Nigel Julian Rapport

Prof, Professor of Anthropological and Philosophical Studies

  • KY16 9AL

    United Kingdom

Personal profile

Research overview

Professor of Anthropological and Philosophical Studies

Nigel Rapport has held a Chair in Anthropological and Philosophical Studies at St Andrews since 1996.

He has also held a Canada Research Professorship, in Globalization, Citizenship and Justice, at Concordia University of Montreal (2004-7). He is Honorary Professor at Aarhus University, and he has been a Visiting Professor at Minzu University of Beijing (2016), at Aarhus University (2011), at the Polish Institute of Anthropology (2009), at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (2002-6), at Melbourne University (2004, 2018), at Copenhagen University (2000), at Durham University (2018), and at Oxford University (2018).

He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of the Learned Society of Wales, and of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts; and he is a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Contemporary Scotland.

 He was awarded the Royal Anthropological Institute Curl Essay Prize in 1996; also, the Royal Society of Edinburgh Prize Lectureship in the Humanities, in 1996; and the Henrietta Harvey Distinguished Lectureship (Memorial University) in 2006. In 2004 he was awarded a Canada Research Chair. In 2012 he received the Rivers Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

 He has served as Honorary Secretary of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth from 1994 to 1998, and as Chair from 2017 to 2020. During 2001-2 he was President of the Anthropology and Archaeology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He has also been a Council Member of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1994-2001).

 At the University of St Andrews, he has been Head of the School of Philosophy, Anthropology and Film (2014-17), and Head of Department of Social Anthropology (1995-96, 1999-2000, 2002-04),


Nigel Rapport is author of the following books:

  • Talking Violence. An anthropological interpretation of conversation in the city (ISER Press, Memorial University 1987);
  • Diverse World-Views in an English Village (Edinburgh University Press 1993);
  • 'The Prose and the Passion'. Anthropology, Literature and the Writing of E.M.Forster (Manchester University Press 1994);
  • Transcendent Individual. Towards a Literary and Liberal Anthropology (Routledge 1997);
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology: The Key Concepts (Routledge 2000; second edition 2007; third edition 2014);
  • The Trouble with Community: Anthropological Reflections on Movement, Identity and Collectivity [with Vered Amit] (Pluto 2002);
  • 'I am Dynamite': An Alternative Anthropology of Power (Routledge 2003);
  • Of Orderlies and Men: Hospital Porters Achieving Wellness at Work (Carolina Academic 2008).
  • Community, Cosmopolitanism and the Problem of Human Commonality [with Vered Amit] (Pluto 2012);
  • Anyone, the Cosmopolitan Subject of Anthropology (Berghahn 2012).
  • Distortion and Love: An Anthropological Reading of the Art and Life of Stanley Spencer (Ashgate, 2016).
  • Cosmopolitan Love and Individuality: Ethical Engagement beyond Culture (Lexington 2018).

And he is editor of the following books:

  • Questions of Consciousness [with A.P.Cohen] (Routledge 1995);
  • Migrants of Identity: Perceptions of 'Home' in a World of Movement [with A.Dawson] (Berg 1998);
  • British Subjects: An Anthropology of Britain (Berg 2002);
  • 2000 Years: Faith, Identity and Society in the Common Era [with P.Gifford, D.Archard and T.Hart] (Routledge 2002);
  • Democracy, Science and The Open Society: A European Legacy? (Special Issue of Anthropological Journal on European Cultures volume 13) (Lit Verlag 2005).
  • Senses of Spatial Equilibrium and the Journey: Confounded, Discomposed and Recomposed [with A. Irving and A. Sen] (Special Issue of Journeys volume 9(2)) (Berghahn 2008);
  • Human Nature / Human Identity: Anthropological Revisionings [with S. Aprahamian and K. Neves] (Special Issue of Anthropologica volume 51(1)) (Wilfrid Laurier University Press 2009);
  • A Cosmopolitan Anthropology [with H. Wardle] (Special Issue of Social Anthropology volume 18(4)) (Wiley-Blackwell 2010);
  • Human Nature as Capacity: Transcending Discourse and Classification (Berghahn 2010);
  • Reveries of Home: Nostalgia, Authenticity and the Performance of Place [with S. Williksen] (Cambridge Scholars 2010);
  • Extraordinary Encounters: Authenticity and the Interview [with K. Smith and J. Staples] (Berghahn 2014);
  • Reflections on Imagination: Human Capacity and Ethnographic Method [with M.Harris] (Ashgate 2014);
  • Distortion: Social processes beyond the structured and systemic (Routledge 2017);
  • The Composition of Anthropology: How anthropological texts are written [with M.Nielsen] (Routledge 2017).
  • An Anthropology of the Enlightenment: Moral social relations then and today [with H. Wardle] (Bloomsbury, 2018).


Nigel Rapport has undertaken four pieces of participant-observation field research: among farmers and tourists in a rural English village (1980-1); among the transient population of a Newfoundland city and suburb (1984-5); among new immigrants in an Israeli development-town (1988-9); and among health-care professionals and patients in a Scottish hospital (2000-1).

His research interests include: social theory, phenomenology, identity, individuality, consciousness, literary anthropology, philosophical anthropology, narrative, symbolic interactionism, community studies, conversation analysis, representation, aesthetics, postmodernism, globalization, violence, and anthropology as a moral pursuit.

In recent years, under the title of ‘Cosmopolitan Studies', he has been interested in promoting an egalitarian, existentially sensitive, social science which places individual consciousness at the centre of an appreciation of complex, increasingly global, social and cultural milieux, and seeks to adumbrate the ethical space of the citizen in a plural and fluid society.

Cosmopolitan Studies is an ontological project, seeking to define the human, its capacities and liabilities as universalities beyond the particular differences of social, cultural and historical condition. Cosmopolitan Studies is also a methodological project, finding ways best to approach and know the human. And Cosmopolitan Studies is a political project, hoping to secure the individual rights of human expression, and to nurture capacities of human expression, over and above the contingencies of social, cultural and historical circumstance.

Academic/Professional Qualification

BA, University of Cambridge (1978);

MA, University of Cambridge (1981);

PhD, University of Manchester (1983)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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