Skip to main content

Social Anthropology:


Jamie Cross

Jamie Cross
Professor Jamie Cross
Professor of Social and Economic Anthropology
Room 5.28 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
Office: +44(0)1316515181 Mobile: +44(0)7552817310
Research Interests
Renewable energy and green politics, Climate change, Science and technology, Design, International development

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Friday 10-12


I am a social anthropologist specialising in the study of energy, technology, and economy in the global south.

For the past decade, my research has examined how renewable energy projects are organising and re-organising social life in places of chronic global poverty. Recent projects include an 18-month ethnographic study of energy cultures amongst displaced people in Burkina Faso and Kenya; a comparative study of off-grid living in Papua New Guinea, India, and Scotland; and a 2-year study of data politics in Tanzania's off-grid solar energy sector.

I currently lead Cool Infrastructures, a 3-year research project that examines the materials, technologies and social relationships through which marginalised people keep cool in overheating global cities.     

My research practice also involves the production of physical and digital objects that probe the material politics of our energy futures through collaborations with visual artists, filmmakers, and designers. Recent projects include  Solar What?! (an award-winning, solar-powered lamp built to challenge unsustainable design practices), the Off Grid Solar Scorecard (a public platform to track sustainable design in the solar industry), and The Solar Fix (a short film about solar-powered things that break down).

Details of my teachingresearch, publications and public engagement can be found below. Open access links to my publications are available here. I am a co-editor of Pluto Press's Anthropology, Culture and Society book series.  


Teaching and Supervision

I am on a research sabbatical for the 2020-21 academic year. Otherwise, I teach undergraduate and post-graduate courses in the anthropology of energy, international development and global political economy. 

I supervise a range of doctoral and postdoctoral projects and welcome expressions of interest from anybody with overlapping research interests. For further details, see: 

Not Just Energy Futures Research Group

My teaching projects continue to explore audio and visual methodologies, and connect anthropology to design. For examples, see:

Anthroplogy in 100 Objects
Social Sounds Project
Just Technology Hub
Circular Solar


4Solar Power: Since 2011 I have been following the work of engineers and entrepreneurs involved in designing and distributing solar photovoltaic (PV) lighting systems to people who live without reliable access to mains electricity in places that remain off the grid. As governments, international development donors and businesses commit themselves to realising targets for universal energy access this research examines the relationships involved in creating markets for renewable energy technologies in contexts of global poverty and the values, practices and meanings that mediate relations to electrically powered things. I have expanded this research in India with projects in Papua New Guinea, Kenya and Burkina Faso, and am currently finishing a book manuscript.


Infrastructure: From a focus on large-scale industrial development projects like India’s Special Economic Zones to a focus on technologies for energy generation and storage in places where there is no electricity grid, one strand of my research has involved an engagement with the social and material relationships that constitute infrastructure. 


The Poverty Business: An ongoing strand of research is concerned with the role of transnational corporations and social enterprises as agents of development. From a focus on corporate social responsibility programmes to the role of the private sector in delivering goods and services to the global poor my research explores the moralities and social relationships that are shaped and articulated by market-based approaches to development. One outcome of this work has been a set of collectively produced resources and visual material on Humanitarian Goods

2Work, Labour and Global Supply Chains: My doctoral and post-doctoral research projects focused on the lived experience of industrial work and labour at sites of global manufacturing in contemporary India. I have written about the impact of liberalising economic reforms on industrial workers; on the aspirations for social mobility that manufacture consent to industrial work discipline; on occupational health and safety and on relationships between technology and gender in India's global workplaces. Elements of this work form the basis of my book Dream Zones: Anticipating Capitalism and Development in India published in 2014 by Pluto Press. I am currently working to extend this ongoing concern as part of the EU funded project (207-2020) Make IT Fair, which tracks issues of social and environmental justice in the supply chains for micro-electronic goods.   

Public Anthropology

Along with a commitment to field-based, ethnographic research my work is built upon an on-going engagement with the issues I write about. I have been an occasional contributor to the LSE Review of Books and have written for The Guardian.

I manage Solar What?! (a project to design and build fully repairable, open source solar powered lighting and charging devices). I also run the Off Grid Solar Scorecard, an initiative intended to draw attention to questions of material politics and sustainable design in the global solar industry. I have previously acted as a Technical Advisor to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a non-profit research and advocacy group that promotes social and environmental justice in the global solar industry.

If you are interested in being supervised by Jamie Cross, please see the links below for more information:

PhD In African Studies; PhD in Science and Technology Studies; PhD in Social Anthropology; PhD in South Asian Studies; PhD in International Development; MSc (R) Science and Technology Studies; MSc (R) Social Anthropology