David Parkin (1940- ) was from 1996 until 2008, when he retired, professor of social anthropology at the University of Oxford, fellow of All Souls College, and head of ISCA and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography from 1996-2006. Before coming to Oxford, he was at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, first as a student (1959-1964) and then as a member of faculty (1964-1996), becoming professor of African anthropology in 1982. He is now Emeritus Professor at Oxford and Honorary Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies. His early training included the study of Swahili and Bantu linguistics alongside anthropology, and this has stamped his long-standing interest in the role of language in social organisation in Africa and generally.
Parkin’s focus has been on East Africa where he has carried out a number of years’ fieldwork among different peoples and in different ecologies: the Luo of western Kenya, the Giriama of eastern Kenya, and Swahili-speakers in Zanzibar and Mombasa. He has studied the growth of ethnically mixed urban populations in Kampala, Uganda, where his interest in Luo first started, and in Nairobi, where he developed more fully his interest in Luo. Field research among the Giriama of Kenya began with a study of economic entrepreneurship, and continued into an analysis of the role of religion in pastoralism, agriculture and trade. Thereafter he concentrated on Islam among Swahili-speakers, extending this concern from the East African coast to the Hadhramaut, Oman and other areas of the Indian Ocean littoral. In later years he examined concepts of materiality, especially in relation to the human body, and became interested in the evolution of language.
He was chairman of the International African Institute and of the Association of Social Anthropologists, was elected fellow of the British Academy, and has sat on various bodies concerned with higher education and the social sciences, both in the UK and France, where he has also held various appointments, including visiting membership of the CNRS.
While continuing as Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford University, he has from 2009 been research professor at the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany, focusing on medical and sociolinguistic processes of diversification.
- Islam and medicine, with particular reference to Swahili-speaking
peoples of East Africa.
- Ethnography and history of the Swahili-speaking peoples of East
- The relationship of language development and the expression of the
senses and emotions cross-culturally and in human evolution.
- The development of a new materiality in anthropology (from objects
to human density and scale).
Publishing and workshop collaboration
- medical anthropology and the interpenetration of the social and the
biological (with Elisabeth Hsu and Stanley Ulijaszek respectively)
- Indian Ocean studies (with Ruth Barnes and Zulfikar Hirji)
- Human fertility and reproduction (with Soraya Tremayne)
- The Interactive Mind (on the developing human interrelationships of
mind, body and objects with Nigel Thrift, Chris Gosden and others)
Advisory role on external bodies
- International Assessor. Committee for the New Millennium Book Award in Medical Anthropology (American Anthropological Association). 2006 continuing.
- Member of Le Comité International d’Orientation Scientifique et Stratégique (COSS) du Collège de France, Paris. Appointed by the Ministry of Education, France. Consists of twelve international scholars to assess research and teaching at the Collège de France across all its disciplines. 2007-2012 (renewable thereafter).
- Nuffield Foundation Council on Bioethics. Member of working party on the ethics of research related to healthcare in developing countries. Until May 2002, month of publication of jointly authored Report.
- Royal Anthropological Working Group on the Well-Being Initiative of the Department of Education. 2006 continuing.
- Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor, University of Nagaland, Kohima, India, on the setting up of a new department of anthropology.
Journal editorships and editorial board memberships
- Anthropology and medicine
- Ethnos (until 2004)
Islam and Muslim Societies (Delhi) (Founding Editorial Advisor 2002 continuing)
Monograph editorial board:
Oxford U P (New York) Monographs in Linguistic Anthropology (ed. W. Bright) Until 2004
Editor of four monograph series:
Curzon (later Routledge)
Indian Ocean Studies.
Methodology and history in anthropology;
Fertility, reproduction and sexuality (co-ed with Soraya Tremayne);
Epistemologies of healing (co-ed with Elisabeth Hsu).
Methodology and history in anthropology
- Fertility, reproduction and sexuality (co-ed with Soraya Tremayne)
- Epistemologies of healing (co-ed with Elisabeth Hsu)