JC Niala

josephine niala

DPhil Student, Social Anthropology

St Catherine's College

Thesis: Banal Utopia: Urban gardening as a practice for materialising utopic city spaces

Research key words: urban anthropology, space and place making, utopia, material culture, public engagement with research

Research: Niala is interested in how our imaginations of nature affect how we treat it. Her doctoral research combined traditional anthropology methodology with public engagement with research to examine the relationship between urban gardeners in Oxford and the spaces which they materialise. 

Niala also has an interest in museum collections and uses Community Action Research to support research carried out in galleries, libraries, archives and museums. This work includes research into museology and archaeology practice and its effects on the communities linked to the collections.

In the growing season of 2021, Niala recreated an allotment in the style of the year 1918. This project was in collaboration with Fig an Oxford based community, arts and horticulture project and was supported by The Humanities Cultural Programme at TORCH. The project was awarded the Social History Society's Public History Prize in 2022.

Previous education

MSc Social Anthropology, University of Oxford (2018) with distinction
MSt Creative Writing, University of Oxford (2017)


AHRC-TORCH Public Engagement with Research Summer School Pitching Competition (2018) First place
Community Engagement and Academic Merit Award (2017) Kellogg College, University of Oxford
IARU- Santander Global Summer Program Scholarship (2016)


Niala JC (2021) English allotments as sites of utopia super diversity. Paper presented at Utopian Studies Society Conference, online

Niala (2021) A heritage caravan: combining social and mobile technologies to reconnect communities
to their material culture. Paper presented at Society for Africanist Archaeologists Research sessions   

Niala, J.C. (2018) Reconstructing Relationships: An autoethnographic account of post-colonial museum encounters. Work in progress paper presented at Museum Ethnographers Group conference. Oxford, United Kingdom


2022     Rethinking Relationships and building trust around African collections Journal of Museum Ethnography 35: 49-62


2022     Portal: 1918 Allotment Fig


2022     The Root of the Matter Podcast Series Wellcome Collections

    2021     The Missing Link: Community Contribution and Absence in Archaeology in East Africa with Sherry DavisBulletin of the History of Archaeology31(1): 3-4


2021     Dig for Vitality: UK urban allotments as a health promoting response to COVID-19Cities and Health5(1): 227-231


Niala, J.C. (2019, March) Reconstructing Relationships: An autoethnographic account of post-colonial museum encounters. Journal of Museum Ethnography.

Website: www.jcniala.com
Email: jc.niala@anthro.ox.ac.uk
Twitter: @jcniala