Professor Sandra Dudley

Dr Sandra Dudley

Director and Head of School; Professor of Museum Anthropology

Tel: +44 (0) 116 252 3970

Professor of Museum Anthropology

My work focuses on intersections of materiality, sensory and emotional experience in contexts of the (forced) displacement of both people and things. This includes looking variously at museums, forced migration, conflict and post-conflict. Most recently, these areas have come together in my development of a displacement anthropology as a new approach not only to the lives of things and to representation in museums, but to how museums might reposition and unsettle – displace, even – our encounters with the other. I am interested in in all kinds of material, material culture and making, but have worked particularly on the material forms and practices of dress, ritual and exile. My research and collaborations have been primarily located in Southeast Asia and South Asia (Burma [Myanmar], Thailand and India) and the UK. Most recently, my expertise on Myanmar, museums, heritage and material culture, and its interlinkage with my object-centred approaches to teaching, has come together in my working with the British Council on their International Museum Academy programme (from 2018).

I came to the University in 2003 and was appointed Head of School in 2017. Prior to Leicester, I held postdoctoral research posts at the University of Oxford (in the Pitt Rivers Museum and in the Department for International Development) and temporary teaching posts 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 been 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. I am Joint Chief Editor of Berghahn’s international annual journal in museum studies, ‘Museum Worlds: Advances in Research’.

I contribute research-led teaching on objects, collections, cultures and communities to the School's fulltime MA in Museum Studies and to the distance learning Masters programmes. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

PhD supervision

I currently supervise students working on a range of research areas and am interested in supervising students working on topics around:

  • objects and materiality in museums
  • museum ethnography and material culture; material and museum anthropology
  • displacement and exile
  • changes in cultural practice and how it is experienced, materialised, represented and understood (particularly in South or Southeast Asia or the UK)
  • sensory engagement and experience

Completed PhD students for whom I was primary supervisor:

  • Dr Jeanette Atkinson: Learning to respect: the perspectives of heritage professionals in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Dr Vivian Ting: Communicating Chinese ceramics: a study of material culture theory in selected museums in Britain
  • Dr Julia Petrov: Dressing ghosts: museum exhibitions of historical fashion in Britain and North America
  • Dr Jennifer Binnie: Perception and well-being: a cross-disciplinary approach to experiencing art in the museum
  • Dr Chulani Rambukwella: Heritage representation in culturally diverse societies: a case study of the Colombo national museum in Sri Lanka
  • Dr Ashraf Melika: Pharaonic material culture and identity formation in contemporary Egyptian society
  • Dr Kirstin James: Gifting culture: comparing display practice at the British Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum
  • Dr Alexandra Woodall: Sensory engagements with objects in art galleries: material interpretation and theological metaphor
  • Dr Marin Hanson: Quilts in between: the material culture of commemorative community patchwork made for Chinese adoptees in the U.S
  • Dr Ryan Nutting: Model lives: the changing meanings of miniature ethnographic models from acquisition to interpretation at the Horniman Free Museum 1894-1898
  • Dr Natasha Barrett: Meshworks of meanings: photographs of Māori and their taonga
  • Dr Oonagh Quigley: A phenomenological approach to engagements with objects in the museum



Dudley, S. H. Forthcoming 2020. Displaced Things: Optimistic Object Encounters in Museums, Myanmar and Beyond. London & New York: Routledge.

Dudley, S. H. (ed.). 2012a. Museum Objects. Experiencing the Properties of Things. London & New York: Routledge. 397pp.

Dudley, S. H., A. J. Barnes, J. Binnie, J. Petrov & J. Walklate (eds). 2012. Narrating Objects, Collecting Stories. London & New York: Routledge. 286pp.

Dudley, S. H., A. J. Barnes, J. Binnie, J. Petrov & J. Walklate (eds). 2011 The Thing about Museums: Objects and Experience, Representation and Contestation. London & New York: Routledge. 396pp.

Dudley, S. H. 2010a. Materialising Exile: Material Culture and Embodied Experience among Karenni Refugees in Thailand. Oxford & New York: Berghahn. 206pp.

Dudley, S. H. (ed.). 2010b. Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations. London & New York: Routledge. 305pp.

Dell, E. & Dudley, S. H. (eds.) 2003a. Textiles from Burma. London: Philip Wilson Publishers. 192pp.

Special journal issues

Dudley, S. H., C. Lloyd and F. Stewart (eds.). 2002a. Cultural Interfaces of Self-Determination Movements. Special issue of Oxford Development Studies, 30, 2.

Book chapters and peer-reviewed articles

Dudley, S. H. 2019. Displaced imaginations, bodies and things: materiality and subjectivity of forced migration. In R. Cohen and C. Fischer (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Diaspora, Abingdon and New York: Routledge, pp. 276-283.

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. 2018b. In J. Driessen (ed.), An Archaeology of Forced Migration: Crisis-induced mobility and the collapse of the 13th c. BCE Eastern Mediterranean. Louvain: Presses universitaires de Louvain.

Dudley, S. H. 2018c. The power of things: agency and potentiality in the work of histoprical artefacts. In D. Dean (ed.), A Companion to Public History. London and New York: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 187-200.

Dudley, S. H. 2018d. Displacement and the sensory in the art of Qasim Riza Shaheen. In M. A. Hushlak and M. B. Pearl (eds.),The Last Known Pose. Essays and Reflections on the Works of Qasim Riza Shaheen. Manchester: Cornerhouse.

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-bòw 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.

Dudley, S. H. 2015b. What, or where, is the (museum) object? Colonial encounters in displayed worlds of things. In A. Witcomb & K. Message (eds.), Museum Theory, vol. I of The International Handbooks of Museum Studies, eds. S. Macdonald and H. Rees Leahy. London & New York: John Wiley & Sons. Online version published 2013

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

Dudley, S. H. 2012b. Encountering a Chinese horse: engaging with the thingness of things, in Dudley, S. (ed.), Museum Objects. Experiencing the Properties of Things. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 1-15.

Dudley, S. H. 2012c. Introduction: objects, collectors and representations, in S. Dudley, A. J. Barnes, J. Binnie, J. Petrov & J. Walklate (eds.), Narrating Objects, Collecting Stories. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 1-10.

Dudley, S. H. 2011a. 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.

Dudley, S. H. 2011b. ‘Introduction: museums and things’, in S. Dudley, A. J. Barnes, J. Binnie, J. Petrov & J. Walklate (eds.) The Thing about Museums: Objects and Experience, Representation and Contestation. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 1-12.

Dudley, S. H. 2011c. Feeling at home: producing and consuming things in Karenni refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. Population, Space and Place, 17(6): 742-55.

Quian Quiroga, R., S. H. Dudley & J. Binnie, 2011. Looking at Ophelia: a comparison of viewing art in the gallery and in the lab, ACNR 11(3): 15-18.

Dudley, S. H. 2010c. Museum materialities: objects, sense and feeling, in S. Dudley (ed.), Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations. London & New York: Routledge.

Dudley, S. H. 2008a. A sense of home in exile. Forced Migration Review, 30: 23-4.

Dudley, S. H. 2008b. Karenic textiles, in Green, A. (ed.), Eclectic Collecting: Art from Burma in the Denison Museum. Singapore: Singapore University Press, pp. 19-48.

Dudley, S. H. 2008c. The fragility, mobility and resilience of culture: Karenni refugees and 'heritage' in forced displacement. In R. Amoeda, S. Lira, C. Pinheiro, F. Pinheiro & J. Pinheiro (eds.), World Heritage and Sustainable Development. Vol. 1. Barcelos, Portugal: Green Lines Institute for Sustainable Development, pp 111-119.

Dudley, S. H. 2008d. Reflecting on representation in museum practice, in Yksinpuhelusta vuoropuheluun [From Monologue to Dialogue] Turku, Finland: Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, pp.16-20.

Dudley, S. H. 2006a. Re-shaping Karenni-ness in exile: education, nationalism and being in the wider world, in M. Gravers (ed.), Exploring Ethnicity in Burma. Copenhagen: Nordic Institute for Asian Studies (NIAS) Press, pp. 77-106.

Dudley, S. H. 2006b. 'External' aspects of self-determination movements in Burma, in F. Stewart, E. FitzGerald & R. Venugopal (eds.), Globalization, Violent Conflict, and Self-Determination. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 203-224. A longer version also available as a Queen Elizabeth House (University of Oxford) working paper, at

Dudley, S. H. & C. Lloyd. 2006. Global-local cultural links: diaspora, transnationalism, solidarities and the media, in F. Stewart, E. FitzGerald & R. Venugopal (eds.) Globalization, Violent Conflict, and Self-Determination. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 48-71.

Dudley, S. H. 2003a. Whose textiles and whose meanings?, in E. Dell and S. Dudley (eds.), Textiles from Burma, Philip Wilson Publishers, pp. 37-48.

Dudley, S. H., J. Barker, S. Fraser-Lu, V. Joshi, L. Maddigan & M. Toyota. 2003. Textile traditions of Burma: an overview, in E. Dell and S. Dudley (eds.), Textiles from Burma, Philip Wilson Publishers, pp. 49-94.

Dudley, S. H., F. Franklin, R. Isaacs, V. Joshi & M. Toyota. 2003. Burma textiles in local contexts , in E. Dell and S. Dudley (eds.), Textiles from Burma, Philip Wilson Publishers, pp. 95-142.

Dell, E. & S. H. Dudley. 2003b. Introduction, in E. Dell and S. Dudley (eds.), Textiles from Burma, Philip Wilson Publishers, pp. 9-14.

Dell, E., S. H. Dudley & L. Maddigan. 2003. Green’s collections and their historical and present contexts, in E. Dell and S. Dudley (eds.), Textiles from Burma, Philip Wilson Publishers, pp. 15-36.

Dudley, S. H. 2002a. Diversity, identity and modernity in exile: 'traditional' Karenni clothing, in A. Green and R. Blurton (eds.), Burma: Art and Archaeology, British Museum Press, pp. 143-151. Reprinted in S. Knell (ed.), 2007, Museums in the Material World, London: Routledge, pp. 335-345.

Dudley, S. H. 2002b. Local identities and global flows of objects and images. Oxford Development Studies, 30, 2: 165-176.

Lloyd, C., S. H. Dudley and F. Stewart. 2002b. Introduction. The global and the local: the cultural interfaces of self-determination movements. Oxford Development Studies, 30, 2: 133-136.

Dudley, S. H. and A. Petch 2002. Using multi-media tools to teach anthropology: 'Pitt Rivers, anthropology and museum ethnography in the nineteenth century'. Journal of Museum Ethnography, 14: 14-23.

MacArthur, J., S. H. Dudley and H. Williams 2001. Approaches to facilitating health care acceptance: a case example from Karenni refugees. In H. Williams (ed.) Caring for Those in Crisis: Integrating Anthropology and Public Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies. National Association for the Practice of Anthropology Occasional Bulletin No. 21: 56-69.

Dudley, S. H. 1999. ‘Traditional' culture and refugee welfare in north-west Thailand. Forced Migration Review, 6: 5-8.

Dudley, S. H. 1996. Burmese collections in the Pitt Rivers Museum: an introduction. Journal of Museum Ethnography, 5: 57-64.

Other articles, reports

McCarthy, C. & S. H. Dudley, 2018. Editorial. Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. 6: vii-ix.

Dudley, S. H. & C. McCarthy. 2017. Editorial. Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. 5: vii-viii.

Dudley, S. H. 2015. A collaboration between the UK and India. Museums Journal 115 (07): 63.

Dudley, S. 2015. Civilizing museums. Editorial. Museum Worlds: Advances in Research, 3: 1-6.

Message, K. & S. H. Dudley. 2014. Editorial. Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. 2: 1-9. Berghahn.

Dudley, S. H. & K. Message. 2013. Editorial. Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. 1: 1-6. Berghahn.

Dudley, S. H. 2012. Materiality matters: experiencing the displayed object. University of Michigan Working Papers in Museum Studies, No. 8.

Dudley, S. H. 2000a. Celebration and memories of home: a 'traditional' festival in a Karenni refugee camp. Cultural Survival Quarterly, 24, 3: 29-31.

Dudley, S. H. 2000b. Displacement and identity: Karenni refugees in Thailand. DPhil thesis, University of Oxford.

Dudley, S. H. 1998a. Lucy Margaret Eyre. In A. Petch (ed.) Collectors 2: Collecting for the Pitt Rivers Museum. Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, pp. 18-20.

Dudley, S. H. 1998b. Aspects of research with Karenni refugees in Thailand. Bulletin of the International Committee on Urgent Anthropological and Ethnological Research (UNESCO), 39: 165-84.

Dudley, S. H. & A. Petch 1998. Pitt Rivers, anthropology and museum ethnography in the nineteenth century. A multimedia educational resource published on

Dudley, S. H. 1997a. ‘Sir Richard Carnac Temple.’ In A. Petch (ed.) Collectors: Collecting for the Pitt Rivers Museum. Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, pp. 45-48.

Dudley, S. H. 1997b. ‘New arrivals in Karenni Camp 2: an ethnographic report.’ Unpublished but public report on consultancy carried out for the International Rescue Committee, Thailand. 94pp.

Book and exhibition reviews in American Anthropologist (2017), Journal of the History of Collections (2011), Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the UK Newsletter (2007, 2001), Bulletin of the Burma Studies Group (1998), Great Plains Quarterly (2009), Journal of Museum Ethnography (2006, 2005), International Institute of Asian Studies Newsletter (2006), Journal of the Society of Archivists (2005).

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