Professor Sandra Dudley

Professor of Museum Anthropology; Head of School

School/Department: Museum Studies, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 3970



I am a social anthropologist and came to the School of Museum Studies in 2003; I was appointed Head of School in 2017. Prior to Leicester, I held postdoctoral research posts at the University of Oxford (at the Pitt Rivers Museum and in the Dept. for International Development) and taught in Oxford’s School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and at the University of East Anglia. I also worked for over ten years in curatorial and collections management posts at the Pitt Rivers Museum. I have made major field collections of contemporary textiles from Southeast Asia for two major UK museums, consulted on refugee and museum projects, and was a Smithsonian Institution Graduate Fellow. I undertook my doctorate in social anthropology at the University of Oxford, where I was Old Members’ Scholar at Jesus College and recipient of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Sutasoma Starred Award. It was then that I began my work with encamped Karenni refugees living on the Thai-Myanmar border. As joint, founding co-editor, I co-edited Berghahn’s international annual journal in museum studies, Museum Worlds: Advances in Research, from 2013 to 2021. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


My work as an anthropologist centres on museums, art and material culture, forced migration, (post-)conflict and exile. I am interested in all kinds of material culture and making, but I have worked particularly on dress, textiles, ritual artefacts, Asian art and the environments of exile. My research and collaborations have been primarily located in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, India and the UK.  

I am interested in how different kinds of experience and the physical world affect each other, especially in situations where people, things or both are (forcibly) displaced and come into proximity with different people and things. Recently, these areas have come together in my development of a displacement anthropology approach not only to the lives of things and to representation in museums but to how museums might reposition encounters with otherness (Displaced Things, 2021). 

My current research is focusing on the role of cultural practices and forms in, and as, resistance and resilience in situations of active conflict. 



Selected books

Dudley, S. H. 2021. Displaced Things in Museums and Beyond: Loss, Liminality and Hopeful Encounters. London and New York: Routledge.

Dudley, S. H. (ed.). 2012a. Museum Objects. Experiencing the Properties of Things. London and New York: Routledge.

Dudley, S. H. 2010a. Materialising Exile: Material Culture and Embodied Experience among Karenni Refugees in Thailand. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.

Dudley, S. H. (ed.). 2010b. Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations. London and New York: Routledge. 

Selected articles and chapters

Dudley, S. H. 2018a. Paku Karen skirt-cloths (not) at home: forcibly migrated Burmese textiles in refugee camps and museums. In L. Auslander and T. Zara (eds.), Objects of War: the Material Culture of Conflict and Displacement. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, pp. 277-308.

Dudley, S. H. 2017. Liminality and the object's point of view: Burmese court artefacts in Oxford, London and Yangon. In P. Basu (ed.),The Inbetweenness of Things: Materializing Mediation and Movement between Worlds. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 39-58.

Dudley, S. H. 2015a. Ritual practice, material culture and wellbeing in displacement: ka-thow-bow in a Karenni refugee camp in Thailand. In A. Horstmann and J. Jung (eds.), Building Noah's Ark for Migrants, Refugees, and Religious Communities. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 101-126.

Dudley, S. H. 2015b. What, or where, is the (museum) object? Colonial encounters in displayed worlds of things. In A. Witcomb and K. Message (eds.), Museum Theory, vol. I of The International Handbooks of Museum Studies, eds. S. Macdonald and H. Rees Leahy. London and New York: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 41-62.

Dudley, S. H. 2014. What's in the drawer? Surprise and proprioceptivity in the Pitt Rivers Museum. The Senses and Society, 9 (3): 296-309.

Dudley, S. H. 2011. Material visions: dress and textiles. In M. Banks & J. Ruby (eds.), Made to be Seen: Perspectives on the History of Visual Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 45-73.


I currently supervise students working on a range of research topics. I am interested in supervising students working on objects, art and material culture, collections, materiality, making, representation and/or experience and encounter, within contexts/subject areas including:

  • museum ethnography; material and museum anthropology
  • textiles and dress
  • displacement, forced migration and exile
  • anthropologies of art
  • religion and ritual
  • mainland Southeast Asia, particularly Myanmar; the UK.


I contribute research-led and object-centred teaching on objects, art and collections to the School's fulltime postgraduate programmes in Museum Studies (MS) and Art Museum & Gallery Studies (AMAGS), leading the AMAGS module ‘Managing Art Collections’ and contributing to the MS module ‘Objects and Collections: Care Management and Curation’. I contribute similar teaching to our distance learning postgraduate programmes.

Press and media

Museum objects.

Museum collections.

Myanmar (Burma).

Museums and cultural heritage in ODA-recipient (developing) countries.

Museum and heritage training and research in ODA-recipient (developing) countries.

Museums and cultural heritage in peace-building/post-conflict. 

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