Emma Tarlo specialises in the anthropology of material culture with reference to dress, fashion, textiles, the body and hair in trans-cultural contexts. She also works on urban anthropology and the relationship between history and anthropology. Much of her earlier research was in India. Her work engages with issues of colonialism, nationalism, diasporic identities, aesthetics, memory, religious revivalism, stigma, creativity and questions of representation and materiality. She is interested in developing new modes of ethnographic writing and exhibition making.
Emma Tarlo is keen to widen the reach and appeal of anthropology and has contributed to numerous public discussions about dress, social diversity, fashion and hair such as BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour, Thinking Allowed, BBC world service and NPR channels in the United States. Her recent book, 'Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair' (Oneworld) won the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing 2017. Other books by Emma Tarlo include, 'Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India' (winner of the Coomaraswamy Prize 1998), Unsettling Memories: Narratives of the Emergency in Delhi (2003) and 'Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith' (2010).