Dr David Mills

David Mills is Associate Professor in Pedagogy and the Social Sciences in the Department of Education.

His research interests in higher education include doctoral education, research ‘capacity-building’, and African university cultures. David is also Director of the ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership. His published monographs include Ethnography and Education (2013), and Difficult Folk: A Political History of Social Anthropology (2008).

David’s research students use ethnographic methods to explore everyday educational practices and learning cultures. He welcomes enquiries from prospective students.

Recent DPhil completions:

  • Soufia Siddiqui (2017) Learning about ‘real’ Pakistan: how secondary students reinterpret citizenship education at an elite school in Lahore
  • Zainab Kabba (2017) The Education of American Muslims: Knowledge and Authority in Intensive Islamic Learning Environments
  • Hem Borker (2016), Educational Journeys and Everyday Aspirations: Making of Kamil Momina in a Girls’ Madrasa
  • Jason Todd (2017) Social Remembering and Children’s historical consciousness
  • Yang, Peidong (2014) “Foreign Talent”: Desire and Singapore’s China Scholars
  • Mahmoud Natout (2014) Between ‘prophet’ and ‘professional’: imagery and identification amongst beginning teachers in Lebanon

Current DPhil supervisees

  • Luke Buckley, writing about disciplinary regimes in an East London school
  • Chloe Walker, working on Kenyan students and shadow essay writing
  • Laura Brace, writing on navigational technologies of aspiration in an elite girls’ school
  • Emma Abotsi, working on transnational Ghanaian families and education  
  • Robyn Sneath, working on the history of Mennonite education in Canada
  • Shungmiao Han, working on Chinese Higher Education policy experiments.
  • Isaac Calvert, writing about the sacredness of Jewish pedagogy.
  • Natasha Robinson, working on South African education.


  • Mills, D (2008) Difficult folk?: A political history of social anthropology.

  • Ntarangwi, M, Mills, D, Babiker, M (2006) African Anthropologies History, Critique and Practice. Zed Books.

  • James, W, Mills, D (2005) The Qualities of Time Anthropological Approaches. Berg Publishers.

  • Mills, DS (2004) Teaching Rites and Wrongs: Universities and the making of Anthropologists. C-SAP Monographs. Birmingham: C-SAP.

Book chapters

  • Mills, DS (2015) “Related Disciplines”, In: J Carrier, D Gewertz (eds.) The Handbook of Sociocultural Anthropology. A&C Black.

  • Mills, DS (2013) “Audrey Richards”, In: RJ McGee, RL Warms (eds.) Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology. London: SAGE.

  • Mills, D (2012) “Anthropology and education”, In: Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education. 33-47
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4337/9781849807296.00010

  • Mills, DS (2010) “Comings and goings: Disciplinary ideologies and employment trajectories”, In: L McAlpine, G Åkerlind (eds.) New visions of academic practice: Preparing for careers in the social sciences. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Mills, DS (2007) “‘A major disaster to anthropology….’? Oxford and the Radcliffe-Brown years”, In: P Rivière (ed.) A History of Oxford Anthropology. Methodology & History in Anthropology. Berghahn Books.

  • Mills, DS (2006) “How not to be a colonial ‘house pet': Audrey Richards and the East African Institute of Social Research”, In: M Ntarangwi, D Mills, M Babiker (eds.) African Anthropologies History, Critique and Practice. Zed Books.

  • Mills, DS (2006) “Those who can….? Teaching as a postgraduate”, In: N Gilbert (ed.) From Postgraduate to Social Scientist A Guide to Key Skills. London: SAGE.

  • Mills, D (2006) “Made in Manchester?: Methods and myths in disciplinary history”, In: The Manchester School: Practice and Ethnographic Praxis in Anthropology. 165-179

  • Mills, DS (2006) “Dinner at Claridges? Anthropology and the captains of industry 1947 -1955”, In: S Pink (ed.) Applications of Anthropology Professional Anthropology in the Twenty-first Century.

  • Mills, DS (2006) “Juggling Acts: Teaching and the disciplinary vocation”, In: D Carter, M Lord (eds.) Engagements with Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Birmingham: C-SAP.

  • Mills, DS, Ssewakiryanga, R (2005) “No romance without finance: Masculinities, commodities and HIV in Uganda”, In: Readings in Gender in Africa. Oxford: James Currey Publishers.

  • Mills, DS (2005) “Anthropology at the End of Empire: The rise and fall of the Colonial Social Sciences Research Council 1944 -1962”, In: F Neiburg, L Sigaud, FN Benoit de L’Estoile (eds.) Empires, Nations, and Natives Anthropology and State-Making. Durham: Duke University Press Books. 135-166

  • Mills, D (2005) “Dinner at claridges?: Anthropology and the 'captains of industry', 1947-1955”, In: Applications of Anthropology: Professional Anthropology in the Twenty-First Century. 55-70

  • Mills, DS, Dracklé, D, Edgar, I (2004) “Introduction: Learning Fields; Disciplinary Practices”, In: I Edgar, D Drackle (eds.) Current Policies and Practices in European Social Anthropology Education. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

  • Mills, D (2003) “'Like a horse in blinkers'?: A political history of anthropology's research ethics”, In: The Ethics of Anthropology: Debates and Dilemmas. 37-54
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203633670

  • Mills, DS (2003) “Teaching the Uncomfortable Science: Social Anthropology in British Universities”, In: D Drackle, I Edgar, T Schippers (eds.) Educational Histories of European Social Anthropology. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

  • Mills, DS (2003) “‘Like a horse in blinkers’? A political history of anthropology’s research ethics”, In: P Caplan (ed.) The Ethics of Anthropology Debates and Dilemmas. London: Routledge. 37-54

  • Mills, DS (1999) “Progress as discursive spectacle: but what comes after development?”, In: R Fardon, W v. Bimsbergen, R v. Dijk (eds.) Modernity on a Shoestring Dimensions of Globalization, Consumption and Development in Africa and Beyond ; Based on an EIDOS Conference Held at The Hague, 13 - 16 March 1997. London and Leide: EIDOS (European Inter-University Development Opportunities Study Group). 91-116

Journal articles

  • Mills, D (2015) “Anthropologies of Education: A Global Guide to Ethnographic Studies of Learning and Schooling”, QUALITATIVE RESEARCH. 15(4) 543-544.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1468794114560555

  • Vokes, R, Mills, D (2015) “'Time for School'? School fees, savings clubs and social reciprocity in Uganda”, JOURNAL OF EASTERN AFRICAN STUDIES. 9(2) 326-342.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2015.1042627

  • Oancea, AE, Mills, D (2015) “The New Ecosystem for Educational Research: Findings from the BERA Observatory”, Research Intelligence. (127) 27-28.

  • Mills, D (2014) “The end of anthropology?”, JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE. 20(1) 188-189.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.12087_28

  • Lunt, I, McAlpine, L, Mills, D (2014) “Lively bureaucracy? The ESRC's Doctoral Training Centres and UK universities”, Oxford Review of Education. 40(2) 151-169.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2013.862167

  • Mills, D, Ratcliffe, R (2012) “After method? Ethnography in the knowledge economy”, QUALITATIVE RESEARCH. 12(2) 147-164.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1468794111420902

  • Mills, D (2012) “Glimpses into my own black box: an exercise in self-deconstruction”, JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE. 18(1) 198-199.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9655.2011.01740_2.x

  • Mills, D, Rath, J (2012) “Academia as Workplace”, Higher Education Quarterly. 66(2) 129-134.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2273.2012.00517.x

  • Mills, D (2012) “Identities and Social Change in Britain Since 1940: The Politics of Method”, QUALITATIVE RESEARCH. 12(5) 603-604.

  • Mills, D (2011) “Anthropological intelligence: the deployment and neglect of American anthropology in the Second World War”, JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE. 17(1) 215-217.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9655.2010.01675_38.x

  • Mills, D (2011) “Best of both worlds: the story of Elsdon Best and Tutakangahau”, JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE. 17(4) 906-907.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9655.2011.01725_25.x

  • Mills, D (2010) “A new history of anthropology”, JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE. 16(1) 198-199.

  • Hawkins, P, Mills, D (2010) “Home or Away? Widening Participation and the Challenge for Anthropology”, Anthropology in Action. 17(2)
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/aia.2010.170202

  • Mills, D, Berg, ML (2010) “Gender, disembodiment and vocation: Exploring the unmentionables of British academic life”, CRITIQUE OF ANTHROPOLOGY. 30(4) 331-353.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0308275X10372470

  • Mills, D (2010) “Critical journeys: the making of anthropologists”, JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE. 16(4) 933-934.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9655.2010.01661_27.x

  • Mills, D (2009) “Making sense of doctoral training reforms in the social sciences: Educational development by other means?”, International Journal for Researcher Development. 1(1) 71-83.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/1759751X201100005

  • Mills, DS (2009) “Scientising the social sciences? Demographics and the research economy”, Research Intelligence. (108) 13-13.

  • 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.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17450140802332091

  • Mills, D (2008) “Engaging anthropology: The case for a public presence.”, CRITIQUE OF ANTHROPOLOGY. 28(1) 105-106.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0308275X07086560

  • Lebeau, Y, Mills, D (2008) “From 'crisis' to 'transformation'? Shifting orthodoxies of African higher education policy and research”, Learning and Teaching. 1(1)
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/175522708783113523

  • Mills, D (2006) “Life on the hill: Students and the social history of Makerere”, AFRICA. 76(2) 247-266.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/afr.2006.0022

  • Mills, D, Huber, MT (2005) “Anthropology and the educational 'trading zone': Disciplinarity, pedagogy and professionalism”, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. 4(1) 9-32.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1474022205048756

  • Mills, D (2005) “Made in Manchester? Methods and Myths in Disciplinary History”, Social Analysis. 49(3)
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/015597705780275011

  • Mills, D (2004) “The 'new' African higher education?”, AFRICAN AFFAIRS. 103(413) 667-675.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adh072

  • Mills, D (2004) “Anthropology and the 'amateurs': A personal view”, Anthropology Today. 20(6) 25-25.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0268-540X.2004.00317.x

  • Mills, D (2003) “Professionalizing or popularizing Anthropology? A Brief history of anthropology's scholarly associations in the UK”, Anthropology Today. 19(5) 8-13.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.00216

  • Mills, D (2003) “Quantifying the discipline: Some anthropology statistics from the UK”, Anthropology Today. 19(3) 19-22.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.00193

  • Mills, D (2003) “Relativism and cultural studies”, Think. 1(03) 79-82.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1477175600000488

  • Mills, D (2003) “Political power in pre-colonial Bugana: Economy, society and warfare in the nineteenth century”, JOURNAL OF IMPERIAL AND COMMONWEALTH HISTORY. 31(3) 147-148.

  • Mills, D, Ssewakiryanga, R (2002) “'That Beijing thing': Challenging transnational feminisms in Kampala”, Gender, Place and Culture. 9(4) 385-398.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0966369022000024641

  • Mills, D (2002) “Methodology’s Mrs Beeton”, Qualitative Research. 2(3) 411-416.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/146879410200200307

  • Mills, D (2002) “Women and politics in Uganda.”, AMERICAN ETHNOLOGIST. 29(2) 437-438.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/ae.2002.29.2.437

  • Mills, D (2002) “History and theory in anthropology”, SOCIOLOGY-THE JOURNAL OF THE BRITISH SOCIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION. 36(2) 445-446.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038502036002013

  • Mills, D, Gibb, R (2001) “"Centre" and periphery - An interview with Paul Willis”, CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY. 16(3) 388-414.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/can.2001.16.3.388

  • Kuper, A, Gibb, R, Mills, D (2001) “An interview with Adam Kuper”, Social Anthropology. 9(02)
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0964028201000143

  • Mills, D (2000) “Introduction to action research: Social research for social change.”, AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST. 102(3) 659-660.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/aa.2000.102.3.659

  • Mills, DS “‘The nation’s valiant fighters against illiteracy': Locations of learning and progress”, Social Analysis. 43(1) 3-17.

  • Mills, DS “Why Anthropology’s Ethics Matter: A short history”, Anthropology in Action. 9(3) 12-17.

  • Mills, DS “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, DS “‘We’ll show them a real discipline': Anthropology, Sociology and the politics of academic identity”, Anthropology in Action. 8(1) 34-41.

Internet publication


  • Oancea, AE, Mills, D (2014) Educational Research. Final report of the BERA Observatory 2014.. London: British Educational Research Association.

  • Mills, DS, Jepson, A, Coxon, T, Easterby-Smith, M, Hawkins, P, Spencer, J (2006) Demographic Review of the Social Sciences. Swindon: ESRC.



  • Department staff

College affiliation

  • Kellogg College


  • Associate Professor 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


Publications, books and other work