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Biography

Elisa Tamburo is a social anthropologist with expertise in urban and environmental anthropology in Greater China. She joined the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College London in 2020, as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Social Anthropology on the 6-year ERC Synergy Grant project ‘Cosmological Visionaries’ led by Katie Swancutt.

Elisa completed her PhD in Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, with a dissertation titled ‘Moving house: place, identity and the politics of relocation in urban Taiwan’. Based on 18 months of immersive ethnographic fieldwork, it investigated the relocation of a historical, diasporic settlement built by the Chinese Nationalist government after its exile to Taiwan in 1949 – a military dependents’ village (juancun) – to high-rise apartment blocks and explored the ways in which three generations of Mainlanders negotiate their political identity, belonging, and practices of everyday life in the aftermath of urban displacement. Themes emerging from her work include displacement, resettlement and belonging; the political economy of planning, housing and infrastructure; time, futurity and the politics of history; ritual and place-making.

During her PhD, Elisa has been a Junior Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Tübingen. Previously, she has been a Permanent Research Fellow at the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT), and a Visiting Associate in the department of Sociology at Academia Sinica.

Cosmological Visionaries Webpage: http://www.cosmovis.uk/

Research interests and PhD supervision

  • Greater China (China and Taiwan)
  • Urban Anthropology (Space and Place, Infrastructure, Housing)
  • Environmental Anthropology (Ecology and Climate Change)
  • The Anthropology of Religion (Shamanism and Animism)

Elisa is part of the China Team of ‘Cosmological Visionaries: Shamans, Scientists, and Climate Change at the Ethnic Borderlands of China and Russia’ (COSMOVIS), a 6-year joint research project with the University of Manchester funded by a £6 million ERC Synergy Grant. The project documents and foster the new joint visions of animistic priests, shamans, rural persons, and their own ethnologists, anthropologists, and natural scientists, in order to address climate change in Southwest China and Siberia.

For COSMOVIS, Elisa will research ‘Cosmological Visions of Satellites and Spirits in a Nuosu Town’. She will document the ecological and forestry protection practices of Nuosu animistic priests and shamans as well as local views on the rapidly shifting landscape of space and satellite technology in the Liangshan mountains of Sichuan province, China. To contextualize her research, she will consult archives and gather oral histories about Nuosu experiences with China’s steel-making industry and the deforestation of their highlands in this strategic area of satellite technology.

Teaching

Elisa is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. As a Teaching Fellow, between 2017 and 2020 she taught BA and MA courses in Social Anthropology, Qualitative Research Methods, and Migration and Diaspora at SOAS and UCL. In 2018, she won a Teaching Fellowship in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Tübingen, where, as Junior Lecturer, she convened two seminars on Urban Anthropology and the Anthropology of Infrastructure.

Selected publications

‘High-rise Social Failures: Regulating Technologies, Authority, and Aesthetics in the Resettlement of Taipei Military Villages’. 2020. Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology.

‘Authoritarianism in the Living Room: Everyday Disciplines, Senses and Morality in Taiwan’s Military Villages’. 2018. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs.