Presenter Bios



Dr. Simon Platten
MSc, PhD (Kent)
Dr. Simon Platten is an Honorary Research Fellow in the department of Anthropology at University of Kent and Project Manager at Tamar Grow Local. His PhD research concerned the social dynamics of small-scale cultivation in the mountains and upland plateau of Minahasa, Indonesia. This focussed upon planting patterns and the interface between moral and market economies. In the UK he maintains a research interest in small-scale cultivation. Most recently he has been developing research with local allotment holders in Kent. He is interested in at patterns of germplasm exchange, the maintenance of landrace diversity, and the impact of homegardens upon household economy. Dr Simon Platten received his PhD from University of Kent. He also holds an MSc in Environmental Anthropology from the same. Originally from Cornwall, he maintains strong links with the area. He continues to be involved in collaborations between the Eden Project in Cornwall and the School of Anthropology and Conservation here at Kent.
Professor Shonil Bhagwat
MSc, DPhil (Oxon), BSc, MSc (Pune)
As an environmental geographer with broad research interests at the cross-section between natural and social sciences, Professor Shonil Bhagwat is interested in understanding people's interaction with their natural environment. This broad intellectual project is undertaken, conceptually and empirically, by examining how humans can live in their natural environment with non-human species in a world that is highly human-dominated. In this vein, Shonil's research engages critically with discussions on biodiversity, ecosystem services, climate change and sustainability, and views ecosystems as 'social-ecological systems' and investigates them at various spatial scales: from landscapes to continents; and at various temporal scales: from seasonal to millennial. He has interest in examining conditions that make these social-ecological systems adaptable and resilient in a rapidly-changing world. Before joining The Open University as Lecturer in Geography in February 2013, he directed an international and interdisciplinary masters programme in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK (2009-2013). Shonil has also held post-doctoral research appointments at the University of Oxford (2006-2009) and at the Natural History Museum, London, UK (2003-2006).


Professor William Beinart
BA (Cape Town), MA, PhD (London)
William Beinart has been Rhodes Professor of Race Relations since 1997. The position was established in 1953 to research and teach on ‘race relations’ with special reference to southern Africa. It has become an African Studies post. He was chair of the Board of the Journal of Southern African Studies (1992-8), founding Director of the African Studies Centre at Oxford (2002-6), co-chair of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS, 2006-8), President of the African Studies Association of the UK (2008-10) and Director of Graduate Studies at the African Studies Centre (2009-13).  In 2009 he was elected to the British Academy. He is Director of the African Studies Centre in 2014-5 while Nic Cheeseman is on sabbatical. His major research and teaching interests are in southern African history and politics and in environmental history. He has focussed especially on rural society in the Eastern Cape.  His research and teaching explores the intersection between social, political and environmental issues at a local, national and global scale. Publications include Twentieth-Century South Africa (2001), The Rise of Conservation in South Africa (2003), Social History and African Environments (edited with Joann McGregor, 2003) and with Lotte Hughes, Environment and Empire (2007).
Dr. Thomas Thornton
BA (Swarthmore), MA, PhD (Washington)
Dr. Tom Thornton's primary teaching and research interests are in human ecology, adaptation, local and traditional ecological knowledge, conservation, coastal and marine environments, conceptualizations of space and place, and the political ecology of resource management among the indigenous peoples of North America and the circumpolar North. As director for the MSc in Environmental Change and Management, he oversees the course and teach various options and modules. In addition, he is a senior research fellow at the Environmental Change Institute. Tom's academic training is in social and cultural anthropology (BA Swarthmore College; MA, PhD University of Washington), and included teaching at Portland State University, Trinity College, Saint Lawrence University, the University of Alaska, and Beijing Normal University (Fulbright Lectureship) before coming to Oxford in 2008. He has also worked in government as an environmental resource specialist and as a consultant to Native American tribes.
Professor Michael Hamm
BA (Northwestern), PhD (Minnesota)
Professor Michael Hamm is a visiting fellow of Mansfield College until early July and working with John Ingram in the Food Programme at Environmental Change Institute. On study leave from Michigan State University, he is the C. S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Director of the Center for Regional Food Systems. At MSU, he is housed with the Department of Community Sustainability and also appointed in the Dept. of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and the Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Prior to moving to MSU he was Dean of Academic and Student Programs for Cook College, Rutgers University where he was on the faculty of Nutritional Sciences for nearly 20 years. Michael was co-founder and director of the New Jersey Urban Ecology Program and founding director of the Cook Student Organic Farm during my time there. Michael's research takes a broad approach to exploring areas relevant to understanding the potential and constraints in developing regionalized food systems within the developed world and maintaining these food systems in the developing world, with a particular interest in urbanized and urbanizing environments. He also looks for strategies to improve the resiliency and sustainability of urban food systems and increase the engagement and conversation with policy makers, elected officials, and those in the private sector with respect to regionalized food systems. Michael has a B.A. in Biology from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in human nutrition from the University of Minnesota.


Venetia Congdon
Venetia Congdon is a doctoral student in Social Anthropology at Oxford’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA), where the title of her dissertation is ‘Nourishing the Nation: Manifestations of Catalan identity through food’. She completed her Masters in Social Anthropology in 2011, also at Oxford University. She has a BSc (Honours) degree in Business Management from the Royal Agricultural College (2007 – 2010). Her interests include identities on a regional and national level, anthropology of food, organizational culture, food history and folklore. 
Lewis Daly
Lewis Daly is a doctoral student in the final stages of writing up his D.Phil. in Anthropology at the University of Oxford. His thesis, entitled The Symbiosis of People and Plants, is an ethnoecological exploration of people-plant engagements among the Makushi people of southern Guyana. Lewis spent 18 months living and working with Makushi communities between 2011 and 2013. His research falls into the related fields of social anthropology, ethnobotany, ethno-ornithology, posthumanism, and multi-species ethnography.
Bee Farrell
Bee has a multi disciplinary background in education, museology and heritage and is aiming to consolidate and focus this mix by studying an MA in Food Anthropology. She is interested in exploring how the natural and built environment induces and then continually reconstructs our relationships with material objects, cultures, traditions and food. Bee is also working at the Woodbridge Tide Mill developing its role related to the history and present day role of a working mill. She is additionally working as a research consultant to revise built environment sustainability criteria for an architect masterplanners company.
Magdalena Góralska
Magdalena Góralska is a Polish cultural anthropologist (BA in ethnology from the University of Warsaw, 2013), and a MA scholarship student of social sciences at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata. She studies social discourse on genetically engineered plants in Poland and India, focusing on the scientific and economic sides of food production. She’s an author of several scientific articles and book contributions, from which the most recent explore the topics of Indian culinary culture ("Bliza"), Indo-Chinese community and its’ foodways ("Czas Kultury"), and food certification in Eastern Europe ("Op.cit"). She also cooperates with different NGOs as a social researcher.
Chris Kaplonski
Christopher Kaplonski is a social anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, and was one of the first Western anthropologists to carry out fieldwork in Mongolia in the early 1990s. He has published widely on collective memory, political violence, identity, and coming to terms with the past. His most recent book is The lama question: violence, sovereignty and exception is early socialist Mongolia (2014). He has recently turned his academic taste buds to issues involving wine, sustainability and the redefinition of taste.
Fangfang Li
I am a current PhD candidate reading anthropology from Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research and global health from University of Barcelona, which is generously sponsored by Erasmus Mundus Trans Global Health Joint PhD fellowship. My doctoral project primarily concerns Chinese youth on the move between rural and urban Malaysia and the subsequent transition in their food habits. This project is also collaborated with Monash University Malaysia and its affiliated research platform – Southeast Asia Community Observatory based in Segamat, Peninsular Malaysia. Previously, I hold MSc in global health science from Oxford and Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from China.
Charlotte Payne
Charlotte Payne is a Japanese government scholar (MEXT) at Rikkyo University, Tokyo. She received her undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Anthropology (Biological Anthropology) at the University of Cambridge, and she is interested in the way that humans interact with the natural environment, and the impact of this relationship on past human evolution and contemporary human health. Her main research has been based in rural Japan for the past two years. During this time she has also recently investigated the nutritional value of edible insects at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, as an academic visitor, and the interaction between farming practices, nutrition and health in Northeastern Zimbabwe, as a co-researcher in a collaborative research project in association with the University of Zimbabwe.
Jade Phillips
I am a PhD student under Nigel Maxted at the University of Birmingham (UOB), UK.  My project focuses upon the creation of a national strategy for CWR conservation within Norway and exploration of the methodology needed to create such a strategy.  Previous to this I gained a BSc in Plant Biology from Aberystwyth University and a MRes in Conservation and Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources from UOB.  My thesis involved creating a preliminary national strategy for CWR conservation in Cyprus both in situ and ex situ components.  I have experience working at the Margot Forde Germplasm centre in New Zealand.    
Philippa Ryan
Philippa is principal investigator for an Arts and Humanities Research Council project ‘Sustainability and subsistence systems in a changing Sudan’ (2013-2016) in collaboration with Katherine Homewood (UCL, Anthropology). This project investigates present-day and ancient solutions for coping with agricultural risk. Philippa began working at the British Museum in 2011 and has worked on various projects, particularly analysing the macrobotanical remains (grains, seeds) and microbotanical remains (phytoliths) from Amara West (1300-800BC) in northern Sudan. Philippa completed her PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL ‘Diversity of plant and land use during the Near Eastern Neolithic, phytolith perspectives from Çatalhöyük (2010).
Thomas White

Thomas White is a PhD candidate in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and a member of the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit at that university. He has conducted 18 months of ethnographic research on the edge of the Gobi Desert in Alashan Left Banner, Inner Mongolia, China. His research examines the changing nature of Mongolian pastoralism in the context of state environmentalism. 

Mark Woodcock

Mark Woodcock is a post-doctoral researcher at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh. His PhD formed part of an EU-wide project into the health benefits of foods from traditional diets of countries surrounding the Black Sea, investigating the molecular effects of dietary phytochemicals on vascular cells. His current work focuses on chicken primordial germ cells, and their use as a tool for the preservation and manipulation of avian genetics.


Photos of Student Fieldwork