Dr Elizabeth Hallam

Email: elizabeth.hallam@anthro.ox.ac.uk

Elizabeth Hallam is a Research Associate in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen.

She is Editor of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, from October 2016.

With a BA and PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Kent, she was Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex (1994-96); Lecturer in Cultural History (1996-2001), Director of Cultural History (1998-2002) and Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology (2002-10) at the University of Aberdeen.

Research interests

Anthropology of the body; death and dying; material and visual culture; museums and collecting; human anatomy; three-dimensional models, especially in medical education; making and design; mixed-media sculpture; history and anthropology; fieldwork, archival and museum-based research in England and Scotland.

Following her earlier research on ritualised practices of childbirth, sickness and dying in early modern England, she developed her work on the body and death in two co-authored books, Beyond the Body: Death and Social Identity (with Glennys Howarth and Jenny Hockey), and Death, Memory and Material Culture (with Jenny Hockey). These books analyse death and memorialising as social and cultural processes, with reference to their bodily, material and visual aspects.

She has explored issues relating to material and visual culture in co-edited books including: Cultural Encounters: Representing ‘Otherness’ (with Brian Street) which examines visual, textual and museum representations; Creativity and Cultural Improvisation (with Tim Ingold) which addresses creative, material dynamics in social life and in practices such as writing, drawing and performing; and Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts (with Tim Ingold) which investigates interrelations of growth and making, of decay and undoing, that give rise to and transform material entities, including human bodies.

Her current research brings together her anthropological work on the body, death, material and visual culture, to focus on museums of anatomy in medical schools in Scotland and England. This research is concerned with the collection, preservation and display of human bodies from the nineteenth century to the present. How and why bodies have been rendered in the flesh, in wax, paper and plastic, and through drawing, photography and film, in the pursuit of anatomical knowledge, are issues explored in her monograph, Anatomy Museum: Death and the Body Displayed (Reaktion, 2016), illustrated with specially commissioned photographs.

A further strand of this research examines three-dimensional models of human anatomy in Britain, c.1850 to now, especially in terms of their design, making and use in medical education. It focuses on the social relations of models, their changing materials and forms, how they are created and disseminated, and the kinds of knowledge they generate. She has situated her work on models in an international medical-museum context in a chapter of her recent co-edited book, Medical Museums: Past, Present, Future (with Sam Alberti), which brings together work by curators, researchers and photographers in Europe and the USA.

She is developing current projects in three main areas through multi-sited and comparative research::

·         Anatomical design – this expands her research on three-dimensional models of anatomy in medical and surgical practices, investigating small-scale workshop model-making in mixed media and large-scale processes of modelling (especially in plastics) through commercial manufacture, distribution and consumption.

            She was guest curator of the exhibition Designing Bodies: Models of Human Anatomy from 1945 to Now, at the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS), in London (Nov. 2015 to Feb. 2016). Funded by the RCS and the Henry Moore Foundation.

·         Material medicine – this traces the social and cultural production, and uses, of medical materials that shape bodily experiences – for example, medical textiles, instruments and implants.

·         Bodies after death: substance, relations and histories – this extends her work on the body and death, focusing on the collection, deployment and treatment of human remains in medical education and training.

She is currently the external academic advisor for the Digital Commemoration project, at the University of Melbourne, where she is a Visiting Scholar during 2014-16. This project is analysing digital practices used to memorialise the dead on the Internet, and is funded by the Australian Research Council. For further information, please see the project website

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Anatomy Museum: Death and the Body Displayed, by Elizabeth Hallam (London: Reaktion, 2016)
Designing Bodies: Models of Human Anatomy from Wax to Plastics, ed. by Elizabeth Hallam (London, Royal College of Surgeons of England, 2015)
Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts, ed. by Elizabeth Hallam and Tim Ingold (Farnham, Ashgate, 2014)
Medical Museums: Past, Present, Future, edited by Samuel JMM Alberti and Elizabeth Hallam (London, Royal College of Surgeons of England, 2013)

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