Dr David Mills

Trained in social anthropology, I carried out my doctoral research on educational discourses in Uganda.

My research combines historical method with an ethnographic attentiveness to education and its cultural politics.

My research interests include the study of higher education, and in particular the changing shape of the social sciences, their methods, pedagogies and governance. Recent work has focused on the transformation of doctoral education. I also write about the history of anthropology and the social sciences, and East African education.

My published monographs include Ethnography and Education (2013), and Difficult Folk: A Political History of Social Anthropology (2008).

My research supervisees include students who are using a range of  ethnographic methods to explore the cultural politics of educational practice. Please get in touch if you would like to explore an idea for doctoral research.

As well as being Director of Graduate Studies in the Department, I will be Chair of Doctoral Training in the Social Sciences (an ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Centre) from October 2013.

Dissertations supervised to completion:

  • Karpinska, Z. (2013). Educational Planning for situations of instability: Standardisation and Advocacy in Humanitarian Aid Practice.
  • Sato, M. (2012). Unpacking Faculty Development in Japan: An ethnography of faculty development practitioners.
  • Remtulla, A. (2012). Muslim Chaplaincy on Campus: A case-study of two American Universities.
  • O’Shea, J. (2011). Delaying the Academy: A Gap Year Education.
  • Alexander, P. (2010). Learning to Act your Age: Negotiating Age Imaginaries in an English Secondary School.

Current DPhil students

  • Mahmoud Natout, working on pedagogic imageries amongst teacher trainees in Lebanon
  • Peidong Yang, working on the politics of educational desire amongst Chinese scholars in Singapore
  • Hem Borker, preparing an ethnography of a girls’ madrasa in Delhi.
  • Zainab Kabba, writing on the negotation of Islamic knowledge and authority amongst young American Muslims.



  • Mills, D. and M. Morton (2013). Ethnography and Education. London: Sage
  • Mills, D. (2008). Difficult Folk: A political history of social anthropology. Oxford, Berghahn.

Edited Collections

  • Ntarangwi, M., Mills, D and Babiker, M, Eds. (2006). African Anthropologies: History, Critique and Practice. London, Zed Publishers.
  • James, W. and D. Mills, Eds. (2004). The Qualities of Time: Anthropological Approaches. Oxford, Berg.
  • Mills, D. and M. Harris, Eds. (2004). Teaching Rites and Wrongs: Universities and the making of Anthropologists. C-SAP Monographs. Birmingham, C-SAP.

Peer Reviewed Articles

  • Mills, D. and R. Ratcliffe (2012). After Method: Anthropology, Education and the Knowledge Economy. Qualitative Research 12(2): 147-164.
  • Mills, D. and J. Rath (2012). Academia as Workplace: Critical and Comparative Perspectives. Special Issue of Higher Education Quarterly 66(2): 129-134.
  • Mills, D. and M. Berg (2010). Gender, Disembodiment and Vocation: Exploring the Unmentionables of British Academic Life. Critique of Anthropology 30(4): 331-353.
  • Mills, D. (2011) Have we ever taught anthropology? A hidden history of disciplinary pedagogy. Teaching Anthropology 1(1): 12-20.
  • Hawkins, P. and D. Mills (2010). Home or Away? Widening Participation and the Challenge for Anthropology Anthropology in Action 17(2-3): 8-19.
  • Mills, D. (2009) Making sense of doctoral training reforms in the social sciences. International Journal of Researcher Development 1(1): 71 -83.
  • Mills, D. (2008). Compare, contrast, converge: A biography of the Demographic Review of the Social Sciences (2006). Twenty First Century Society 3(3): 263 -278.
  • Lebeau, Y. and D. Mills (2008). From ‘crisis’ to ‘transformation’? Shifting orthodoxies of African higher education policy and research. Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 1(1): 58 – 88.
  • Mills, D. (2006) Life on the Hill: Students and the social history of Makerere. Africa 76(2): 247 -266.
  • Mills, D. (2005) Made in Manchester? Methods and Myths in Disciplinary History. Social Analysis 49(3): 129 -143.
  • Mills, D. (2003). Professionalising or popularising Anthropology? A brief history of anthropology’s scholarly associations in the UK. Anthropology Today 19(5): 8 -13.
  • Mills, D. (2003). Quantifying the discipline: Some anthropology statistics from the UK. Anthropology Today 19(3): 19 -22.
  • Mills, D. (2003) Why Anthropology’s Ethics Matter: A short history. Anthropology in Action 9(3): 12-17
  • Mills, D. and R. Ssewakiryanga (2002). That Beijing Thing': Challenging Transnational Feminisms in Kampala. Gender, Place and Culture: A journal of Feminist Geography 9(4): 385 -398.
  • Mills, D. (2002) Anthropology at the end of the British Empire: The rise and fall of the Colonial Social Science Research Council 1944 -1962. Revue d’Histoire des Sciences Humaines 6: 161 -188.
  • Mills, D. (2001) ‘We’ll show them a real discipline': Anthropology, Sociology and the politics of academic identity. Anthropology in Action 8(1): 34-41.
  • Mills, D. (1999). ‘The nation’s valiant fighters against illiteracy': Locations of learning and progress. Social Analysis 43(1): 3 -17.

Chapters in Edited Volumes

  • Mills, D. (2013). Related Disciplines. Handbook of Sociocultural Anthropology. Eds. J. Carrier and D. Gewertz. Oxford, Berg.
  • Mills, D. (2012). Anthropology. Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education. S. Delamont. London, Edward Elgar.
  • Mills, D. (2010). Comings and goings: Disciplinary ideologies and employment trajectories. New visions of academic practice: Preparing for careers in the social sciences. L. McAlpine and G. Åkerlind. London, Palgrave Macmillan.Mills, D. (2006). How not to be a colonial ‘house pet': Audrey Richards and the East African Institute of Social Research. African Anthropologies: History, Critique and Practice. M. Ntarangwi, D. Mills and M. Babiker. London, Zed, in association with CODESRIA.
  • Mills, D. (2006). Juggling Acts: Teaching and the disciplinary vocation. Engagements with learning and teaching in Higher Education. D. Carter and M. Lord. Birmingham, C-SAP.
  • Mills, D. (2006). Those who can….? Teaching as a postgraduate. From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills. N. Gilbert. London, Sage.
  • Mills, D. (2006). Dinner at Claridges? Anthropology and the captains of industry 1947 -1955. Applications of Anthropology: Professional Anthropology in the twenty-first century. S. Pink. Oxford, Berghahn.
  • Mills, D. (2005). Anthropology at the End of Empire: The rise and fall of the Colonial Social Sciences Research Council 1944 -1962. Empires, Nations and Natives: Anthropology and State-Making. F. N. Benoit de L’Estoile, Lygia Sigaud. Durham, Duke University Press: 135-166
  • Mills, D. and R. Ssewakiryanga (2004). No romance without finance: Masculinities, commodities and HIV in Uganda. Readings in Gender in Africa. A. Cornwall. Oxford, James Currey Ltd.
  • James, W. and D. Mills (2004). From representation to action in the flow of time. The Qualities of Time. W. James and D. Mills. Oxford, Berg.
  • Mills, D., et al. (2003). Introduction: Learning Fields; Disciplinary Practices. Current Policies and Practices in European Social Anthropology. I. Edgar and D. Drackle. Oxford, Berghahn Books.
  • Mills, D. (2003). Teaching the Uncomfortable Science: Social Anthropology in British Universities. Educational Histories of European Social Anthropology. D. Drackle, I. Edgar and T. Schippers. Oxford, Berghahn.
  • Mills, D. (2003). ‘Like a horse in blinkers’? A political history of anthropology’s research ethics. The ethics of anthropology: Debates and Dilemmas. P. Caplan. London, Routledge: 37 -54.
  • Mills, D. (1999). Progress as discursive spectacle: but what comes after development? Modernity on a Shoestring: Dimensions of globalisation, consumption and development in Africa and beyond. R. Fardon, W. v. Bimsbergen and R. v. Dijk. London and Leiden, EIDOS (European Inter-University Development Opportunities Study Group): 91-116.

Interviews, Essays, Reviews, Comments, Shorter Pieces

  • Mills, D. (2013). Audrey Richards. Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology. R. J. McGee and R. L. Warms. London, SAGE.
  • Mills, D. (2009). “Silenced?” Anthropology Matters.
  • Mills, D. (2009). “Scientising the social sciences? Demographics and the research economy.” Research Intelligence 108: 13.
  • Mills, D. (2008). “Polly Hill.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Mills, D. (2007). ‘A major disaster to Anthropology….’? Oxford and the Radcliffe-Brown years. A history of Anthropology at the University of Oxford. P. Riviere. Oxford, Berghahn.
  • Mills, D. (2004). “Anthropology and the ‘amateurs': A personal view.” Anthropology Today 20(6): 25.
  • Mills, D. (2004). “The New African Higher Education?” African Affairs 103(413): 667 -675.
  • Mills, D. (2003). “Relativism and Cultural Studies.” Think: The Journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy 1(3): 29-32.
  • Mills, D. (2002). “Globalising Rights.” Anthropologymatters.com 4(1).
  • Mills, D. and R. Gibb (2001). “Centre and periphery: An interview with Paul Willis.” Cultural Anthropology 16(3): 388-414.
  • Mills, D. and R. Gibb (2001). “An Interview with Adam Kuper.” Social Anthropology 9(2): 207 -216.

Policy Reports

  • Mills, D., Jepson, A, Coxon, T, Easterby-Smith, M, Hawkins, P, Spencer, J. (2006). Demographic Review of the Social Sciences. Swindon, Economic and Social Research Council.
David Mills profile 2


  • Department staff

College affiliation

  • Kellogg College


  • University Lecturer in Pedagogy and the Social Sciences

Subject area

  • Foundations of Educational Research
  • MSc Education (Higher Education)
  • Professional and Personal Research Skills
  • Qualitative Design and Data Analysis

Research groups

  • Comparative and International Education
  • Higher Education and Professional Learning