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Anthropology|Department of

Ruth Toulson

Assistant Professor

Cultural Anthropology

BA (Hons). Social Anthropology. University of Cambridge, Newnham College. (2001).
MPhil. Social Anthropology. University of Cambridge, Newnham College. (2002).
PhD. Social Anthropology. University of Cambridge, Newnham College (2009). • (307) 766-6921• Anthropology Bldg 206


Ruth Toulson joined the faculty of the University of Wyoming in 2011. She is a Cambridge trained socio-cultural anthropologist whose ethnographic research shifts between sites in Southeast Asia and Mainland China. Her research engages with the particular entanglements of politics, economics, and culture on the Asia Pacific rim.
Her recent work, with ethnic-Chinese in Singapore, considers the personal perils of capitalist modernity, interrogated through the lens of popular imaginings of the dissatisfied dead. While Singapore is often imagined as disenchanted and sterile, Dr. Toulson reveals that in fact its citizens live an extraordinarily rich and hitherto largely undocumented life of interaction with malevolent ghosts, capricious ancestors, and the undead whom they speak of as pervading their homes and public spaces. At present she is working on a book that presents accounts from coffin carriers, gravediggers, and personal shoppers for the dead, who describe their efforts to satisfy both the desires of the dead and the demands of the state. She focuses particularly on the women who tend to the dead and are caught between the competing demands of global capitalism, the patriarchal family, and a moralistic developmental state.
More broadly, Dr. Toulson is interested in the political lives of dead bodies, particularly the circulation of religious relics, bodies, and body parts.

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (1200)
Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology (2000)
Visual Anthropology
Living, Loving, and Dying in Contemporary China.
The Anthropology of Childhood.

Forthcoming: ‘The anthropology of a necessary mistake: the unsettled dead and the imagined state in contemporary Singapore.’ In Southeast Asian perspectives on power (eds) Liana Chua, Joanna Cook, Nicholas Long and Lee Wilson. London: Routledge.

Forthcoming: ‘Luxuries for the Dead: The Six Star Columbarium and New Memorialization in Singapore.’ Anthropology News (Sept. 2011).

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