Professor Sandra Dudley

Dr Sandra Dudley

Director and Head of School; Professor of Museum Studies

Tel: +44 (0) 116 252 3970


Personal details

I am a social and material anthropologist, whose work transects social anthropology, museum studies, and material culture studies.

My work is focused in refugee and museum settings in Southeast Asia and South Asia (Burma [Myanmar], Thailand and India) and the UK).

I have interconnecting interests in:

  • exile and displacement
  • objects, materials and collections
  • the uses of philosophy in anthropological and museum theory and practice

I came to the School in 2003, after holding postdoctoral research posts at the University of Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum and in the University of Oxford's Department for International Development, and lecturing in Oxford's School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and at the University of East Anglia.

I worked for over ten years in various curatorial and collections management capacities 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-Burma border.

I collaborate with academic colleagues, museums, galleries and non-governmental organisations in the UK and internationally, and am currently working with the National Museum Institute (New Delhi) and other cultural organisations and museums in India.

I have published six books, including an edited volume that repositions approaches to materiality, sensory experience and emotional engagement in the museum and a monograph that looks at forced migration through an innovative, material lens.


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 also Joint Chief Editor of Berghahn's international annual journal in museum studies, 'Museum Worlds: Advances in Research'.



Dudley, S. Forthcoming 2017a. Displaced Things: Loss, Transformation and Forgetting amongst Objects in Burma and Beyond. London: Routledge.

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

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

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

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

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

Special journal issues

Dudley, S., 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. 2017b (forthcoming). Liminality and the object's point of view: Burmese court artefacts in Oxford, London and Yangon. In P. Basu (ed.), The Inbetweenness of Things. London: Bloomsbury.

Dudley, S. 2017c (in press).The power of things: agency and potentiality in the work of historical artefacts. In D. Dean (ed.), A Companion to Public History, London & New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Dudley, S. 2017d (in press). Displacement and the sensory in the art of Qasim Riza Shaheen. In Pearl, M. (ed.) The Last Known Pose. Essays and Reflections on the Works of Qasim Riza Shaheen. Manchester: Cornerhouse.

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

Dudley, S. 2015b. What, or where, is the (museum) object? Colonial encounters in displayed worlds of things. In A. Witcomb & K. Message (eds.), Theory, vol. III 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. 2014. What's in the drawer? Surprise and proprioceptivity in the Pitt Rivers Museum. The Senses and Society, 9 (3): 296-309.

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

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

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

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

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

Dell, E., S. 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. 2002a. ‘Diversity, identity and modernity in exile: “traditional” Karenni clothing’, in Green, A. and Blurton, R. (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. 2002b. ‘Local identities and global flows of objects and images.’ Oxford Development Studies, 30, 2: 165-176.

Lloyd, C., S. 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. 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. 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. 1999. ‘“Traditional” culture and refugee welfare in north-west Thailand.’ Forced Migration Review, 6: 5-8.

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

Other articles, reports

Message, K. & S. Dudley. 2014. Editorial. Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. Vol. 2. Berghahn.

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

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

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

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

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

Dudley, S. 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. 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 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).


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

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

Past PhD students:

  • Dr Jeanette Atkinson: the cross-cultural relevance of preservation education provision, with specific reference to New Zealand
  • Dr Vivian Ting: engagements with ‘Chineseness’ through Chinese ceramics in British museums and galleries
  • Dr Julia Petrov: museal representations of dress in France, England, and North America, 1850-present
  • Dr Jennifer Binnie: perception and wellbeing in the experience of art in the museum
  • Dr Chulani Rambukwella: heritage presentation in postcolonial Sri Lanka, with specific reference to the Colombo National Museum
  • Dr Ashraf Melika: material culture and its meanings in present-day Egypt
  • Dr Kirstin James: a comparison of contemporary display practice at the British Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum, utilising indigenous research methodologies
  • Dr Alexandra Woodall: the role of material objects in art galleries in facilitating imaginative interpretations and challenging institutional practice
  • Dr Marin Hanson: a phenomenological approach to the making and meaning of quilts that commemorate an American family’s adoption of a Chinese child


i have worked and published on a range of material culture issues and on aspects of both social and material life in exile (including the displacement of things as well as of people). I have particular interests in Burma (Myanmar), object engagements in the museum and elsewhere, dress and textiles, and India. Key to all my work are the intersections between human experience and the material world, particularly in relation to museums, forced migration and heritage.

Current projects

My forthcoming monograph, Displaced Things, draws on field research in Burma, on the Thai-Burma border, and in the UK, bringing together refugee, museum and personal objects. The book explores the movements of material things from one setting to another, arguing (i) that these movements be re-conceptualised as a series of displacements, (ii) that the object’s point of view be taken as the principal starting point of analysis, and (iii) that the displacement processes concerned can be explained and understood by using the anthropological theories of ritual set out by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner. This approach has profound implications for envisioning the possibilities of things, and problematizes our notions of the settings through which they move – in particular (but not only) those of museum and ‘heritage’, definable as they are by their particular approaches to the re-contextualisations of things.

I am also currently working with Professor Manvi Seth, of the National Museum Institute in New Delhi, on their collaborative British Council- and British Academy-funded projects that run from 2014 to 2017 respectively. Focused on object engagements, these involve research in three very different Indian and UK museums, training for PhD students, research networking with museum professionals, academics and students in India and the UK, and both academic and practice-oriented outcomes.

Past projects

I have written extensively on Karenni refugees, most notably in Materialising Exile, which provides a material cultural approach to forced migration and focuses on previously neglected socio-cultural, personal, physical and affective aspects of what it means to be a refugee.

Previous projects have also embraced an interdisciplinary approach, seen for example in my collaboration with bioengineer Rodrigo Quian Quiroga (UoL Dept. of Engineering), which brought together neuroscience, anthropology and aesthetics in order to understand the fundamental basis of the human experience of art in the gallery. This led to an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Art Fund and Jennifer Binnie’s work on wellbeing and the perception of art, as well as other outputs.

My edited volumes Museum Materialities and Museum Objects also have a strongly interdisciplinary flavour. Through a range of case studies and authorial approaches, they emphasise and argue for the role and place of the object and its properties in the museum and the engagements that take place there.

I have won grants from:

  • the Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • British Academy
  • British Council
  • Royal Anthropological Institute
  • Evans Fund (University of Cambridge)
  • the Open Society Institute’s Burma Project

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