Dr Jennifer Diggins

Senior Lecturer in Social / Cultural Anthropology

School of Social Sciences

Jennifer Diggins


Jennifer Diggins joined Oxford Brookes in 2015 from the University of Sussex, where she had graduated with a PhD in Social Anthropology the previous year. Her ethnographic research focuses on fishing communities in coastal Sierra Leone.  Jennifer's work explores how intimate social relationships  have been shaped through histories of migration and economic change, and asks how fishermen and women struggle to navigate precarious livelihoods through contexts of extreme poverty, insecurity, and environmental decline.

Keywords:  West Africa, Livelihoods, Fishing, Gender, Economic Anthropology, Maternal Health, Ebola.

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught


  • U20123:  Anthropology of Ritual
  • U20128:  Research Methods in Social Anthropology
  • U20104:  Introduction to Social Anthropology
  • U20133:  Social Anthropology Theory.


My formative ethnographic fieldwork was based in Tissana: a multi-ethnic frontier fishing town in Southern Sierra Leone. In this research, I traced the story of the successive waves of young migrants who, for several decades, have been arriving on the coast from rural areas seeking an alternative to the indentured labour conditions of a farming economy still shaped by the legacy of domestic slavery. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing post-war economy, and in an ecological context in which fish stocks are in treacherous decline, I explore the intersection between people’s everyday struggles for economic survival and their taken-for-granted knowledge of the substance of the world within which those fragile livelihoods play out.

More recently, I have been working with colleagues in Sierra Leone and at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) on research examining the role of men and boys in activist movements for gender equality. I also co-authored a policy paper reflecting on the gendered dimensions of the Ebola crisis, and have an emerging research interest in the political economy of infant and maternal health in the post-Ebola context.


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Professional information


  • February 2015,  ‘The Pathology of Inequality: Gender and Ebola in West Africa’, Ebola and Lessons for Development: Inequality, Structural Violence and Zoonotic Disease, The Wellcome Trust, London
  • August 2013, ‘Worldviews’ and (Partially Obscured) Views of the World, from coastal Sierra Leone', IUAES Congress, University of Manchester.
  • September 2012, ‘Material Words: Blessings, ontology, and substance of survival in coastal Sierra Leone’, Global Studies Doctoral Lecture Series, University of Sussex.
  • September 2011, ‘Fleshy Fish and Hidden Worlds: The tangible and the intangible in coastal Sierra Leone’, ASA Conference, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.
  • May 2010, 'Research Transparency and Researching Secrecy in Sierra Leone’, Researching Africa Day, St Anthony’s College, Oxford.