Professor Madeleine Reeves

madeleine reeves

Professor in the Anthropology of Migration
Fellow of St Hugh’s College

I am a social anthropologist with wide-ranging interests in borders, labour migration, sovereignty, time, and social reproduction. I have an interdisciplinary background in Social and Political Sciences, which I studied as an undergraduate in Cambridge (1996-9) and Soviet social history, which I studied at the University of Chicago (1999-2000). I discovered anthropology as a graduate student, receiving my PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2008. I joined COMPAS and the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology in January 2022 from the University of Manchester, where I taught for fourteen years. I have previously taught at the University of Cambridge and the American University of Central Asia.

My research over the last two decades has focused on three broad areas.  First, I have sought to contribute to the anthropological study of borders and bordering in regions of fragile state governance and territorial dispute. My first monograph, Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia (Cornell 2014), which drew on 20 months’ ethnographic fieldwork in the Ferghana Valley, challenged conventional approaches to political transformation in Central Asia by revealing how the state is produced in the interstices of daily life in a region of disputed borderland between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Second, I have sought to bring a critical anthropological voice to interdisciplinary debates about the intersections between infrastructure, immobility and intercommunal conflict and co-existence. For this work I have drawn upon periodic return fieldwork to the border villages of the Ferghana valley where I have examined the progressive militarisation and socio-spatial transformation of a region of disputed territory through the construction of politically contentious ‘bypass roads’ and border settlements for ethnic Kyrgyz ‘returnees’ from Tajikistan. Third, building on my RCUK and Nuffield-funded post-doctoral research, I have conducted ethnographic research since 2009 on transnational labour migration from Central Asia to Russia and with the Kyrgyz diaspora in Russia, joining scholars who have sought to bring considerations of value, ethics and intergenerational care to our analysis of mobile and transnational life.

I am currently working on two projects:

  1. With Dr Jeanne Féaux de la Croix I am completing a major handbook of Central Asian anthropology for the Routledge Worlds series
  1. With funding from a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award in the Social Sciences, I am currently developing new research on the linkages between labour migration and the economization of reproductive capacity in the post-Soviet space.

I serve on the editorial/advisory boards of journals and book series including Migration and Society, Public Anthropologist, Etnograficheskoe obozrenie, International Quarterly for Asian Studies, Central Asian Survey, Economic Exposures in Asia (UCL Press) and Spaces of Peace, Security and Development (Bristol University Press). Between 2015 and 2019 I served as Editor of Central Asian Survey.


Selected publications

Books and Special Issues

2021. The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty: Political Imagination Beyond the State. Ithaca: Cornell University Press (with Rebecca Bryant)

2019. Conviviality Beyond the Urban Centre in Asia. Special Issue of Modern Asian Studies 53 (3 (with Magnus Marsden)

2017. Affective States: Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions. New York: Berghahn. Initially published as a Special Issue of Social Analysis Vol. 59 (4), 2015 (with Mateusz Laszczkowski)

2014. Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, series on ‘Culture and Society After Socialism’.

2014. Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia: Performing Politics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (with Judith Beyer and Johan Rasanayagam)

2012. Movement, Power and Place in Central Asia: Contested Trajectories. Abingdon: Routledge. Initially published as a special issue of Central Asian Survey (2011).

Journal articles

2019. The Queue: Bureaucratic Time, Distributed Legality, and the Work of Waiting in Migrant Moscow. Suomen Antropologi 44 (2): 20-39.

2019. Marginal Hubs: On Conviviality Beyond the Urban in Asia. Modern Asian Studies 53 (3): 755-775, co-authored with Magnus Marsden

2017. Infrastructural hope: anticipating ‘independent roads’ and territorial integrity in southern Kyrgyzstan. Ethnos 82 (4): 711-737.

2016. “And Our Words Must Be Constructive!”: On the Discordances of Glasnost’ in the Central Asian Press at a Time of Conflict. Cahiers d’Asie Centrale 26 (1): 77-110. 

2016. След, траектория, точка давления: как переосмыслить «региональные исследования» в эпоху миграций’ Антропологический Форум 28: 97-116. 

2016. Diplomat, Landlord, Con-Artist, Thief: Housing Brokers and the Mediation of Risk in Migrant Moscow. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 34 (2): 93-109. 

2015. Living from the nerves: deportability, indeterminacy and the feel of law in migrant Moscow. Social Analysis 59 (4): 119-136. 

2014. ‘We’re with the people!’ Place, nation, and political community in Kyrgyzstan’s 2010 ‘April Events’. Anthropology of East Europe Review 32 (2): 68-88.

2014. Roads of hope and dislocation: infrastructure and the remaking of territory at a Central Asian border. Ab Imperio 15 (3): 235-256. 

2014. Антропология Средней Азии через десять лет после  “состояния поля”: Стакан наполовину полон или наполовину пуст? Антропологический Форум 20 (1): 60-79.

2013. Clean Fake: Authenticating Documents and Persons in Migrant Moscow. American Ethnologist, 40 (3): 508-524. 

2013. Anticipating failure: transparency devices and their effects. Journal of Cultural Economy, 6 (3): 294-312, co-authored with Penny Harvey and Evelyn Ruppert. 

2012. Миграция, маскулинность и трансформации социального пространства в долине Соха, Узбекистан. Этнографическое обозрение, 4: 32-50.

2012. Black work, green money: remittances, ritual and domestic economies in southern   Kyrgyzstan.  Slavic Review, 71 (1): 108-134. 

2011. Introduction: contested trajectories and a dynamic approach to place. Central Asian Survey, 30 (3-4): 307-330.

2011. Staying put? Towards a relational politics of mobility at a time of migration. Central Asian Survey, 30 (3-4): 555-576. 

2011. Fixing the border: on the affective life of the state in Kyrgyzstan. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 29 (5): 905-923. 

2009. Materialising state space: ‘Creeping migration’ and territorial integrity in Southern Kyrgyzstan.  Europe-Asia Studies, 61 (7): 1277-1313.

2009. По ту сторону экономического детерминизма: микродинамика миграции из сельского Кыргызстана. Неприкосновенный запас 66 (4): 262-280. 

2007. Unstable objects: corpses, checkpoints and “chessboard borders” in the Ferghana valley.  Anthropology of East Europe Review, Vol. 25 (1): 72-84.

2005. Locating danger: konfliktologiia and the search for fixity in the Ferghana Valley  borderlands. Central Asian Survey, Vol. 24 (1): 67-81.

2005. Of Credits, Kontrakty and Critical Thinking: Encountering “Market Reforms” in  Kyrgyzstani Higher Education. European Education Research Journal, Vol.4 (1): 5-21.

Current DPhil students