Dr Christopher Morton

Research summary

My research centres on the overlapping histories of photography, anthropology and museum collections, especially how the visual technologies of the past have influenced the way that other cultures and societies have been understood within European social science, and how these legacies continue to shape social and cultural attitudes in the contemporary world. My recent research is on the photography of E. H. Duckworth and Nigeria Magazine in the 1930s-50s. I am also developing interdisciplinary research with neuroscientists and philosophers on the concept of eudaimonia (the life well lived) and museums.

 

I conducted long-term anthropological fieldwork in Botswana but also have research interests in other African countries and nineteenth-century Australian photography and material culture. My latest publication is a monograph on the fieldwork photography of renowned British social anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard (The Anthropological Lens: Rethinking E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Oxford University Press 2019).

CV

Christopher Morton (MA MSt DPhil, Oxf) is Deputy Director and Head of Curatorial, Research and Teaching at the Pitt Rivers Museum, as well as Associate Professor of Visual Anthropology at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Linacre College. He trained in History at the University of East Anglia before undertaking MSt and DPhil studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology at St Antony’s College, Oxford, between 1995 and 2002, during which time he conducted long-term fieldwork in Botswana. He joined the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2002 as a curatorial assistant and in 2006 he was appointed Curator of Photograph and Manuscript Collections, a specialist curatorial role that he continues to undertake at the Museum. Dr Morton is also currently the Museum's digital lead, responsible for leading the Museum's digital transformation programme including new CMS-DAMS and Collections Online initiatives. He has curated over 35 exhibitions and published over 60 books and articles on the histories of anthropology and photography.

 

Dr Morton is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society as well as the Royal Anthropological Institute, serving on its Council as a Trustee in 2016–18, as well as being a member of its Photographic Committee. From 2012 to 2018 he was Departmental Lecturer at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Oxford. Dr Morton is an Advisory Board member for the Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology as well as the Centre for Eudaimonia and Human Flourishing, and an editorial board member of the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford (JASO).

Publications

Books and edited volumes

2020     The Anthropological Lens: Rethinking E. E. Evans-Pritchard. Oxford: Oxford University Press (monograph).

2015     (co-edited with Elizabeth Edwards), Photographs, Museums, Collections: Between Art and Information. London: Bloomsbury.

2015     (co-edited with Darren Newbury), The African Photographic Archive: Research and Curatorial Strategies. London: Bloomsbury.

2010     (co-edited with Philip N. Grover), Wilfred Thesiger in Africa. London: Harper Collins.

2009     (co-edited with Elizabeth Edwards), Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

2000     (Jeremy Coote, Christopher Morton and Julia Nicholson), Transformations: the Art of Recycling. Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum.

Journal special issues

2015    ‘Reasserting Presence, Reclamation and Desire’, Special Issue of Photographies, (co-edited with Haidy Geismar, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Sept).

Book chapters

2021 ‘Rephotography as a value creation technology in the 19th Century: Collecting, reproducing and exchanging’. In Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value, edited by Howard Morphy and Robyn McKenzie. London: Routledge.

2021 ‘Out of frame’. In Pieces of a Nation: South Sudanese Heritage and Museum Collections [open access - read online], edited by Zoë Cormack and Cherry Leonardi. London: Sidestone Press, 117-122.

2021 ‘A diary in the loose sense of the term: Henry Balfour and the 1914 Australian meeting’. In A Trip to the Dominions: The Scientific Event that Changed Australia, edited by Lynette Russell. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing, pp 68-91.

2018     ‘Photography, anthropology of’, in Cox, R. & Callan, H. (ed.), International Encyclopaedia of Anthropology: Anthropology Beyond Text. International Encyclopaedia of Anthropology, vol. 12, 1 edn, New York: Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1621

2015    ‘Introduction’ in Elizabeth Edwards and Christopher Morton (eds) Photographs, Museums, Collections: Between Art and Information. London: Bloomsbury.

2015    ‘Collecting portraits, exhibiting race: Augustus Pitt-Rivers’s cartes-de-visite at the South Kensington Museum’ in Elizabeth Edwards and Christopher Morton (eds) Photographs, Museums, Collections: Between Art and Information. London: Bloomsbury, 101-118.

2015     ‘Introduction’ in Christopher Morton and Darren Newbury (eds) The African Photographic Archive: Research and Curatorial Strategies. London: Bloomsbury.

2015    ‘Richard Buchta and the visual representation of Equatoria in the later nineteenth century’, in Christopher Morton and Darren Newbury (eds) The African Photographic Archive: Research and Curatorial Strategies. London: Bloomsbury.

2015    (with Gilbert Oteyo) ‘The Paro Manene project: exhibiting and researching photographic histories in western Kenya’ in International Handbooks of Museum Studies (ed. Sharon Macdonald and Helen Rees Leahy), Vol. 4: Museum Transformations (ed. Annie E. Coombes and Ruth B. Phillips), pp 311-335.

2014    ‘Observations from the Interface: Photography, Ethnography, and Digital Projects at the Pitt Rivers Museum’, in Uncertain Images: Museums and the Work of Photographs, edited by Elizabeth Edwards and Sigrid Lien. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 243-260.

2012     ‘Double alienation: Evans-Pritchard’s Zande and Nuer photographs in comparative perspective’, in Vokes, Richard (ed) Photography in Africa: Ethnographic Perspectives. Oxford: James Currey, 33–55.

2012    ‘Spiritual repatriation and the archive in Christian Thompson’s We Bury Our Own’, in Christian Thompson – We Bury Our Own (exhibition catalogue). Fitzroy: Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, 13–15.

2010    ‘Fotografie dell’Africa del Pitt Rivers Museum, Università di Oxford’, in Walter Liva (ed) Sguardi sull’Africa. Centro di Ricerca e Archiviazione della Fotografia/ Comune di San Vito al Tagliamento (Italy), 72.

2010     Morton, Christopher and Schuyler Jones, ‘Wilfred Thesiger’s Photograph Collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum’, in Christopher Morton and Philip N. Grover (eds) Wilfred Thesiger in Africa. London: Harper Collins, 127–43.

2010     (with Philip N. Grover), ‘Wilfred Thesiger’s African Photographs: A Centenary Selection’, in Christopher Morton and Philip N. Grover (eds) Wilfred Thesiger in Africa. London: Harper Collins, 144–262.

2009     Edwards, Elizabeth and Christopher Morton, ‘Introduction’, in Morton, Christopher and Elizabeth Edwards (eds), Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 1–24.

2009     ‘The initiation of Kamanga: visuality and textuality in Evans-Pritchard’s Zande ethnography’, in Morton, Christopher and Elizabeth Edwards (eds), Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 119–42.

Articles

2020    ‘Attempted portraits: photography, obscurity, and the articulation of the past’, Kronos Vol 46, No. 1, 54-71 (Special Issue; Other Lives of the Image, edited by Patricia Hayes and Iona Gilbert) [open access - read online]

2019    ‘From significant surface to historical presence: photography as a site of social engagement in the museum’, Daguerrotype: Studies in the History and Theory of Photography, No. 2 (26), 67-93.

2018    ‘The graphicalization of description: drawing and photography in the fieldwork journals and museum work of Henry Balfour, Anthropology and Photography, Vol. 10. (London: Royal Anthropological Institute) [open access - read online].

2018    ‘La description graphique. Dessins et photographies dans les carnets de terrain et le travail de conservateur de Henry Balfour’, Gradhiva (Special issue: ‘Sur le vif. Photographie et anthropologie’ edited by Camille Joseph and Anaïs Mauuarin), No. 27, 58-89.

2015    (with Haidy Geismar) ‘Introduction’, in Photographies (Special Issue: ‘Reasserting Presence, Reclamation and Desire’ edited by Haidy Geismar and Christopher Morton), Vol. 8, No. 3 (Sept), 231-233.

2015    ‘The ancestral image in the present tense’, Photographies (Special Issue: ‘Reasserting Presence, Reclamation and Desire’ edited by Haidy Geismar and Christopher Morton), Vol. 8, No. 3 (Sept), 253-270.

2015    (with Jeremy Coote) ‘“Dressed as a New Zealander” or an Ethnographic Mischmasch? Notes and Reflections on Two Photographs by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)’, Journal of Museum Ethnography, 28, 150-172.

2014    ‘Photographic collaboration in anthropology, past and present’, Photoworks, Issue 21, pp. 179-180.

2014    ‘The Place of Photographs in the Collections, Displays, and Other Work of General Pitt-Rivers’, Museum History Journal, Vol. 7, no. 2 (July; Special issue, edited by Jeremy Coote and Alison Petch, on ‘Archaeology, Anthropology, and Museums, 1851-2014: Rethinking Pitt-Rivers and His Legacy’), pp. 168-187.

2014    ‘Reconnecting and researching Australian Aboriginal photographs’, The Friends of the Pitt Rivers Museum Newsletter, Issue 79, p5.

2012    ‘Photography and the comparative method: the construction of an anthropological archive’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 18, No. 2, 369–96.

2010     (with Jeremy Coote), ‘Visual Traditions of Eastern Africa: Report on a Colloquium’, ACASA Newsletter [The Arts Council of the African Studies Association Newsletter], Vol. 86 (Fall), pp. 27-8.

2010     (with Heather Richardson), ‘Conservation of the Woodthorpe albums’, The Friends of the Pitt Rivers Museum Newsletter, no. 68 (July 2010), p. 5.

2009    (with G. Oteyo) ‘Paro Manene: Exhibiting Photographic Histories in Western Kenya’, Journal of Museum Ethnography, No. 22 (Dec.), 155–64.

2009  ‘Fieldwork and the participant-photographer: E. E. Evans-Pritchard and the Nuer rite of gorot’, Visual Anthropology, 22 (4), 252–74.

2007 ‘Remembering the house: memory and materiality in northern Botswana’, Journal of Material Culture, 12 (2) (July), 157–79.

2007  ‘Evans-Pritchard and Malinowski: the roots of a complex relationship’, History of Anthropology Newsletter, 34 (20), 10–16.

2005  Visualising southern Sudan: a museological resource, The Friends of the Pitt Rivers Museum Newsletter, Issue 52 (April).

2005  ‘The anthropologist as photographer: reading the monograph and reading the archive’, Visual Anthropology, Vol. 18(4), 389–405.

2004  ‘Fixity and fluidity: chiefly authority and settlement movement in colonial Botswana’, History and Anthropology Vol. 15, No. 4. (Dec.), 345–65.

2002  ‘Building, place and perception: the development of a drinks-can building style in northern Botswana’, Journal of Museum Ethnography, No. 14, 60–73.

2000  (with Jeremy Coote) ‘A glimpse of the Guinea Coast: regarding an African exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum’, Journal of Museum Ethnography, No. 12, 39–56.

Reviews

2021 Review of Roger Sansi (ed) The Anthropologist as Curator, Anthropos, Vol. 116/1, 271-2.

2018  Review of Filip De Boeck and Sammy Baloji, Suturing the City: living together in Congo’s urban worlds (London: Autograph ABP, 2016), Africa, Volume 88Issue 4 

November 2018, pp. 891-892.

2011  Review of Wendy A. Grossman, Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens. Washington, D.C.: International Arts and Artists, 2009. Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation, Vol. XXVII, No. 4, 376–9.

2011  Review of Henrietta Lidchi and Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie (eds), Visual Currencies: Reflections on Native Photography, Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 2009. Journal of Museum Ethnography, No. 23, 182–4.

2006  Review of Sebastião Salgado’s Sahel: The End of the Road (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2004) Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 79(1), Winter 2006, 175–7.

2004  (with Jeremy Coote) ‘Encounters with Africa: Cheltenham’s collections revealed’ (exhibition review), Journal of Museum Ethnography, No. 16, 173-177.

Teaching

I contribute teaching to a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the University of Oxford, especially the postgraduate degree in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology. I welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students intending to work on photography and museum studies topics.

Current research students:

Hannah Eastham (School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography and St Cross College)

Beth Hodgett (CDP with Birkbeck College, University of London)

Anna Sephton (CDP with Brighton University)

Selected past research students

Dr Brook Andrew

Dr Ewa Majczak

Dr Noel Lobley

Dr Jaanika Vider

Dr Lise Sorensen