Karen Sykes

Karen Sykes


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Personal profile


Fellow, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, 2000 to present.

Visiting Professor, Australian National University, 2012

Visiting Researcher, James Cook University, Queensland, Australia, 2012 

Visiting Professor, L' École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Paris, France. Spring, 2005

Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 1999 - 2002

PhD. Princeton University, New Jersey, USA (1995) with a thesis entitled Knowledge, Education and National Development in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.

M.A. University of Western Ontario, Canada (1987) with a thesis entitled A Public Anthropology: Mead & Metraux in Redbook, 1961-79.

B.Soc. Sci. History and Anthropology, University of Western Ontario, Canada (1983).

B.Ed. University of Western Ontario, Canada (1984).


Supervision information

Supervision areas:

Doctoral Supervision: I am currently working with PhD candidates who share interests in social reconstruction and theories of society, the anthropology of knowledge, aesthetics, ethics, intergenerational relations and property relations.

Programme Director, Masters in Social Anthropology: I welcome conversations with applicants with Undersgraduate degrees in cognate disciplines, and are now thinking about beginning Postgraduate study in Social Anthropology 


Research interests

Area of Regional Expertise: Oceania; Papua New Guinea, North Queensland

Fields of Anthropological Expertise: Social and Cultural Anthropology, Anthropological Theory, History of Anthropology.

My research in anthropology has focused on the wider theme of moral economy, as distinguished by my earliest publications overviewing theories of gift exchange, Arguing with Anthropology:  a Critical Introduction to Theories of the Gift (Routledge 2005)  and Ethnographies of Moral Reason: Living Paradoxes of a Global Age (Palgrave 2008), and in special editions of journals, such as Interrogating Individuals: The Theory of Possessive Individualism in Oceania, Anthropological Forum, 2007 and two collections in Critique of Anthropology The Ethnography of Child and Youth Labour in the Era of Capital Restructuring.  From 2010 to the present, I have been carrying out research into the domestic moral economy, which is an ethnographic study of value that places moral reasoning about how people make a good life at the centre of theories of value creation today.