Dr Rachel Smith

Dr Rachel Smith
Dr Rachel Smith
Dr Rachel Smith

PhD, MRes, BSocSci (Hons), AFHEA


Accepting PhDs



I am a Lecturer in Anthropology and Museum Studies. I have a background in economic anthropology, and anthropology of religion, and long-standing interests in material and visual culture, and museums.

My core research focuses on local perspectives on development and social change in Vanuatu, in the Western Pacific. My doctoral project (2011-2016) focused on the ‘domestic moral economy’ in a rural Vanuatu community undergoing economic transformation due to a high degree of engagement in a labour mobility programme, touted as a ‘triple win’, ‘pro-poor’ alternative to development aid.

My most recent research project (since 2018) extends my interest in work, consumption, moral economy, development, and value by focusing on the ethics and economy of kava, a crop traditionally grown and consumed as a relaxant beverage across the Pacific. International demand for this commodity has soared, and kava is widely spoken of as ‘green gold’ by rural farmers in Vanuatu and Fiji, where it has become the main export commodity. In both the labour migration and kava projects I am interested in how socio-economic change is mediated by semiotic, material, and ritual processes.

In addition to my work in economic anthropology, I continue to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team, including from Psychology and Neuroscience, formed at Stanford for the Templeton-funded ‘Mind and Spirit’ project (2016-2018). Through interdisciplinary and mixed method research, we examined the relation between understandings of mind and self, and religious experience. This has led to a range of workshops and publications, including scientific articles in PNAS and Nature Human Behavior.

I have also published from archival research on land and labour in Vanuatu, and am developing research interests based on ethnobotanical and Scottish Pacific collections. 

If you are a prospective PhD students interested in any of the above areas/themes- please contact me via the 'Accepting PhDs' link above/on the Research tab.


  • PhD Social Anthropology 
    2016 - University of Manchester 

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Honorary Curatorial Fellow, Museums and Special Collections

Museum and Special Collections Academic Forum

Library Representative for Anthropology

Coordinator, Scottish Training in Anthropological Research (STAR) postgraduate programme

Personal Tutor

External Memberships

Associate Fellow of Advance HE (AFHEA)

Editorial Board, FocaalBlog https://www.focaalblog.com/ 

Latest Publications

  • Work/Labour

    Folz, J., Smith, R.
    Open Encyclopedia of Anthropology
    Contributions to Journals: Review articles
  • Compulsion to Work?: Malinowski and the Labour Question

    Smith, R.
    One Hundred Years of Argonauts: Malinowski, Ethnography and Economic Anthropology. Hann, C., James, D. (eds.). Berghahn Books, pp. 97-116, 20 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Similarities and differences in concepts of mental life among adults and children in five cultures

    Weisman, K., Legare, C. H., Smith, R. E., Dzokoto, V. A., Aulino, F., Ng, E., Dulin, J. C., Ross-Zehnder, N., Brahinsky, J. D., Luhrmann, T. M.
    Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 5, pp. 1358–1368
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The Meaning of “Free” Work: Service as a Gift, and Labor as a Commodity for Ni-Vanuatu Labor Migrants

    Smith, R.
    WORK, SOCIETY AND THE ETHICAL SELF: Chimeras of Freedom in the Neoliberal Era. Hann, C. (ed.). Berghahn Books, pp. 27-48
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Reply to Terhune and Jamieson: The nature of absorption

    Luhrmann, T., Weisman, K., Aulino, F., Brahinsky, J., Dulin, J., Dzokoto, V., Legare, C., Lifshitz, M., Ng, E., Ross-Zehnder, N., Smith, R.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 118, no. 32, e2109120118
    Contributions to Journals: Letters

View My Publications


Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Anthropology.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me


Accepting PhDs

Museum Studies

Research Specialisms

  • Anthropology
  • Museum Studies
  • Social Anthropology
  • Social Sciences
  • Religion in Society

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.


I continue to collaborate with colleagues on the interdisciplinary project, “Mind and Spirit” (2016-2018), funded by Templeton Foundation. PI: T.M Luhrmann (Stanford). Comparative interdisciplinary (Anthropology, Psychology, Neuroscience) research project on the relationship between representations of mind and spiritual experience, cross-culturally. Includes co-authored articles in leading scientific journals PNAS and Nature Human Behavior

Since 2023, i have been an associate researcher on the 5 year ERC funded project, "Properties of Units and Standards" [Units] project (PI: Matti Erasaari, University of Helsinki)- see https://blogs.helsinki.fi/units-and-standards/ for more information on this project.


I welcome queries from prospective postgraduate research students, particularly those interested in political and economic anthropology, materialities, moralities, religion and cognition, and/or regional specialisations in the Pacific islands.




Page 1 of 2 Results 1 to 10 of 13

Show 10 | 25 | 50 | 100 results per page


Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Journals