I am a Social Anthropologist with expertise and research interests in a range of fields including the anthropology of drugs, the ethnography of East Africa (Kenya in particular), urbanisation and film and photography.
Like many people, I came to anthropology through a circuitous route, first developing an interest in Ancient Roman and Greek use of plants when studying for my degree in Latin at St Andrews. This led me to the field of Ethnobotany, and a PhD in Social Anthropology (also St Andrews) researching the varied meanings that cluster around the stimulant plant khat as it travels from farms in Central Kenya to varied points of consumption in Kenya and beyond. Out of this and further postdoctoral research at the University of Oxford, I developed a wider interest in drugs in Africa, conducting much research and over the years with my colleague Gernot Klantschnig, culminating in our current project Cannabis Africana: Drugs and Development in Africa funded by the ESRC.
My research on khat and Somali networks that supplied it to the UK and elsewhere inspired further research into Somali transnational business, though a focus on Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi transformed by Somalis into a major East African business hub. From this research I have published a monograph Little Mogadishu: Eastleigh, Nairobi's Global Somali Hub (Hurst/OUP) and a recent co-edited (with Tabea Scharrer) volume Mobile Urbanity: Somali Presence in Urban East Africa (Berghahn).
Through work on historical and ethnographic photographic collections made in Kenya in the 1950s, I have also become fascinated by photography in East Africa, and am working with Bristol Archives, University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and Technical University of Kenya on a project entitled Building Shared Futures through Photographic Remains that is exploring how Nairobi-related photographic archives at Bristol can be used productively in contemporary Kenya.