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Social Anthropology:


Tom Boylston

Tom Boylston
Dr Tom Boylston
5.03 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EN8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 3909
Research Interests
Media anthropology, Game studies, Anthropology of Religion, Anthropology of Technology, Anthropology of Ethiopia, Technology and Mental Health

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Friday 12-2

I am an anthropologist specialising in religion, play, and technology. I am interested in immersion and experience, and the building of worlds. I am currently conducting research on the representation and treatment of mental health/illness in games. My work traces how games make divergent mental states representable in ways that are not possible for other media, and asks  what the consequences of games might be for conceptions of empathy and shared experience. I also ask how game makers, patients, and clinicians are collaborating to create new technological objects and practices of special relevance to questions of mental health in an age of ubiquitous digital technology.

I run an experimental anthropological gaming group caled Games for Humans. Sometimes I do game design workshops in UK schools.

My previous work focused on the anthropology of Orthodox Christianity in Ethiopia, and gave rise to much of my current interest in media and worldbuilding. I maintain an interest in the anthropology of Ethiopia. My monograph describes how religious prohibitions and techniques of mediation build religious worlds in Orthodox Christian Ethiopia. Where much work on modernity and relgiion describes a quest for  un-mediated experience of God, I argue that Ethiopian Orthodoxy insists on the importance of mediation, and builds a disciplined religious world out of a diverse chain of spiritual and human intermediaries.


The Stranger at the Feast: Prohibition and Mediation in an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Community - University of Califronia Press, 2018

Available to download free and open access

Topics interested in supervising

I am interested in supervising students studying topics related to the anthropology of games and play, anthropology of media and technology, Ethiopia, and anthropology of religion

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

PhD in Social Anthropology