Professor Clare Harris

Clare Harris, BA (Cambridge), MA (London), MA (Oxon), PhD (London)

Clare Harris is Curator for Asian Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum. She is also Professor of Visual Anthropology at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and a Fellow of Magdalen College. Prior to her appointment at Oxford University, Clare was lecturer in the Anthropology of Art at the School of World Art Studies, University of East Anglia. She trained at the universities of Cambridge and London (School of Oriental and African Studies).

Clare is an award-winning writer whose innovative work on Tibetan visual and material culture, photography and museums, has effectively created a new field of scholarship and for which she has received international recognition in the form of books prizes and invitations to lecture at universities around the world. Her research has been supported by Fellowships awarded by the British Academy and The Leverhulme Trust and by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (among others). She has published five books and numerous articles and has curated exhibitions at the Pitt Rivers Museum and beyond. The Tibet Album website, that was created following a research project she led at the Pitt Rivers, was launched by the 14th Dalai Lama at the museum in 2008. She has a long track record of conducting fieldwork in South Asia and the Tibetan diaspora and is currently working on a new project about the history of photography in the Indian Himalayas. Clare is very much a public-facing academic and curator who has given many talks for audiences outside academia and has appeared on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Areas of Research and Teaching Expertise

  • visual and material culture in South Asia and Tibet/China;
  • the anthropology of art and aesthetics;
  • histories of museums and collections,
  • photography; 
  • contemporary art;
  • colonialism,
  • the politics of representation;
  • the impact of digital technology on objects and museums.


A Selection of Publications


2016 Photography and Tibet, Reaktion Books, London

2012  The Museum on the Roof of the World: Art, Politics and the Representation of Tibet, University of Chicago Press

2005   Ladakh: Culture at the Crossroads Marg Publications, Mumbai, India –

co-edited with Monisha Ahmed (reprinted 2010)

2003   Seeing Lhasa: British Depictions of the Tibetan Capital 1936 – 1947.

Serindia Publications, Chicago, USA – co-authored with Tsering Shakya

1999 In the Image of Tibet: Tibetan Painting after 1959, Reaktion Books, London

Essays in Edited Volumes and Peer-Reviewed Journals

2014   ‘Digital Dilemmas: The Ethnographic Museum as Distributive Institution’ in Beyond Modernity: Do Ethnographic Museums need Ethnography?", Vito Lattanzi, Sandra Ferracuti, Elisabetta Frasca (Eds), Soprintendenza al Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico "Luigi Pigorini", Rome - Espera Libreria Archeologica: Rome

2013 ‘The Potala Palace: Remembering to Forget in Contemporary Tibet’, in South Asian Studies Journal, Vol. 29. No.1 pp 97 – 111

2013 ‘The Future of the Ethnographic Museum’ (with Michael O’Hanlon), Anthropology Today, Vol. 29. No.1 pp. 8 - 12

2013 ‘In and Out of Place: Tibetan Artists’ Travels in the Contemporary Art World’ Visual Anthropology Review, Vol. 28, Issue 2, pp 152 - 163

2011 Generation Exile: Exploring New Tibetan Identities, (exhibition catalogue essay) Rossi and Rossi and Hanart: London and Hong Kong

2008 ‘The Creation of a Tibetan Modernist: The Painting of Gonkar Gyatso’ in Elizabeth Edwards and Kaushik Bhaumik (Eds.) Visual Sense: A Cultural Reader Berg, Oxford and New York pp. 351 - 358

2007 ‘British and German Photography in Tibet in the 1930s: The Diplomatic, the Ethnographic, and Other Modes’ in Isrun Engelhardt  (Ed.) Tibet in 1938-1939: Photographs from the Ernst Schäfer Expedition to Tibet, Serindia Publications, Chicago pp 73 – 90

2007   ‘The Buddha Goes Global: some thoughts towards a transnational art history’ in Location Deborah Cherry and Fintan Cullen (Eds.) Blackwells, Oxford pp. 166-188

2004   ‘The Photograph Reincarnate: The Dynamics of Tibetan Relationships with Photographs’ in Photographs Objects Histories, Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart (Eds.) Routledge, London, UK pp. 132 – 147

2003   ‘Seeing Lhasa: British Photographic and Filmic Engagement with Tibet’ in Seeing Lhasa: British Depictions of the Tibetan Capital 1936 – 1947, Clare Harris and Tsering Shakya, Serindia Publications, Chicago, USA pp. 1 - 76

2001   ‘The Politics and Personhood of Tibetan Buddhist Icons’ in Beyond Aesthetics: Art and the Technologies of Enchantment Christopher Pinney and Nicholas Thomas (Eds.), Berg, London, UK pp. 181 -199

Teaching at Oxford

At Oxford Clare teaches at all levels – from the undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Anthropology – to doctoral students. She is Director of Studies for Archaeology and Anthropology at Magdalen College and the Course Convenor for the MSc. and MPhil. in Visual, Material and Museum at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. Clare gives lectures for series such as
‘Cultural Representations’,
‘Introduction to Anthropological Theory’ and she runs a PG Option course that closely relates to one of her research interests: ‘Key Debates in the Anthropology of Art and Visual Culture’. She also makes contributions to teaching at the Oxford University departments of the History of Art and the Oriental Institute.

Clare supervises doctoral students working in all the areas described above, as well as those conducting fieldwork in Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora. Her DPhil students have worked on a wide range of subjects including Iranian photo-bloggers and contemporary art in Mongolia. She welcomes approaches from potential DPhil students and post-doctoral researchers.

Current Editorial and Advisory Board membership

Editorial Board: Asian Ethnologist (2013 – onwards)
Advisory board: Museum Worlds (2011 – onwards)
Board of the Bharat Kala Museum, Varanasi, India,
Advisory board: The Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (LAMO), Leh, India.

(For further information about Clare Harris see entries on the Magdalen College website and School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography website)