BCom (Hons) (UNSW), MEc (ANU), PhD (Cambridge)



Anthropology
2019

Professor Chris Gregory is an economic anthropologist whose research brings together the disciplines of economics and anthropology. He has carried out extensive ethnographic fieldwork in India, Fiji and PNG on the relationship between kinship, economy and religion. This has enabled him to make original contributions to the ongoing debate about wealth and poverty from a unique comparative and historical perspective.

Prior to his appointment as a lecturer in anthropology at ANU in 1984, he held research fellowships at Clare Hall Cambridge and the London School of Economics. He was Professor of Political and Economic Anthropology at the University of Manchester from 2008 to 2015 and is now Emeritus Professor in Anthropology at ANU. He has held distinguished visiting professorships at the Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin, Kyoto University, and the University of Chicago and has delivered the Lansdown lectures at Canada’s University of Victoria, the Hallsworth lectures at the University of Manchester, the Forge lecture at ANU and the Jensen lectures at the Frobenius Institute in Frankfurt.

Following his doctoral work on the PNG economy in the 1970s, the central focus of Gregory’s research shifted to India in 1982 when he began postdoctoral fieldwork on the rural marketing system of the Indigenous peoples of the north Bastar Plateau. Following an initial period of research of 13 months, he has returned for shorter period of research some 15 times over the past 37 years. This long-term fieldwork in has enabled him locate his studies of the local rice economy in its broader social and cultural context and to observe at first hand the profound changes the society has undergone as the state adopted its liberalisation policies. He has also been able to make an in-depth study of the rich cultural conceptions of wealth that inform economic and ritual behaviour of the indigenous people of this area whose rice economy presents a striking contrast to the root-crop economy of Melanesia. A four-year residence in Fiji over the period 2008 to 2012 gave Gregory the chance to bring together to his two areas of regional expertise and to study the problem of how the two radically different cultures have been able to live harmoniously as well as in conflict.

Understanding the motivations and actions of people in societies of the kind found in Melanesia and central India presents considerable theoretical challenges to the received orthodoxy and the issues are much debated in academic and policies circles. Gregory’s historically informed, comparative ethnographic approach has stimulated much debate. His first book, Gifts and Commodities (1982), reset the terms of the debate in economic anthropology by bringing together to two theoretical traditions that had been kept apart. A reissue of a second edition in 2015 gave him the chance to reply to his critics. Meanwhile his research in India, and the books and publications that have resulted from it, have enabled to move beyond issues of kinship and economy to a study of the all-important role of religion in the economy, the topic of his six Frobenius lectures and his forthcoming publications.

• 1973-75 Lecturer in Economics, University of Papua New Guinea

• 1979-83 Stipendiary Research Fellow, Clare Hall, Cambridge

• 1982-83 Senior Research Fellow in Anthropology, London School of Economics

• 1984-89 Lecturer in Anthropology, Australian National University

• 1990-95 Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, Australian National University

• 1995-14 Reader in Anthropology, Australian National University

• 2008-15 Professor of Political and Economic Anthropology, University of Manchester

• 2018-    Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Australian National University 

• Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute

• Member of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the Commonwealth

• Member of the Australian Anthropological Society

1. Gregory, C. and Jon Altman, eds. 2018. The Quest for the Good Life in Precarious Times: Ethnographic Perspectives on the Domestic Moral Economy. Canberra: ANU Press.

2. Gregory, C. 2018. An Economic Theology of Wealth: A Perspective from Central India. History and Anthropology 29 (3), 1-17.

3. Gregory, C. 2015. Gifts and commodities (2nd ed.). Chicago: Hau Books.

4. Gregory, C. 2013. "The Value Question in India: Ethnographic Reflections on an Ongoing Debate." Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3 (1), 116-39.

5. Gregory, C. and Harihar Vaishnav. 2003 Lachmi Jagar: Gurumai Sukdai’s Story of the Rice Goddess of Bastar. (In Halbi, Hindi and English.) Kondagaon: Kaksad Publications.