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ISEK - Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies Social and Cultural Anthropology

Joseph Bristley

Joseph Bristley, Dr.

  • Associated researcher

Research interests

Economic anthropology; anthropology of the environment; pastoralism; anthropology of time; ethnography of Central Asia

Regional specialisation

Central Asia (Mongolia)

Short biography

Joseph Bristley is an associated researcher at ISEK, University of Zürich. Between 2021 and 2022 he was Oberassistent working at the Chair of Professor Dr. Peter Finke. Joseph lectured on Central Asian ethnography and economic anthropology, and also participated in the European Commission-funded Central Asian Law project. Joseph is currently working on a University of Cambridge project on trans-border river governance in Inner Asia. Aside from his current research on the relation between international law and water resource management, Joseph is also interested in Mongolian pastoral economies. Based on previous Ph.D. research (University College London, 2017) he has published on social aspects of money, number and ideologies of abundance, new debt relations, and (jointly) mountain sacrifices.


Times of debt: heterochrony and bank loans in rural Mongolia. In Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.). Volume 27. Issue 3. 2021. pp. 638-652.

‘Tears of rejoicing spirits’: Happiness and the Mediation of Human-Spirit Relations in a Mongolian Mountain Sacrifice. In Inner Asia. Volume 23. Issue 1. 2021. pp. 131-149. Written with Erdene-Ochir Tumen-Ochir.

Scale and Number: framing an Ideology of Pastoral Plenty in Rural Mongolia. In Social Analysis. Volume 64. Issue 1. 2020. pp 63-79.

Migration in Mongolia / Mongol Dakh’ Nüüdel Suudal. Ulaanbaatar International Media Art Festival: Migration. 2019. pp 6 – 9.

Transformation and Multiplicity: The Power of Zoos to Absorb Spirits in Mongolia. In Inner Asia. Volume 17. Issue 1. 2015. pp 31 – 51.