School of Social and Political Science

Professor Janet Carsten

Job Title

Professor Emerita of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Janet Carsten

Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)


Research interests

Research interests

  • Kinship and relatedness
  • gender and the person
  • genomics and reproductive technologies
  • houses and domesticity
  • migration
  • memory
  • adoption and adoption reunions
  • Malaysia and Southeast Asia
  • Britain

I welcome enquiries about supervision of research on kinship and relatedness broadly conceived, on inter-generational relations and memory, and on Southeast Asia - especially Malaysia. I have supervised research on diverse topics - from the world of horse racing in Newmarket to donor insemination in the UK; from tourism in Malaysia to ethnic identity, kinship and memory in Java; from marriage in Cairo to fur and inter-generational relations in Poland, and from coming of age rituals in the former East Germany, to kinship and care in Botswana in a time of AIDS. I currently supervise students working on a wide range of topics, including kinship and care of Alzheimer's patients in London, and parenthood in Edinburgh.

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


Janet Carsten has conducted research in Malaysia and Britain. After completing her PhD at the London School of Economics, she was a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and Lecturer at the University of Manchester. She has given guest lectures and keynote addresses at Johns Hopkins University, the National University of Taiwan, UCLA, the University of Copenhagen, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, University of Michigan, University of Toronto, the University of Sao Paulo, and at the Museu Nacional, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She delivered the Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture in 2012. During a three-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship from September 2007-10 she conducted research on articulations between popular and medical ideas about blood in Britain and Malaysia. She is currently PI on an ERC Advanced Grant, 'A Global Anthropology of Transforming Marriage' (AGATM). For more information on this project, see:

Janet Carsten is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Listen to Janet Carsten talking about Blood Work on BBC Radio 4, June 2020, 'Thinking Allowed'

Listen to Janet Carsten on Social Science Bites

See interview with Janet Carsten, “The 25th Anniversary of “The Substance of Kinship and the Heat of the Hearth: Feeding, Personhood, and Relatedness among Malays in Pulau Langkawi”, American Ethnologist website, 4 October 2020, Goldfarb, Kathryn E. and Janet Carsten

See interview with Janet Carsten on 'Mysteries of Blood' in AOTC, Issue 19, May 2017


Book cover images

2019 Blood Work: Life and Laboratories in Penang. Duke University Press. Introduction now available online.

2018 Reason and Passion: The Parallel Worlds of Ethnography and Biography (edited with Sophie Day and Charles Stafford). Special Issue, Social Anthropology, Vol. 26 No.1.‚Äã

2013 Blood Will Out: Essays on Liquid Transfers and Flows (edited). Special Issue, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 19, and separate book publication, Wiley Blackwell.

2007 Ghosts of Memory: Essays on Remembrance and Relatedness (edited). Blackwell.

2004 After Kinship. Cambridge University Press.

2000 Cultures of Relatedness: New Approaches to the Study of Kinship (edited). Cambridge University Press.

1997 The Heat of the Hearth: The Process of Kinship in a Malay Fishing Community. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

1995 About the House: Lévi-Strauss and Beyond (edited with Stephen Hugh-Jones). Cambridge University Press.

Articles (selected)

2020 'Imagining and living new worlds: The dynamics of kinship in contexts of mobility and migration', Ethnography 21 (3): 319-334.

2019 'Talking about kinship', with Hsiao-Chiao Chiu, Siobhan Magee, Eirini Papadaki and Koreen Reece. Anthropology of this Century.

2015 'Living in a saucepan.' Anthropology of this Century.

2014 ‘Kinship’. In Critical Terms for the Study of Gender (eds) Catherine R. Stimpson and Gilbert Herdt, pp.207-230. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

2014 ‘An Interview with Marilyn Strathern: Kinship and Career’. Theory, Culture and Society Special Issue: Social Theory After Strathern (eds) Alice Street and Jacob Copeman 31(2/3): 263-281.

2013 ‘Ghosts, Commensality, and Scuba Diving: Tracing Kinship and Sociality in Clinical Pathology Labs and Blood Banks in Penang’ in Susan McKinnon and Fenella Cannell (eds) Vital Relations: Kinship as a Critique of Modernity pp. 109-130. Santa Fe: SAR Press.

2013 ‘Articulating Blood and Kinship in Biomedical Contexts in Contemporary Britain and Malaysia’ in Christopher H. Johnson, Bernhard Jussen, David Warren Sabean, and Simon Teuscher (eds) Blood and Kinship: Matter for Metaphor from Ancient Rome to the Present pp.266-284. Oxford and N.Y: Berghahn.

2013 'What kinship does - and how’, HAU: Journal of Ethnogtraphic Theory 3 (2) 245-51.

2012 'Fieldwork Since the 1980s: Total Immersion and its Discontents.' In The Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology, Vol 2, eds. R. Fardon, O. Harris, T.H.J. Marchand, M. Nuttall, C. Shore, V. Strang and R.A Wilson, pp.7-20.

2011 'Owed to Folks.' Anthropology of this Century.

2011 'Substance and Relationality: Blood in Contexts.' Annual Review of Anthropology, 40:19-35.

2011 'La "Vie Sociale" du Sang (Penang, Malaysie).' Terrain 56: 58--73.

2007 'Constitutive Knowledge: Tracing Trajectories of Information in New Contexts of Relatedness.' Anthropological Quarterly 80 (2): 403-26.

2001 'Substantivism, Anti-Substantivism, and Anti-Anti-Substantivism. In Relative Values, eds Susan McKinnon and Sarah Franklin. Duke University Press.

2000 'Knowing Where You've Come From: Ruptures and Continuities of Time and Kinship in Narratives of Adoption Reunions.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 6: 637-53.

1995 'The Substance of Kinship and the Heat of the Hearth: Feeding, Personhood and Relatedness among Malays in Pulau Langkawi'. American Ethnologist 22 (2): 223-41.

1995 'The Politics of Forgetting: Migration, Kinship and Memory on the Periphery of the Southeast Asian State'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 1: 317-335.

Works within