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Department of Geography



Dr Piers Vitebsky MA PhD

Assistant Director of Research (Retired)


Piers Vitebsky was Head of Anthropology and Russian Northern Studies at the Scott Polar Research Institute from 1986 to 2016. He was educated at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Delhi and London, and studied ancient languages before becoming a social anthropologist specialising in the religion, psychology, poetics and ecology of small-scale societies, and the relations of these societies to the centralised state. He has carried out long-term fieldwork among shamans and shifting cultivators in tribal India since 1975, and among nomadic reindeer herders in the Siberian Arctic since 1988. In the Russian Arctic, he was the first westerner since the Revolution to live long-term with an indigenous community, and to send graduate students to the region for PhD fieldwork. In the early 1980s, he also studied marginal subsistence agriculturalists in Sri Lanka.

Piers Vitebsky has supervised some 40 PhD theses on Siberia, the wider Arctic, and the Indian subcontinent. He has trained a generation of specialists on the Russian North who now occupy positions in universities, government departments, NGOs and businesses worldwide. In Cambridge he was the initiator and convenor of the long-running Magic Circle interdisciplinary seminar on religion, ritual and symbolism. In Norway he has been Professor II at the University of Tromsø and Scientific Leader of a project on "Indigenous Peoples and resource extraction in the Arctic: evaluating ethical guidelines" for Arran Lule Sami Institute and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In Siberia he is Honorary Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and Honorary Professor at the North-Eastern Federal University, where he co-leads a long-running programme of applied research on "Peoples of the northeastern Russian Federation: choosing a new adaptive strategy under conditions of globalisation". His current projects include writing an interactive dictionary of the tribal Sora language in India. He is chairman of the humanitarian Sutasoma Trust and is also involved in advocacy for refugees.

Languages: Russian, French, Modern Greek, Sora (tribal India, Austroasiatic family), Classical Greek, Latin; some knowledge of many other European, Indian and Siberian languages.


  • BA in Classics with Modern and Medieval Languages, Cambridge 1971 (MA 1974)
  • Diploma in Social Anthropology, Oxford 1972
  • Affiliated Student, Delhi School of Economics 1977-9
  • PhD, School of Oriental and African Studies, London 1982


Social anthropology, especially religion, ritual, and their transformations; forms of shamanism and animism; religious change, encounters between pluralist and monotheist cosmologies, and between peripheral small-scale societies and the centralising state.

Language, poetics and narrative; cultural continuity and transmission; memory and forgetting.

Medical and psychological anthropology, comparative psychotherapy.

Environment and resources, especially space, distance and movement; ethnobotany; shifting cultivation in the tropics; reindeer herding in the Arctic; extractive industries, oil, gas and social responsibility; partnerships and tensions between social science, natural science, and local understandings of environment, ecology and vitality.

Main regional focus: the Arctic, especially the Russian North; India, especially indigenous tribes. Also the ancient and modern Greek world.

PhD students (sole or joint supervisor)

  • Sardana Alekseyeva (Russia: indigenous). Children's games among the Even of the Verkhoyansk Mountains [in Russian] (for Yakutsk State University), 2000. Sardana Alekseyeva is a project administrator at North-Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk.
  • Seona Anderson (Scotland). Loss and change: a social history of wild plant use in indigenous communities of the Russian Far East (for Institute of Archaeology, London), 2002. Seona Anderson has been European Projects Coordinator and International Programme Manager at Plantlife and is now a freelance conservation coordinator.
  • David Anderson (Canada). National identity and belonging in Arctic Siberia: an ethnography of Evenkis and Dolgans at Khantaiskoe Ozero in the Taimyr Autonomous District, 1996 (published as Identity and Ecology in Arctic Siberia: The Number One Reindeer Brigade, Oxford University Press, 2000). David Anderson is now Professor of Social Anthropology in the University of Aberdeen.
  • Tatiana Argounova-Low (Russia: indigenous) Scapegoats of natsionalizm: ethnic tensions in Sakha (Yakutia), northeastern Russia, 2001 (published as Politics of Nationalism in the Republic of Sakha (northeastern Siberia) 1900-2000, Edward Mellen Press, 2012). Tatiana Argounova-Low is now Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen.
  • Mark Badger (USA). Visual ethnography and representation: two case studies in the Arctic, 1996 (Publication arising: Siberia through Siberian Eyes, documentary film for PBS of the USA). Mark Badger became a documentary film maker in Siberia and Alaska and has been Chief Technology & Director,Enterprise Technology Services, Dept. of Administration, State of Alaska; he is now Senior Strategic Advisor, eGovernnance and Change, Government of Saudi Arabia.
  • Eeva Berglund (Finland). Anxieties about nature and science: local environmental activism in a German town, 1995 (published as Knowing nature, knowing science: an ethnography of environmental activism, Cambridge: White Horse Press, 1998). Eeva Berglund has been a Lecturer in Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, London, and at the University of Helsinki, and is now Adjunct Professor, University of Aalto.
  • Ragnhild Freng Dale (Norway). Making resource futures: petroleum and performance by the Norwegian Barents Sea, 2019. Ragnhild Freng Dale was Assistant Director in Morten Traavik's "Trial of the Century", Kirkenes 2017; winner, Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Award 2018.
  • Mark Dwyer (UK). Komi reindeer herding: mobility and land use in a changing natural and social environment, 2007. Mark Dwyer is CEO Service Provider and Partnerships Director, Mercy Corps, Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Janne Flora (Denmark). Relatedness, loneliness and longing in Greenland, 2009 (published as Wandering spirits: loneliness and longing in Greenland, University of Chicago Press 2019). Janne Flora is Lecturer in anthropology at Århus University.
  • Joachim Otto Habeck (Germany). What it means to be a herdsman: the practice and image of reindeer husbandry among the Komi of Northern Russia, 2003 (published as What it means to be a herdsman: the practice and image of reindeer husbandry among the Komi of Northern Russia, Berlin: LIT Verlag 2005). Otto Habeck is Professor of Ethnology in the University of Hamburg, Germany.
  • Stephanie Irlbacher Fox (Canada). Indigenous self government negotiations in the Northwest Territories, Canada: time, reality, and social suffering, 2005 (published as Finding Dahshaa: self-government, social suffering and aboriginal policy in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press 2009). Stephanie Irlbacher Fox has been Adjunct Professor in the Department of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, and at Carleton University's School of Public Policy and Administration, and is now Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto; Adjunct Professor, Canadian Circumpolar Institute, University of Alberta.
  • Paul Fryer (Canada). Elites, language and education in the Komi ethnic revival, 1999. Paul Fryer is Lecturer in Geography at the University of Joensuu, Finland.
  • Tania Kossberg (Germany) The forest of stories: family therapy and traditional healing in north Norway, 2016. Tania Kossberg has been a clinical research associate in the NHS and is now on maternity leave.
  • Natalia Magnani (Russia/USA). Making indigenous futures: land, memory and 'silent knowledge' in a Skolt Sámi Community, 2018. Natalia Magnani is Assistant Professor at the University of Tromsø and Research Associate at Harvard University.
  • Alan Marcus (USA). Utopia on trial: perceptions of Canadian government experiments with Inuit relocation, 1994 (published as Relocating Eden: the image and politics of Inuit exile in the Canadian Arctic. UP of New England 1995). Alan Marcus is Professor of Film and Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen.
  • Mark Nuttall (UK). Names, kin and community in Northwest Greenland, 1990 (published as Arctic Homeland: kinship, community and development in northwest Greenland, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992). Mark Nuttall has been Lecturer at Brunel University, Professor at the Department of Anthropology in Aberdeen University, and is now Henry Marshall Tory Professor of Anthropology in the University of Alberta, Canada and Academy of Finland Distinguished Professor, University of Oulu, Finland.
  • Indra Øverland (Norway). Politics and culture among the Russian Sámi: leadership, representation and legitimacy, 2000(published as Bridging Divides: Ethno-Political Leadership among the Russian Sámi, Oxford and New York: Berghahn 2015, co-author). Indra Øverland is Head of the Energy Programme, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Oslo, Professor II, Nord University, and spokesperson for
  • Judith Pettigrew (Ireland). Shamanic dialogue: history, representation and landscape in Nepal, 1995 (published as Maoists at the hearth: everyday life in nelal's civil war, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). Judith Pettigrew has been Senior Lecturer in the Lancashire School of Health and Postgraduate Medicine at the University of Central Lancashire. She is now Senior Lecturer in the Department of Clinical Therapies, University of Limerick, Ireland.
  • Graham Poole (UK). The development of Greenland's shrimp fishing and processing industry since 1979: a study in applied economics, 1994. Graham Poole has been a Transfer Pricing Economist at HM Revenue & Customs, London and is now Senior Director, Economics and Transfer Pricing at Hogan Lovells.
  • Hugo Reinert (Norway). The corral and the slaughterhouse: knowledge, tradition and the modernization of indigenous reindeer slaughtering practice in the Norwegian Arctic, 2008. Hugo Reinert is Senior Researcher at the Estonian Institute of Humanities and Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo.
  • Martin Rew (UK). Auditing 'development': an anthropological study of 'audit culture' within a 'participatory rural development' project in Eastern India, 2003. Martin Rew is a Lecturer at the International Development Department, School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham.
  • Elena Khlinovskaya Rockhill (Russia/USA). Family discontinuity and 'social orphanhood' in the Russian Far East: children in residential care institutions, 2004 (published as Lost to the state: family discontinuity, social orphanhood and residential care in the Russian Far East, Berghahn, 2010). Elena Khlinovskaya Rockhill has been a Researcher in the Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge; Hunt Postdoctoral Fellow, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, New York; and Research Fellow at the Canadian Circumpolar Institute, University of Alberta. She is currently Senior Researcher on a Yakutsk-Cambridge project.
  • Benjamin Seligman (UK). Key factors influencing the reliability of trunk gas pipelines in the West Siberian North, 1999. Benjamin Seligman is Project Specialist in LNG at Shell Canada Energy, Calgary.
  • Roman Sidortsov (Russia/USA). Law and power relations in risk governance of oil and gas activities in the Russian North, 2016. Roman Sidortsov is Senior Global Energy Fellow, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, United States and Lecturer, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan.
  • Vera Skvirskaja (Ukraine). New economic forms and subjectivity in post-Socialist Russia: the case of a rural periphery, Yamal-Nenets autonomous region, 2006. Vera Skvirskaja has been Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics, and is now Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen.
  • Zoya Tarasova (Russia; indigenous). Human anxieties, bovine solutions: Political subtexts of native cattle conservation in north-eastern Siberia, 2020. Zoya Tarasova is lecturer at the North-Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk.
  • Niobe Thompson (Canada). The nativeness of settlers: constructions of belonging in Soviet and contemporary Chukotka, 2005 (published as Settlers on the edge: identity and modernization on Russia's Arctic frontier, Vancouver: UBC Press 2008). Niobe Thompson has been Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta. He is now a documentary film maker and Director and Producer, Clearwater Media, Canada.
  • John Tichotsky (USA). Natural resources development in the Republic of Sakha: Russia's diamond producing region, 1997 (published asRussia's Diamond Colony: the Republic of Sakha, Harwood/Routledge 2000; Russian translation: Алмазная колония России: Республика Саха (Якутия), Yakutsk: Poligrafizdat 2001). John Tichotsky has been Director of the Sakha-American Business Center in Yakutsk; Economic Advisor to the Government of Mongolia in Ulaan Baatar; Senior Ratings Analyst at Fitch IBCA in London; and Personal Advisor on Foreign Relations to Roman Abramovich, Governor of Chukotka and owner of Chelsea Football Club. He is currently Chief Economist and Audit Master for the State of Alaska.
  • Olga Ulturgasheva (Russia: indigenous). Ideas of the future among young Eveny in northeast Siberia, 2008 (published as Narrating the future among in Siberia: childhood, adolescence and autobiography among the Eveny, Berghahn, 2012). Olga Ulturgasheva is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester.
  • Laur Vallikivi (Estonia). Words and silence: Nenets reindeer herders' conversion to evangelical Christianity, 2012 (publication under negotiation with Cornell UP). Laur Vallikivi is Lecturer, Department of Ethnology, University of Tartu, Estonia.
  • Sam Van Vactor (USA). Flipping the switch: the transformation of energy markets, 2004 (Publication arising: Introduction to the global oil & gas business, Tulsa, OK: Pennwell Corporation, 2010). Sam van Vactor is President, Economic Insight Inc, Oregon, USA.
  • Martin Whittles (Canada). Inuit history, ecology, and autonomy in Banks Island, Northwest Territories, 1996. Martin Whittles (now deceased) was Lecturer, University College of the Cariboo (now Thompson Rivers University).
  • Rane Willerslev (Denmark). In-between self and other: hunting, personhood and perception among the Upper Kolyma Yukaghirs of north-eastern Siberia, 2003 (published as Soul hunters: hunting, animism, and personhood among the Siberian Yukaghirs, University of California Press, 2007). Rane Willerslev has been Director, Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo and Professor at the University of Aarhus. He is now Director of the National Museum of Denmark.
  • Emma Wilson (UK). Making space for local voices: local participation in natural resource management, north-eastern Sakhalin island, the Russian Far East, 2002. Emma Wilson has been Senior Researcher, Business and Sustainable Development, International Institute for Environment and Development, London, and is now Director of Environment and Community Worldwide.
  • Konstantinos Zorbas (Greece). Agents of evil: curse accusations and shamanic retaliation in post-Soviet Siberia, 2007 (publication as Shamanic dialogues with the invisible dark in Tuva, Siberia, in press with Cambridge Scholars Publishing). Konstantinos Zorbas has been Hunt Postdoctoral Fellow, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, New York, and is now Lecturer in Anthropology, Shandong University, China.



  • Kulturen som pasient: uvanlige møter for vanlige folk [Culture as patient: extraordinary encounters for ordinary people], Oslo: Universitetsforlaget (co-author and co-editor).
  • Living without the dead: loss and redemption in a jungle cosmos, University of Chicago Press 2017, reprinted Delhi: HarperCollins 2018 (shortlisted for New India Foundation Prize).
  • Jujunji do yuyunji a banuddin: Sora jattin a sanskruti (Sora beran batte, aboi tanub) [Indigenous knowledge: a handbook of Sora culture (in Sora, Part I)], Visakhapatnam, India, 2011, co-author with tribal elder Monosi Raika.
  • Reindeer people: living with animals and spirits in Siberia (London: HarperCollins; Boston: Houghton Mifflin 2005), Kiriyama Prize for Non-Fiction; Honorable Mention for the Victor Turner Prize of the American Anthropological Association.
  • Dialogues with the dead: the discussion of mortality among the Sora of eastern India (Cambridge University Press 1993; reprinted Delhi: Foundation Books 1993).
  • The shaman: Voyages of the soul, trance, ecstasy and healing, from Siberia to the Amazon (London: Duncan Baird 1995; reprinted as Shamanism by University of Oklahoma Press 2001; translated into 15 languages).
  • Sacred architecture (Boston: Little Brown 1997, co-author).

Selected articles

  • Singing a cosmos into being – for silent or argumentative ancestors? Comment on Erik Mueggler's Songs for dead parents: corpse, text, and world in Southwest China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2017). Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2020. 10(3): 1088-1094.
  • Indigenous Arctic religions. In Handbook of Arctic Indigenous Peoples. Edited by Timo Koivurova, Dalee Dorough, Else Grete Broderstad, Dorothee Cambou and Florian Stammler. London: Routledge 2020: 106-122 (co-author with Anatoly Alekseyev).
  • Velocity and purpose among reindeer herders in the Verkhoyansk Mountains, Inner Asia 22 (2020): 28-48 (co-author with Anatoly Alekseyev).
  • Death isn't what it used to be: animist and Baptist ontologies in Tribal India, in Anastasios Panagiotopoulos and Diana Espírito Santo (eds), Articulate necrographies: comparative perspectives on the voices and silences of the dead, Oxford and New York: Berghahn, 2019: 227-243
  • Eahpáraš – nyfortolkning av fortellingene
 om fornektet barndom [Yeparash – reinterpreting narratives of childhood denied], in Jens-Ivar Nergård and Piers Vitebsky (eds), Kulturen som patient: Uvanlige møter for vanlige folk , Oslo: Universitetsforlaget (in Norwegian) 2019: 22-34 (co-author)
  • Bevegelse, tilfredshet og kulturell utilpasshet
 i et sibirsk landskap [Movement, fulfilment and cultural malaise on a Siberian landscape], in Jens-Ivar Nergård and Piers Vitebsky (eds), Kulturen som patient: Uvanlige møter for vanlige folk, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget (in Norwegian), 2019: 35-48
  • Siberia, Annual Review of Anthropology, 2015: 439-455 (co-author)
  • Sacrifice as the ideal hunt: a cosmological explanation for the origin of reindeer domestication, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 2015, 21(1): 1-23 (co-author)
  • Defending the thesis of the hunter's 'double bind', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 2015, 21(1): 28-31 (co-author)
  • Structures and processes of liminality: the shape of mourning among the Sora of Tribal India, in Peter Berger and Justin Kroesen, eds, Ultimate ambiguities: investigating death and liminality, Oxford and New York: Berghahn, 2015: 36-55
  • Nomadismes d'Asie centrale et septentrionale, Diogene 2014, 246-247: 258-264 (co-author)
  • Casting timeshadows: pleasure and sadness of moving among nomadic reindeer herders in north-east Siberia, Mobilities 2015, 10(4): 518-530 (co-author)
  • What is a reindeer? Indigenous perspectives from northeast Siberia, Polar Record 2015, 51 (259): 413–421 (co-author)
  • Stones, shamans and pastors: pagan and Baptist temporalities in Tribal India, in R Willerslev and D Christensen, eds, Taming Time, Timing Death: Social Technologies and Ritual, Farnham: Ashgate, 2013: 119-136
  • Wild Tungus and the spirits of places, Ab Imperio: studies of new imperial history and nationalism in the post-Soviet space, 2012(2): 429-448
  • Repeated returns and special friends: from mythic encounter to shared history, in S Howell and A Talle, eds, Returns to the field: multitemporal reserch and contemporary anthropology, Bloomington: Indiana UP 2011: 180-202
  • Historical time and ethnographic present: an anthropologist's experience of comparing change and loss in the Siberian Arctic and the Indian jungle, in JP Ziker and F Stammler, eds, Histories from the North: environments, movements, and narratives, Boise State University, 2011: 71-7
  • From materfamilias to dinner-lady: the administrative destruction of the reindeer herder's family life, Anthropology of East Europe Review, vol 28, 2010: 38-50
  • 'Loving and forgetting: moments of inarticulacy in tribal India', the Henry Myers Lecture for 2006, published in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 14 (2008): 243-61
  • 'Vulnerability of reindeer husbandry in the European North to global change', Climatic Change, in press (co-author)
  • 'Assumptions and expectations: adapting to diverse cultural settings', in A Dupont-Joshua, ed, Working inter-culturally in counselling settings, London and New York: Routledge (co-author) 2003: 65-88
  • 'Mapping land cover change in a reindeer herding area of the Russian Arctic using Landsat TM and ETM+ imagery and indigenous knowledge', Remote Sensing of Environment 85 (2003): 441-52 (co-author)
  • 'Withdrawing from the land: social and spiritual crisis in the indigenous Russian Arctic', in CM Hann, ed, Postsocialism: ideals, ideologies and practices in Eurasia, New York and London: Routledge, 2002: 180-195
  • 'The separation of the sexes among Siberian reindeer herders', in S Tremayne and A Low, eds, 'Sacred custodians' of the earth? Women, spirituality and the environment, New York and Oxford: Berg, 2001: 81-94 (co-author)
  • 'A farewell to ancestors: Deforestation and the changing spiritual environment of the Sora', in R Grove, V Damodaran, S Sangwan, eds, Nature and the orient : the environmental history of South and Southeast Asia, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998: 967-82
  • 'The northern minorities', in G Smith, ed, The nationalities question in the post-Soviet states, London: Longman, 1996: 94-112
  • 'From cosmology to environmentalism: shamanism as local knowledge in a global setting', in R Fardon, ed, Counterwork: managing diverse knowledges, London: Routledge, 1995: 182-203
  • 'Is death the same everywhere? Contexts of knowing and doubting', in M Hobart, ed, An anthropological critique of development: the growth of ignorance, London: Routledge, 1993: 100-115
  • 'Landscape and self-determination among the Eveny: the political environment of Siberian reindeer herders today', in E Croll and D Parkin, eds, Bush base, forest farm: culture, environment and development, London: Routledge, 1992: 223-46
  • 'Shifting cultivation comes to rest: changing values of land and the person in an area of Moneragala District', in J Brow and J Weeramunda, eds, Agrarian change in Sri Lanka, Delhi: Sage 1992, 155-87
  • 'Centralized decentralization: the ethnography of remote reindeer herders under perestroika', Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique, XXXI(2-3), 1990: 307-316
  • 'Gas, environmentalism and native anxieties in the Soviet Arctic: the case of Yamal peninsula', Polar Record 26 (156), Jan 1990: 19-26
  • 'Yakut', in Graham Smith, ed, The nationalities in the Soviet Union, London: Longmans, 1990: 302-317
  • 'The death and regeneration of a "Divine King": a preliminary account of the mortuary rites of the Paramount Chief (citimukulu) of the Bemba of Zambia', Cambridge Anthropology, 10(1) 1985, 56-91
  • 'Birth, entity and responsibility: the spirit of the Sun in Sora cosmology', L'Homme 1980, XX(1), 47-70
  • 'Some medieval European views of Mongolian shamanism', Journal of the Anglo-Mongolian Society, NS 1(1) 1974


Reports include:

  • Indigenous peoples and resource extraction in the Arctic: evaluating ethical guidelines, Final project report, Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ISBN 978-82-7943-068-1)
  • Editor: Novikova, Natalia and Emma Wilson, ed. Piers Vitebsky. 2017. Anthropological expert review: socio-cultural impact assessment for the Russian North. Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ISBN 978-82-7943-067-4
  • Overland, Indra, ed. Piers Vitebsky. 2017. Ranking oil, gas and mining companies on indigenous rights in the Arctic. Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ISBN 978-82-7943-059-9
  • Stammler, Florian, ed. Piers Vitebsky. 2017. Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ISBN 978-82-7943-066-7
  • Stammler, Florian, ed. Piers Vitebsky. 2017. Sakha Republic (Yakutia). Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ISBN 978-82-7943-064-3
  • Stammler, Florian, Sven-Roald Nystø, and Aytalina Ivanova, ed. Piers Vitebsky. 2017. Taking ethical guidelines into the field for evaluation by indigenous stakeholders
. Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ISBN 978-82-7943-062-9
  • Wilson, Emma, ed. Piers Vitebsky. 2017. Evaluating international ethical standards 
and instruments
. Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ISBN 978-82-7943-063-6
  • Wilson, Emma, ed. Piers Vitebsky. 2017. What is social impact assessment (SIA)?. Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ISBN 978-82-7943-061-2
  • Wilson, Emma, Florian Stammler, Sven-Roald Nystø, and Aytalina Ivanova, ed. Piers Vitebsky. 2017. What is free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)?. Ájluokta/Drag, Norway: Árran Lule Sami Centre for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ISBN 978-82-7943-058-2
  • Coping with distance: social, economic and environmental change in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), northeast Siberia, Cambridge: SPRI for Royal Geographical Society and Gilchrist Educational Trust 2000
  • Policy dilemmas for unirrigated agriculture in Sri Lanka: a social anthropologist's report on shifting and semi-permanent cultivation in an area of Moneragala District, Cambridge: Centre of South Asian Studies for ODA [now DfID] 1984

Documentary films

Piers Vitebsky's numerous documentary film collaborations include 'Arctic aviators' (National Geographic) and 'Flightpaths to the gods' (BBC2, on the Nazca lines in Peru), and 'Siberia: after the shaman' (Channel 4), which won first prize at the Film Festival of the European Foundation for the Environment and was screened at the Margaret Mead Film Festival in New York.


Piers Vitebsky taught for the Scott Polar Research Institute's MPhil in Polar Studies and for the Geography Department's part II courses on 'Human geography of the Arctic' and 'Social Engagement with Nature'. He continues to examine PhD theses worldwide and to conduct thesis writing classes for graduate students in Norway, Denmark and India, and to direct an international programme of research and academic writing at the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Siberia.

External activities

External activities include:

  • 2020­–23 Consultant, "China's Arctic Silk Road: imagining global infrastructures in Sápmi and Russian North", project funded by Norwegian Research Council (fieldwork planned for 2021).
  • 2020-25 Participant, "Cosmological Visionaries: Shamans, Scientists, and Climate Change at the Ethnic Borderlands of China and Russia" (ERC project at King's College London).
  • 2019– Appointed Chair, Sutasoma Trust for humanitarian and educational projects
  • 2020, 2018 Co-leader, Winter School for Indian anthropology graduates, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
  • 2015-: Explorations in idioms and poetics: a multi-layered dictionary of the Sora language of India (in collaboration with indigenous shamans and elders).
  • 2014-: Field training of geography and anthropology students, University of Cambridge and University of Crete, Greece.
  • 2014-17 : Research Coordinator, international project on "Indigenous people and resource extraction in the Arctic: evaluating ethical guidelines," for Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Arran Lule Sami Institute.
  • 2013-20: Co-Director, joint UK-Siberia project on "Peoples of the northeastern Russian Federation: choosing a new adaptive strategy under conditions of globalisation – a social anthropological approach"
  • 2012: Distinguished Lecturer, Academia Borealis, Tromsø
  • 2009-13: Member of Board, World Oral Literature Project, Cambridge and Yale universities
  • 2009: Organiser of conference on Arctic research, Novosibirsk, Russia, for European Science Foundation and Russian Academy of Sciences
  • 2009: First Ladislav Holy Memorial Lecture, Czech Anthropology Association, Prague
  • 2008-10; Baptist and Hindu conversions among an indigenous tribe in India (funded by British Academy)
  • 2007-: Chair, Steering Committee for European Science Foundation Forward Look on Religion and Belief Systems
  • 2007: Postgraduate course trainer, Danish Research School of Anthropology, Aarhus
  • 2007: Member of European Science Foundation delegation to Kazakhstan and Kyrghyzstan
  • 2007: Guest Lecturer, American Museum of Natural History field expedition, Vladivostok
  • 2006: Kiriyama Prize for Non-Fiction
  • 2006: Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing, American Anthropological Association: Honorable Mention
  • 2006: Henry Myers Lecturer 2006 (Royal Anthropological Institute; lecture delivered at Annual conference of European Association of Social Anthropologists)
  • 2006-: Member, Board of Advisors of the Human Dimensions of Arctic Environments Web Resource Project Phase ll, University of Iceland
  • 2005-: BOREAS (international research programme in Arctic humanities and social sciences, 6 million Euros) for European Science Foundation, in collaboration with NSF (USA) and SSHRC (Canada): initiated programme, drafted call for proposals and chaired selection panel
  • 2004-6: ESRC seminar competition: organised innovative series of four international (bilingual) seminars on social responsibility in Russian oil and gas development
  • 2005-: Trustee, Sutasoma Trust (for international aid and education)
  • 2003-4: Co-Director, Project on indigenous knowledge of climate change in Barents region of Russia (part of BALANCE project, funded by EU)
  • 2003: Member of delegation of the Russian Federation, International Whaling Commission
  • 2001-4: Director, Project to adapt psychotherapy methods for a post-shamanic society, Siberian Arctic (funded by Sutasoma Trust)
  • 2000-: Convenor, Magic Circle seminar (discussion group for anthropology, religion and psychology), Cambridge
  • 1998-2000: Gilchrist Expedition Award, Royal Geographical Sociey, London (for Russian Arctic)
  • 1998-2000: Co-Director, Project on indigenous knowledge and environmental change in Barents region of Russia (part of BASIS project, funded by EU)
  • 1998-2000: Secretary, International Advisory Board, Department of Ethnology, European University, St Petersburg
  • 1997-: UK Representative, Association of Marine Mammal Hunters of Chukotka (Northeastern Siberia)
  • 1995-7: Project Director, Environmental change in Siberia and Alaska (funded by ESRC)
  • 1991-92: Directeur d'études associé, Department of Religious Sciences, Sorbonne, Paris (on indigenous religions)
  • 1991-94: Consultant, MacArthur Foundation project on environmental change in Asia
  • 1989: American Psychoanalytical Association: two-day colloquium in New York devoted to my research on shamanism and spirit possession
  • 1982-93: Visiting Researcher, Agrarian Research and Training Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka (on indigenous agriculture)