School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Professor Roy Ellen

Professor of Anthropology & Human Ecology

Retired, Emeritus Professor

 

profile image for Professor Roy Ellen

I was trained at the London School of Economics as a social anthropologist, though have long been committed to an anthropology that addresses the 'big issues.' My fieldwork has, over a period of 40 years, focussed mainly on the Nuaulu of Seram and other peoples of the Moluccan islands of eastern Indonesia. I have also worked in Sulawesi, Java and Brunei.

Throughout this period I have had a continuous professional interest in the anthropology of the environment and in ethnobiology (especially in relation to cultural cognition), and inaugurated the Kent teaching programmes in these subjects. I have also worked on the ecological and social dynamics of inter-island trading systems.

My current interests are focused on the applications of cognitive anthropology to the history of science, the reproduction of Nuaulu ritual cycles, and understanding the management and significance of cultivar diversity amongst home gardeners and farmers in the British Isles and in the Moluccas.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Book
Ellen, R. (2012). Nuaulu religious practices: the frequency and reproduction of rituals in a Moluccan society (Vol. 356). Leiden: KITLV Press. Retrieved from http://oapen.org/search?identifier=421930
Book section
Ellen, R. (2017). Rethinking the relationship between studies of ethnobiological knowledge and the evolution of human cultural cognition. In C. Power, Finnegan, M., & Callan, H. (Eds.), Human origins: contributions from social anthropology (Vol. 30, pp. 59-83). Oxford, New York: Berghahn.
Ellen, R. (2016). Foreword. In S. Hurn (Ed.), Anthropology and cryptozoology: exploring encounters with mysterious creatures. (p. xiv-xvi). Abingdon, UK.: Routledge.
Ellen, R., & Fischer, M. (2013). Introduction: On the Concept of Cultural Transmission. In S. J. Lycett & Johns, S. E. (Eds.), Understanding Cultural Transmission in Anthropology: A Critical synthesis. (Vol. 26). Oxford: Berghahn, Oxford. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Understanding-Cultural-Transmission-Anthropology-Methodology/dp/178238071X
Ellen, R., & Fischer, M. (2013). Introduction: on the concept of cultural transmission. In R. F. Ellen, Lycett, S. J., & Johns, S. E. (Eds.), Understanding cultural transmission in anthropology: a critical synthesis (pp. 1-54). New York, Oxford: Berghahn.
Ellen, R. (2012). Archipelagic Southeast Asia. In R. Fardon, Harris, O., Marchand, T. H. J., Nuttall, M., Shore, C., Strang, V., & Wilson, R. A. (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Social Anthropology (Vol. 1, pp. 422-442). London: SAGE. Retrieved from http://www.uk.sagepub.com/books/Book233066
Ellen, R., & Soselisa, H. (2012). Cassava diversity and toxicity in relation to environmental degradation: a feature of food security in the Moluccas, Indonesia. In A. -K. Hornidge & Antweiler, C. (Eds.), Environmental uncertainty and local knowledge: Southeast Asia as a laboratory of global ecological change (pp. 215-242). Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.
Ellen, R. (2011). 'Indigenous knowledge' and the understanding of cultural cognition: the contribution of studies of environmental knowledge systems. In D. B. Kronenfeld, Bennardo, G., De Munck, V. C., & Fischer, M. D. (Eds.), A companion to cognitive anthropology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Ellen, R. (2011). Sago as a buffer against subsistence stress and as a currency of inter-island trade networks in eastern Indonesia. In G. Barker & Janowski, M. (Eds.), Why cultivate? Anthropological and archaeological approaches to foraging-farming transitions in Southeast Asia (pp. 47-60). Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
Ellen, R. (2009). Classification. In A. Barnard & Spencer, J. (Eds.), The Routledge Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology (pp. 129-133). London and New York: Routledge.
Ellen, R. (2009). Why aren't the Nuaulu like the Matsigenka? Knowledge and categorization of forest diversity on Seram, eastern Indonesia. In L. M. Johnson & Hunn, E. S. (Eds.), Landscape ethnoecology: concepts of biotic and physical space (pp. 116-140). New York, Oxford: Berghahn.
Ellen, R. (2009). Indigenous knowledge. In A. Barnard & Spencer, J. (Eds.), The Routledge encyclopedia of social and cultural anthropology (pp. 375-377). London, New York: Routledge.
Ellen, R. (2008). Andrew P. Vayda. In V. Amit (Ed.), Biographical Dictionary of Social and Cultural Anthropology. (pp. 553-554). London: Routledge.
Iskandar, J., & Ellen, R. (2007). Innovation, 'hybrid' knowledge and the conservation of relict rainforest in upland Banten. In R. F. Ellen (Ed.), Modern Crises and Traditional Strategies: Local Ecological Knowledge in Island Southeast Asia (pp. 133-142). Oxford: Berghahn Books.
Ellen, R. (2007). The relevance of IEK (Indigenous Environmental Knowledge): yesterday, today and tomorrow. In K. K. Misra (Ed.), Traditional knowledge in contemporary societies: challenges and opportunities (pp. 29-35). Delhi, India: Pratibha Prakashan.
Ellen, R. (2007). Local and scientific understanding of forest diversity on Seram, eastern Indonesia. In P. Sillitoe (Ed.), Local science versus global science: approaches to indigenous knowledge in international development (pp. 41-74). New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.
Ellen, R. (2007). Introduction. In R. F. Ellen (Ed.), Modern crises and traditional strategies: local ecological knowledge in island Southeast Asia (pp. 1-45). Oxford, UK: Berghahn Books.
Article
Ellen, R., & O'Neill, A. (2017). Interview with Professor Roy Ellen, Distinguished Economic Botanist 2017. Plants And People: Society For Economic Botany Newsletter, 31, 4-5. Retrieved from http://www.econbot.org/file.php?file=sitefiles/pandp/2017_spring.pdf
Ellen, R., & Puri, R. (2017). Conceptualising 'core' medicinal floras: A comparative and methodological study of phytomedical resources in related Indonesian populations. Conservation And Society, 14, 345-358. doi:10.4103/0972-4923.197608
Ellen, R. (2017). Is there a connection between object diversity and aesthetic sensibility? A comparison between biological domesticates and material culture. Ethnos: Journal Of Anthropology, 82, 308-330. doi:10.1080/00141844.2015.1052085
Ellen, R., & Puri, R. (2017). Conceptualising 'core' medicinal flora: A comparative and methodological study of phytomedical resources in related Indonesian populations. Conservation And Society, 14, 345-358. doi:10.4103/0972-4923.197608
Ellen, R. (2016). Nuaulu ritual regulation of resources, sasi and forest conservation in eastern Indonesia. South East Asia Research, 24, 5-22. doi:10.5367/sear.2016.0290
Ellen, R. (2016). Harold Colyer Conklin, 1926-2016: an appreciation. Obituaries. Royal Anthropological Institute.
Ellen, R. (2016). Tools, agency and the category of 'living things'. Des Êtres Vivants Et Des Artefacts: Les Actes De Colloques En Ligne Du Musée Du Quai Branly, 1-21.
Benessaiah, N., & Ellen, R. (2014). An interview with Roy Ellen. Ethnobiology Letters, 5, 31-39. doi:10.14237/ebl.5.2014.167
Ellen, R. (2014). Jeremy Kemp (1941-2014). Aseasuk Newsletter, -, 8-9.
Ellen, R. (2014). Pragmatism, identity and the state: how the Nuaulu of Seram have re-invented their beliefs and practices as 'religion'. Wacana. Wacana: Jurnal Ilmu Pengetahuan Budaya, 15, 254-285. Retrieved from http://wacana.ui.ac.id/index.php/wjhi/article/view/403/374
Osawa, Y., & Ellen, R. (2014). The cultural cognition of taste term conflation. The Senses And Society, 9, 72-91. doi:10.2752/174589314X13834112761083
Ellen, R. (2013). 'These rude implements': competing claims for authenticity in the Eolithic controversy. Anthropology Quarterly, 86, 445-480. doi:10.1353/anq.2013.0029
Alcántara-Salinas, G., Ellen, R., Valiñas-Coalla, L., Caballero, J., & Argueta-Villamar, A. (2013). Alternative ways of representing Zapotec and Cuicatec folk classification of birds: a multidimensional model and its implications for culturally-informed conservation in Oaxaca, México . Journal Of Ethnobiology And Ethnomedicine, 9, 1-16, plus two additional files. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-81
Soselisa, H., & Ellen, R. (2013). The management of cassava toxicity and its changing sociocultural context in the Kei Islands, Eastern Indonesia . Ecology Of Food And Nutrition, 52, 427-450. doi:10.1080/03670244.2012.751913
Ellen, R., & Muthana, A. (2013). An experimental approach to understanding the 'eolithic' problem: cultural cognition and the perception of plausibly anthropic artifacts. Lithic Technology, 38, 109-123. doi:10.1179/0197726113Z.00000000013
Ellen, R., & Komaromi, R. (2013). Social exchange and vegetative propagation: an untold story of British potted plants. Anthropology Today, 29, 3-7. doi:10.1111/1467-8322.12002
Ellen, R., Soselisa, H., & Wulandari, A. (2012). The biocultural history of Manihot esculenta in the Moluccan islands of eastern Indonesia: assessing evidence for the movement and selection of cassava germplasm. Journal Of Ethnobiology, 32, 157-184. doi:10.2993/0278-0771-32.2.157
Ellen, R., & Latinis, D. (2012). Ceramic sago ovens and the history of regional trading patterns in eastern Indonesia and the Papuan coast. Indonesia And The Malay World, 40, 20-38. doi:10.1080/13639811.2011.648994
Ellen, R. (2012). Studies of swidden agriculture in Southeast Asia since 1960: an overview and commentary on recent research and sytheses . Asia Pacific World, 3, 18-38. doi:10.3167/apw.2012.030103
Ellen, R., & Soselisa, H. (2012). A comparative study of the socio-ecological concomitants of cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz): diversity, local knowledge and management in eastern Indonesia. Ethnobotany Research And Applications, 10, 15-35. Retrieved from http://www.ethnobotanyjournal.org/vol10/i1547-3465-10-015.pdf
Ellen, R. (2011). The place of the eolithic controversy in the anthropology of Alfred Russel Wallace . Linnean, 27, 22-33. Retrieved from http://www.linnean.org/fileadmin/images/Linnean/Linnean_27-1_March_2011_complete_web_24_Feb.pdf
Ellen, R. (2011). The eolith debate, evolutionist anthropology and the Oxford connection between 1880 and 1940. History And Anthropology, 22, 277-306. doi:10.1080/02757206.2011.595007
Ellen, R., & Muthana, A. (2011). Classifying 'eoliths': how cultural cognition featured in arguments surrounding claims for the earliest human artefacts as these developed between 1880 and 1900 . Journal Of Cognition And Culture, 10, 341-375. doi:10.1163/156853710X531221
Ellen, R., & Platten, S. (2011). The social life of seeds: the role of networks of relationships in the dispersal and cultural selection of plant germplasm. Journal Of The Royal Anthropological Institute, 17, 563-584. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9655.2011.01707.x
Ellen, R., & Soemarwoto, R. (2010). Gold mining and changing perceptions of risk in West Java . Human Organization, 69, 233-241.
Ellen, R. (2010). Theories in anthropology and 'anthropological theory'. Journal Of The Royal Anthropological Institute, 16, 387-404.
Ellen, R. (2009). A modular approach to understanding the transmission of technical knowledge: Nuaulu basket-making from Seram, eastern Indonesia. Journal Of Material Culture, 14, 243-277. doi:10.1177/1359183509103065
Ellen, R. (2008). The Nuaulu kahuae. Saka Mese: Surat Berita-Berita Perkumpulan Anak-Anak Lounusa Maatita Di Belanda, 4, 12-13.
Ellen, R. (2008). Ethnomycology among the Nuaulu of the Moluccas: putting Berlin's 'General Principles' of Ethnobiological Classification to the test. Economic Botany, 62, 483-496.
Ellen, R. (2008). Distribution and variation in sago extraction equipment: convergent and secondary technologies in island southeast Asia. Archaeology In Oceania, 43, 62-74.
Ellen, R. (2008). Anthropology and its subdivisions in relation to contemporary human science. Ethnologie Française, 38, 591-595. doi:10.3917/ethn.084.0591
Ellen, R. (2006). Local knowledge and management of sago palm (Metroxylon sagu Rottboell) diversity in South Central Seram, Maluku, eastern Indonesia. Journal Of Ethnobiology, 26, 258-298. Retrieved from http://www.ethnobiology.org/node/129
Ellen, R. (2006). Ethnobiology and the science of humankind - Introduction. Journal Of The Royal Anthropological Institute, 12, S1-S22.
Showing 50 of 93 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]

 

A list of book and film reviews can be found here.

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My main current research and writing commitments arise from four recent and current grants:

In addition I continue to work on Nuaulu ethnobotany, ethnobioloical classification, cultural cognition and knowledge transmission.

External Research Awards

1968

SSRC Studentship, 1968-71

1969

Galton Foundation, 1969

London-Cornell Scheme, 1969

Central Research Fund of the University of London, 1969-71, 1973

1973

Hayter Travel Award, 1973: fieldwork on Seram, academic visits to Universiti Nasional Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok

British Council Travel Grant (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), 1973: academic visits to University of Leiden, Instituut voor den Tropen (Amsterdam), Frei-Universität, Berlin, Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin, Frobenius-Institut, Frankfurt-am-Main, Universität Heidelberg

1975

SSRC Research Grant, 1975-77: Nuaulu ethnobiology and ecology

1977

British Academy Grant, 1977: subvention towards publication of ‘Nuaulu settlement and ecology’ : £1,000

1981

British Academy Grant (British Institute in Southeast Asia), 1981: fieldwork in the Central Moluccas: £2,201

South East Asia Travel Grant, University of Kent at Canterbury, 1981: fieldwork in the Moluccas, archival research in Java

1984

British Council, 1984: academic travel grant for archival research in the Netherlands

1985

British Council, February-March 1985: academic travel grant to teach at Andalas University, Padang, West Sumatra

Nuffield Social Science Research Fellowship for research on 'Change and the social organization of regional trading networks in the Moluccas', 1985-86: £12,762

1988

Academic visit by Professor John Clammer to the UK: £1,500

1989

Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research: Towards First Canterbury Symposium on Southeast Asian Studies: £2,755

British Academy: Towards First Canterbury Symposium on Southeast Asian Studies: £800

1991

Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research: travel grant in support of academic visit to University of Washington, St Louis: £350

British Academy: in support of academic visit to University of Washington, St Louis: £350

ESRC Research Grant, 1991-94: The ecology and ethnobiology of human-rainforest interaction in Brunei: £61,570; £7850

1993

British Academy: Tropical rainforest: current issues, Universiti Brunei Darussalam: £650

1994

As part of consortium for EU-funded programme: Avenir des peuples de forêts tropicales, 1994-2000: various grants totally approximately €1,828,960 = £1,143,100

1995

ESRC Research Grant, 1995-1998 Deforestation and forest knowledge in south central Seram, eastern Indonesia: £50,650

1996

European Science Foundation grant for UKC conference on 'Indigenous environmental knowledge and its transformations’, 1996

1997

European Science Foundation: Workshop on a critical examination of the uses and abuses of indigenous environmental knowledge and its transformations: FF97,832

2001

ESRC Grant, 2001-2004 Frequency and periodicity in Nuaulu ritual reproduction: £100,002

2002

ESRC (with M. Fischer and others), 2002-5: Interactive Data Collection, Reproduction/Transmission of Environmental Knowledge: £158,000

British Academy: Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology: £650

Nuffield Foundation (with M. Alexiades), 2002-5: Environmental Knowledge, Perception and Social Interaction in an Amazonian Landscape: £100,000

2003

Wenner-Gren Foundation: for Ninth International Congress of Ethnobiology, Canterbury: $14,548

Eden Project Ltd: for Ninth International Congress of Ethnobiology, Canterbury: £10,000

British Academy: for Ninth International Congress of Ethnobiology, Canterbury: £1560

International Plant Genetics Resources Institute: for Ninth International Congress of Ethnobiology, Canterbury: £2500

Royal Anthropological Institute: for Ninth International Congress of Ethnobiology, Canterbury: £2000

2004

ESRC 2004-8:(with Gary Martin and Rachel Kaleta) Arar woodcarving: the socio-economic status, sustainable use and conservation of Tetraclinis articulata, a 'cultural keystone species' in southern Morocco (CASE studentship with the Eden Project): £21,000

2005

ESRC, 2005-7: The ethnography, ethnobotany and dispersal of palm starch extraction: £37,276

British Academy: subvention for British Association Festival of Science, Dublin: £1600

Royal Anthropological Institute: subvention for British Association Festival of Science, Dublin: £750

2006

British Council: to deliver lectures and research consultancy in Hyderabad, India: £1000

ESRC (with S. Klappa), 2006-7: Fallow Farming: Exploring Various Dimensions of LOng-term Land Use: £31,657

British Academy: International Congress of Ethnobiology - Biocultural Diversity and Ethnobiology,- Contemporary Issues and Challenges: £700

COST Action 31, ‘Stability and adaptation of classification systems in cross-cultural perspective’, 2006-9

2007

(with D. Novellino and M. Alexiades) The Christensen Fund, 2007-9: Field Methods for Isolated Communities: $118,000

British Academy, 2007-8: The eolithic controversy as a problem in the history of science, and of archaeology in particular: an approach from cognitive anthropology

(with P. Locke) British Academy: American Anthropological Association Meeting: £400

Leverhulme Trust, 2007-2010: The Ethnobotany of British Homegardens: diversity, knowledge and exchange: £151,616

Royal Anthropological Institute (with D. Novellino): Enabling the Indigenous Voice: £17,200

2008

(with S. Klappa) British Academy/Association of Commonwealth Universities: Archaeology and human Ecology of Sago Management, Production and Trade in the Kikori Region, Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea: £4983

2009

British Academy (South East Asia Committee), 2009-2011: A comparative study of the sociocultural concomitants of cassava diversity in four eastern Indonesian populations in relation to environmental security: £4000

The Christensen Fund (with D. Novellino), 2009-12: Linking Networks on Pastoralism and Mobile Production Systems: $150,000

2010

British Academy (with R. Puri): New Directions for Urgent Anthropological Research: £8,700

2014

British Academy: Demography, kinship and ritual reproduction: Nuaulu cultural resilience in the ‘New Indonesia: £10,000

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Recently completed:

Graciela ALCÁNTARA-SALINAS: A comparative study of Cuicatec and Zapotec ornithology, with particular reference to contextual variation in a time of environmental and social change in Oaxaca, Mexico 2011.

Calum BLAIKIE: The commodification of materia medica and the practice of Tibetan medicine in Ladakh 2013.

Bernadette MONTANARI A critical analysis of the introduction of essential oil distillation in the High Atlas of Morocco, with reference to the role of gendered traditional knowledge 2012.

Yoshimi OSAWA: The perception and representation of umami: a study of the relationship between taste sensation, food types and cultural categories 2011.

 

In Progress:

Viola BIZARD: The 'social life' of rattan in Katingan, Indonesia: Investigating rattan in the context of socio-economic and environmental dynamics.

Lisa FENTON: 'Bushcraft' and 'indigenous knowledge': transformations of a concept in the modern world.

Rory McBURNEY: Diet, resource management and agro-biodiversity of a farming community in Western Kenya.

Nicola PILKINGTON: Local knowledge of seaweed harvesting in the Western Isles of Scotland: an ethnobotanical analysis of knowledge transfer and its relevance in reinvigorating community resilience.

 

 

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I am a member of the University of Kent's REF 2014 Steering Group, and I edit the Berghahn series Studies in Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology on behalf of the Centre for Biocultural Diversity.

Nationally, I am a member of the Anthropology and Development Subpanel for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and Chair of the Anthropology and Geography section of the British Academy. I was a Council Member of the British Academy between 2009 and 2012, and President of the Royal Anthropological Institute between 2007-2011. I am currently a Vice President of the Royal Anthropological Institute, a member of its Council and Chair the Manuscripts and Archives Committee. Internationally, I am a member of the Darrell Posey Awards Committee of the International Society of Ethnobiology, and Assistant Editor on the Wiley ‘International Encyclopedia of Anthropology’.

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Last Updated: 31/10/2016