthropology, 2013):                          

Topics interested in supervising

I am interested in co-supervising research that looks at the politics and culture of science, technology or medicine, and in particular projects on gender regimes, technologies of everyday life and material culture. A special interest is agriculture in the global economy, the politics of food, and related issues like the regulation of GM crops. My special areas of expertise are China (or East Asia more generally) and California. (I am now retired (Professor Emerita) and will only take on new students as second or co-supervisor; interested students will need to find a suitable first supervisor to be admitted to our programme.)

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