School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Dr David Henig

Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Anthropology of Islam; socialist/post-socialist economy and society; exchange and materiality; cosmological thought.


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School Roles and Responsibilities

Programme Convenor for BA Social Anthropology

Academic Background

I am a social anthropologist trained as the Wenner Gren Foundation’s Wadsworth International Fellow in Social Anthropology at Durham University. Before joining the School at Kent I taught at SOAS in London.
My theoretical interests include the dynamics of global political economy, transnational religious movements, the social life of imperial formations, and religious, political and economic cosmologies. I have carried out extensive fieldwork in the post-Ottoman frontier regions of the Muslim Balkans and the Caucasus, and a shorter fieldwork along the Sino-Persian frontiers around the Pamirian knot. I engage with these frontier perspectives as a way to reassess dominating analytical and geopolitical discourses in order to formulate novel ethnographic, historical, political and theoretical insights for these regions, and for anthropological theory more generally. My most recent interest centres on linking anthropology with global transnational history and diplomacy, comparative imperialism, international relations, and geopolitics.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Book section
Makovicky, N. and Henig, D. (2018). Economies of Favours. in: Ledeneva, A. ed. The Global Encyclopaedia of Informality: Towards Understanding of Social and Cultural Complexity. London: UCL Press.
Bringa, T. and Henig, D. (2017). Seeking blessing and earning merit: Muslim travellers in Bosnia-Herzegovina. in: Flaskerud, I. and Natvig, R. eds. Muslim Pilgrimage in Europe. London: Routledge. Available at:
Henig, D. (2016). A Good Deed is Not a Crime: Moral cosmologies of favours in Muslim Bosnia. in: Henig, D. and Makovicky, N. eds. Economies of Favour After Socialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 181-202. Available at:
Henig, D. (2017). Prayer as a History: Of Witnesses, Martyrs, and Plural Pasts in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina. Social Analysis [Online] 61:41-54. Available at:
Henig, D. (2016). Hospitality as Diplomacy in Post-Cosmopolitan Urban Spaces: Dervish Lodges and Sofra-Diplomacy in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology [Online] 34:76-92. Available at:
Makovicky, N. and Henig, D. (2018). Vernaculars of informality. in: Ledeneva, A. ed. THE GLOBAL ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF INFORMALITY: TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL COMPLEXITY. London: UCL Press.
Henig, D. (2017). Economic theologies of abundance: Halal exchange and the limits of neoliberal effects in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology.
Henig, D. (2017). Living on the frontline: Indeterminacy, Value and Military Waste in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina. Anthropological Quarterly [Online]. Available at:
Showing 8 of 28 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]


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I teach on the following modules:

  • SE589 - Advanced Social Anthropology II
  • SE592 - The Ethnography of Central Asian Societies (Convenor)
  • SE802 - Research Methods in Social Anthropology (Convenor)
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Although my research interests are rather eclectic, I have been working in recent years around three larger interconnected themes.

Sacred landscape in Muslim Bosnia

Vernacular Islam
I have researched and published extensively about the relationships between vernacular Muslim and ethnonational cosmologies, systems and productions of value, and living ethical lives on the frontiers of Europe and the Muslim world (namely in the Balkans). My work has been largely conceived of as a critical intervention into the theoretical debates on human suffering and postconflict recovery, ethnonationalism and religious nationalism, anthropology of Islam, morality and ethics of the everyday, exchange theories, and to regional studies of post-socialism, identity politics and the politics of religious spaces in the East Mediterranean.

My research on value and ethical lives has resulted in collaboration with Dr Nicolette Makovicky (Oxford) since 2012. Our aim has been to reassess the dominant debates on corruption and bribery, and develop a new theoretical and research agenda by means of the umbrella framework - the economies of favours - that endeavours to re-imagine the workings of economy through the lenses of moral cosmologies, idioms of relatedness and ordinary ethics, and language ideologies. More recently, we have co-initiated a comparative project reassessing the very concept of informal economic practices in post-Cold War contexts at large.

Following my ongoing interest in exploring the relationship between vernacular Muslim cosmologies and value creation, and my work on re-imagining the workings of economy I further explore the relationship between economics, exchange theories and Islamic moralities and ethics, including Islamic banking and charities and their intersections with neoliberal economies and cosmologies. At the moment I am engaged in research on the workings of soup kitchens in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in particular those run by Islamic charitable organisations. This project is intended as a critical intervention into the debates on charitable economies, philanthropy, and humanitarianism, and the theoretical debates dominated by the gift-commodities arguments.
My ongoing interest in the theories of value has led me, as co-investigator, towards the successful development of a research project led by Dr Daniel Sosna on social dimension of human waste with anthropological and archaeological colleagues from the University of West Bohemia (see Pilsen Garbage Project).

Military Debris

The afterlife of military debris.

Imperial formations, geopolitics and diplomacy
Finally, I am developing an empirically informed theoretical framework to challenge the ongoing assumptions that treat modern world diplomacy, international affairs and law, and geopolitics as being separated from other domains of everyday life. I explore these questions in my ethnographic research on the historical and contemporary transnational Sufi orders and the networks and forms of relatedness these movements produce in the post-Ottoman territories that span Eurasia, connecting Europe to Turkey, the Caucasus and Central Asia in the past and the present. Specifically I study a variety of modes of connectivity  and relatedness (migration, pilgrimage, business travel, cross-doctrinal mediations, genealogical connections) important to the Sufi networks, and assess the forms of everyday diplomacy (e.g. linguistic competence, alms and resource redistribution, participation in rituals) on which these networks rest.

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  • Ruth Auger (Co-supervisor with Dr Daniela Peluso): Morals and the Making of Identities: Local Experiences of Inequality and Poverty (University 50 Year Anniversary Scholarship)
  • Marko Barisic: Is sharing caring?: Transformation of shared religious spaces in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Tom Bell (Co-supervisor with Dr Jonathan Mair and Dr Rob Fish): The moral foundations of climate activism in Trump-era USA
  • Oskar Kruger (Co-supervisor with Dr Matt Hodges and Dr Miguel Alexiades): Making Wine: Towards an Ecological Anthropology of the Good (Vice Chancellor's Research Scholarship)
  • Laura Rohs (Co-Supervisor with Dr. Miguel Alexiades): Wild medicinal plant collection in central Bulgaria: 'A Political ecology of commercial harvesting, local practices, social networks, and resource access at the margins of the European Union (ESRC PhD studentship Award)
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Central Asia, the frontiers of Europe and Near/Middle East (especially the Muslim Balkans, Turkey and the post-Ottoman world); socialist/ post-socialist economy and society; Islam; cosmological thought; ethics and personhood; diplomacy, geopolitics and international relations; narrativity and ethnographic theory; social networks and social computing

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Since 2010 I have served as associate editor of the journal History and Anthropology for which I am incoming editor-in-chief from January 2015. I am also a contributing editor for Anthropology News.

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Last Updated: 12/12/2017