Spotlight on… Jonathan Skinner

Jonathan Skinner

Position: Reader in Social Anthropology at the University of Roehampton

Bio: Jonathan completed his PhD in Social Anthropology in 1997 at the University of St Andrews, focusing on colonial relations on the British overseas territory Montserrat. He was there whilst the 1995 volcano crisis started and has looked at risk, tourism regeneration and development work in addition to the colonial/post-colonial debates on the island expressed through dance, Carnival, poetry, and picked up on in travel writing. Prior to coming to Roehampton in 2013, he worked at the University of Abertay Dundee (1996-2003) and Queen’s University Belfast (2003-2013). He also ‘temped’ whilst on fellowships in Oxford (2002/3) and Keele as The Sociological Review Fellow (1998/9).

Research interests: Jonathan has undertaken fieldwork in the Eastern Caribbean on the island of Montserrat, focusing on tourism and trauma, colonial relations and disaster recovery. He has also undertaken research in the US/UK on social dancing, arts health, and contested heritage.

Latest project: Funded by the Rising from the Depths Network, Jonathan’s newest research project, Reharbouring Heritage, examines, tests and innovates living marine cultural heritage in southern Madagascar through the expressive participatory arts. UK artists work alongside artists in Madagascar to realise living marine cultural heritage related festival projects. The project included a unique ‘Festival of the Sea’ contribution to the local Feria Oramena seafood festival in June 2019, using dance, ethnodrama and the digital and craft arts to raise awareness of sustainable conservation lobster fishing how a living marine cultural heritage contributes to tourism-related social enterprise in the region. To learn more about the Festival of the Sea, click on the video below.

Teaching: Jonathan convenes two modules: ‘Research Methods in Anthropology’ and his innovative ‘Cultural Politics on Tour’, which includes a field trip to Northern Ireland – you can read more about the trip from the perspective of former students here.  If you want to learn more about Jonathan’s research and teaching and the anthropology programme at Roehampton (while Jonathan tests out some of the fancy new research equipment students will use in the Research Methods module!), click below.

Most significant work:

Jonathan’s work around dark tourism and conflicted heritage started with the book Writing the Dark Side of Travel. A follow-up volume Leisure and Death has just been entered for the Edward Bruner prize.

Leisure and Death opens up important new connections and lays the ground for further work to be done on this topic . . . an evocative, compelling collection.”

—Fiona Murphy, Dublin City University

“A truly exciting book that will make a significant contribution to both death studies and the study of leisure and tourism.”

—Arnar Árnason, University of Aberdeen

“This volume should be of keen interest to scholars of death, religion, tourism, sports, and digital worlds. . . . By taking seriously people’s desire to explore their own relationship with death through recreational pursuits—death in and through play—it offers readers a rich reflection on their own mortality.”

Leisure and Death offers a fresh contribution to the anthropology of tourism. The essays are attentive to the entanglements of embodiment, the political, and even the macabre.”
—The Journal of Anthropological Research

Did you know…?

1) that Jonathan was Ulster Salsa Champion in 2007 and 2011 and is a qualified Zumba and Argentine Tango instructor! (see “Dance Beyond” on Facebook);

2) that his parents were cruise ship lecturers so he’s travelled the world, and retraced Marco Polo’s Silk Route when younger;

3) that when he was a student in the 1990s he volunteered with a charity and taught English in Transylvania. Four years ago he married a Romanian from Transylvania he met on the tango floor in Belfast, and they now have a four month old son, Casian. They might have crossed paths in the 1990s?!

Read more here:

(2016) ‘Was here’: Identity traces and digital footprints as survival writing

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