School of Social and Political Science

Jamie Cross

Job Title

Professor of Social and Economic Anthropology

Staff member photo

Room number

Room 5.28

Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)



Mobile: +44(0)7552817310

I am a social anthropologist specialising in the study of energy, technology, and economy in the global south.

For the past decade, my research has examined how renewable energy projects are organising and re-organising social life in places of chronic global poverty. Recent projects include an 18-month ethnographic study of energy cultures amongst displaced people in Burkina Faso and Kenya; a comparative study of off-grid living in Papua New Guinea, India, and Scotland; and a 2-year study of data politics in Tanzania's off-grid solar energy sector.

I currently lead Cool Infrastructures, a 3-year research project that examines the materials, technologies and social relationships through which marginalised people keep cool in overheating global cities.

My research practice also involves the production of physical and digital objects that probe the material politics of our energy futures through collaborations with visual artists, filmmakers, and designers. Recent projects include Solar What?! (an award-winning, solar-powered lamp built to challenge unsustainable design practices), the Off Grid Solar Scorecard (a public platform to track sustainable design in the solar industry), and The Solar Fix (a short film about solar-powered things that break down).

Open access links to my publications are available here. I am a co-editor of Pluto Press's Anthropology, Culture and Society book series.

Teaching and supervision

I am on a research sabbatical for the 2020-21 academic year. Otherwise, I teach undergraduate and post-graduate courses in the anthropology of energy, international development and global political economy.

I supervise a range of doctoral and postdoctoral projects and welcome expressions of interest from anybody with overlapping research interests. For further details, see:

Link awaiting update

My teaching projects continue to explore audio and visual methodologies, and connect anthropology to design. For examples, see:

Anthroplogy in 100 Objects

Social Sounds Project

Just Technology Hub

Circular Solar

Public Anthropology

Along with a commitment to field-based, ethnographic research my work is built upon an on-going engagement with the issues I write about. I have been an occasional contributor to the LSE Review of Books and have written for The Guardian.

I manage Solar What?! (a project to design and build fully repairable, open source solar powered lighting and charging devices). I also run the Off Grid Solar Scorecard, an initiative intended to draw attention to questions of material politics and sustainable design in the global solar industry. I have previously acted as a Technical Advisor to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a non-profit research and advocacy group that promotes social and environmental justice in the global solar industry.


Research interests

Research themes

Research interests

Renewable energy and green politics, Climate change, Science and technology, Design, International development

Solar Power: Since 2011 I have been following the work of engineers and entrepreneurs involved in designing and distributing solar photovoltaic (PV) lighting systems to people who live without reliable access to mains electricity in places that remain off the grid. As governments, international development donors and businesses commit themselves to realising targets for universal energy access this research examines the relationships involved in creating markets for renewable energy technologies in contexts of global poverty and the values, practices and meanings that mediate relations to electrically powered things. I have expanded this research in India with projects in Papua New Guinea, Kenya and Burkina Faso, and am currently finishing a book manuscript.

Infrastructure: From a focus on large-scale industrial development projects like India’s Special Economic Zones to a focus on technologies for energy generation and storage in places where there is no electricity grid, one strand of my research has involved an engagement with the social and material relationships that constitute infrastructure.

The Poverty Business: An ongoing strand of research is concerned with the role of transnational corporations and social enterprises as agents of development. From a focus on corporate social responsibility programmes to the role of the private sector in delivering goods and services to the global poor my research explores the moralities and social relationships that are shaped and articulated by market-based approaches to development. One outcome of this work has been a set of collectively produced resources and visual material on Humanitarian Goods.

Work, Labour and Global Supply Chains: My doctoral and post-doctoral research projects focused on the lived experience of industrial work and labour at sites of global manufacturing in contemporary India. I have written about the impact of liberalising economic reforms on industrial workers; on the aspirations for social mobility that manufacture consent to industrial work discipline; on occupational health and safety and on relationships between technology and gender in India's global workplaces. Elements of this work form the basis of my book Dream Zones: Anticipating Capitalism and Development in India published in 2014 by Pluto Press. I am currently working to extend this ongoing concern as part of the EU funded project (207-2020) Make IT Fair, which tracks issues of social and environmental justice in the supply chains for micro-electronic goods.

Topics interested in supervising

If you are interested in being supervised by Jamie Cross, please see the links below (open in new windows) for more information:

Works within

Staff Hours and Guidance

Friday 10-12

Publications by user content

Publication Research Explorer link
Cross J, Neumark T. Solar power and its discontents: Critiquing off-grid infrastructures of inclusion in East Africa. Development and change. 2021 Jul;52(4):902-926.
Cross J, Abram S. An Energy Experiment: Tests, Trials and ElectroTrumps. In Maguire J, Watts L, Winthereik BR, editors, Energy Worlds in Experiment. Mattering Press. 2021. p. 152-193
Verhoeven G, Martin C, Cross J. Case study: Affordable and clean energy (SDG7). In Tsekleves E, Cooper R, Spencer J, editors, Design for Global Challenges and Goals. 1st ed. London: Routledge. 2021. (Design for Social Responsibility).
Cross J. Viral solarity: Solar humanitarianism and infectious disease. South Atlantic Quarterly. 2021 Jan 1;120(1):123-136.
Verhoeven GA, Martin C, Cross J. Case study: Affordable and clean energy (SDG7): Designing through tensions of ‘and/or’: A case study informing qualitative approaches for designers responding to SDG7. In Design for Global Challenges and Goals. Taylor and Francis AS. 2021. p. 108-122
Spear R, Cross J, Tait J, Goyal R. Pathways to Repair in the Off Grid Solar Sector. Efficiency for Access. 2020 Nov 1.
Cross J. Capturing crisis: Solar power and humanitarian energy markets in Africa. Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. 2020 Sep 1;38(2):105-124.
Degani M, Chalfin B, Cross J. Fueling capture: Africa's energy futures. Cambridge Anthropology . 2020 Aug 30;38(2):1-18.
Anwar N, Amir S, Cross J, Friedrich D, Khandekar A, Morelle M et al. Heat and COVID-19 in the off-grid city. Somatosphere. 2020 Jul 2.
Martin C, Cross J, Verhoeven G. Shelter as cladding: Resourcefulness, improvisation and refugee-led innovation in Goudoubo Camp. In Scott-Smith T, Breeze ME, editors, Structures of Protection?: Rethinking Refugee Shelter. Vol. 1. Oxford: Berghahn Books. 2020
Cross J, Verhoeven G, Martin C. Energy on the Move: Displaced Objects in Knowledge and Practice. In Adey P, Brickell K, Bowstead J, Desai V, Dolton M, Pinkerton A, Siddiqi A, editors, Handbook of Displacement. Palgrave. 2020
Cross J, Douglas M, Martin C, Ray C, Verhoeven G, Grafham O. Energy and Displacement in Eight Objects: Insights from Sub-Saharan Africa. Chatham House, 2019.
Cross J. Life after chemistry or a carbon anthropology. Somatosphere. 2019 Jul 11.
Cross J, (ed.), Heslop L, (ed.). Anthropology for Sale. Abingdon: Routledge, 2019. 173 p. (Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology; 3).
Cross J. Selling with prejudice: Social enterprise and caste at the bottom of the pyramid in India. Ethnos. 2019 May 27;84(3):458-479.
Cross J, Heslop L. Anthropology for sale. Ethnos. 2019 May 27;84(3):369-379.
Cross J. The solar good: Energy ethics in poor markets. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute . 2019 Apr 30;25(S1):47-66.
Cross J. No current: Electricity and disconnection in rural India. In Abram S, Ross Winthereik B, Yarrow T, editors, Electrifying Anthropology: Exploring Electrical Practices and Infrastructures. London: Bloomsbury. 2019. p. 65-82
Cross J, Murray D. The afterlives of solar power: Waste and repair off the grid in Kenya. Energy Research & Social Science. 2018 Oct 1;44:100-109.
Martin C, Cross J, Verhoeven G. Displaced Energy: Indigenous Design Practices in Goudoubo Camp. 2018. Paper presented at Design History Society Conference 2018, New York, United States.
Pschetz L, Magill C, Klein E, Cross J, van der Horst D. Understanding situated energy values in rural Kenya. In DRS Conference Proceedings 2018. Vol. 2. DRS. 2018. p. 729-746
Cross J, Martin C, Douglas M, Ray C, Verhoeven G, Okello A et al. The Lived Experience of Energy and Forced Displacement. Practical Action, 2018.
Yemtim A, Lebongo Onana A, Ray C, Cross J, Martin C, Verhoeven G. Methods Across Borders: reflections of using design-led qualitative methods in Burkina Faso. In DRS2018: Design as a catalyst for change. Vol. 2. Limerick: DRS. 2018. p. 629-645
Cross J, (ed.), Abram S, (ed.), Anusas M, (ed.), Schick L, (ed.). Our Lives with Electric Things. Cultural Anthropology. 2017 Dec 19.
Cross J. Solar Basics. Limn. 2017 Nov 30.
Collier S, Cross J, Redfield P, Street A. Preface: Little development devices / Humanitarian goods. Limn. 2017 Nov 1;9.
Cross J, van der Horst D, Klein E, Magill C. The Value of Energy Data in the Global South. 2017 Jul. (Recharge Working Papers; 1).
Cross J. Current. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. 2017 Apr 30;40(2):291-293.
Cross J. Off the grid: Infrastucture and energy beyond the mains. In Harvey P, Bruun Jensen C, Morita A, editors, Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion. Routledge. 2016. (Culture, Economy and the Social (CRESC)).
Cross J. Detachment as a corporate ethic: Materialising CSR in the diamond supply chain. In Dolan C, Rajak D, editors, The Anthropology of Corporate Social Responsibility. Berghahn Books. 2016. (Dislocations).
Cross J. Off the grid: Infrastructure and energy beyond the mains. In Harvey P, Bruun Jensen C, Morita A, editors, Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion. Taylor and Francis. 2016. p. 198-210
Cross J. The Economy of Anticipation: Speculation and Special Economic Zones in South India. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 2015 Dec;35(3):424-437.
Cross J. Everybody gives: Gifts in the global factory. In Kjaerulff J, editor, Flexible Capitalism: Exchange and Ambiguity at Work. Vol. 25. Berghahn Books. 2015. p. 43-65
Cross J. Everybody Gives: Gifts and the Global Factory. In Kjaerulff J, editor, Flexible Capitalism: Exchange and Ambiguity at Work. Berghahn Books. 2015. Chapter 1
Cross J. Dream Zones: Anticipating Capitalism and Development in India. 1 ed. London: Pluto Press, 2014. 248 p. (Anthropology, Culture and Society).
Cross J. The Coming of the Corporate Gift. Theory, Culture & Society. 2014 Mar;31(2-3):121-145.
Cross J. Motivating Madhu: India’s SEZs and the spirit of enterprise. In Gooptu N, editor, Enterprise Culture in Neoliberal India: Studies in Youth, Class, Work and Media. Taylor and Francis. 2013. p. 124-139
Cross J. The 100th Object: Solar Lighting Technology and Humanitarian Goods. Journal of Material Culture. 2013;18(4).
Cross J. Technological Intimacy: Re-Engaging with Gender and Technology in the Global Factory. Ethnography. 2012 Jun;13(2):119-143.
Cross J. Sweatshop Exchanges: Gifts and Giving in the Global Factory. Research in Economic Anthropology. 2012;32:3-26.
Cross J. Detachment as a Corporate Ethic: Materializing CSR in the Diamond Supply Chain. Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology (Focaal). 2011;2011(60):34-46.
Cross J. Neoliberalism as Unexceptional: Economic Zones and the Everyday Precariousness of Working Life in South India. Critique of Anthropology. 2010 Dec;30(4):355-373.
Cross J. Knowledge, Legitimacy and Economic Practice in Informal Markets for Medicine. Social Science & Medicine. 2010;71(9):1537-1702.
Cross J. Occupational Health, Risk and Science in India's Global Factories. South Asian History and Culture. 2010;1(2):224-238.
Cross J. From Dreams to Discontent: Educated Young Men and the Politics of Work at a Special Economic Zone in Andhra Pradesh. Contributions to indian Sociology. 2009 Sep;43(3):351-379.
Cross J, Street A. Anthropology at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Anthropology Today. 2009;25(4):4-9.