Dr Katharine Tyler

Research Interests

My research contributes to two areas in social anthropology and the inter-disciplinary field of critical race studies, namely, whiteness studies and everyday understandings of genetics, genealogy and ethnicity. My work is founded upon reflexive, multi-sited, residential ethnographic fieldwork within urban, suburban and semi-rural locales of Britain.

I have conducted two periods of ethnographic fieldwork in urban, suburban and semi-rural areas of Britain. I conducted one year of residential fieldwork in a suburban village and a former coalmining town in the Midlands area of England. In this research, I examined the formation of white English/British ethnicities across differing racialised and classed landscapes. I returned to this region to conduct a further fifteen months of residential ethnographic fieldwork in an ethnically diverse area of the inner city. I explored everyday understandings of genealogy and ethnicity, paying particular attention to the ways in which members of interracial ('mixed-race' in popular discourse) families think about ideas of belonging, inheritance and ancestry across racial and ethnic lines. This project also examined lay understandings of race and the new genetic technologies.

This aspect of my work formed part of a larger EU funded framework 5 project that explored the new genetic technologies and the formation of social identity. This project was based at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester. The team included mostly social anthropologists from Universities in Britain (Manchester), Spain (Barcelona), Norway (Oslo), Hungary (Budapest), Lithuania (Vilnius), France (Paris) and Italy (Rome).

Central to my work has been my exploration of everyday experiences of ethnic identity, class, place, community and belonging. It is this aspect of my work that formed one impetus for an ESRC grant that I was awarded in 2008 [PI 2008 2009 (April – March) Principal Investigator,ESRC Small Grants Scheme. ‘Communities within communities: a longitudinal approach to minority/majority relationships and social cohesion’. Value: £81,795.93 (cash limit FEC)

This research was based on ten months of residential fieldwork in a suburban town in the South East of England with white Italian, British Pakistani minorities and the white British majority. Drawing upon in-depth interviews within families and across generations, the project examined the experiences of difference, community, identity and belonging in a specific locale over time.

I have recently published a monograph with Palgrave Macmillan (2012) entitled Whiteness, Class and the Legacies of Empire: On Home Ground. The book questions what Britain's inglorious history of colonial exploitation has got to do with the tranquil, green and pleasant environment of the village community that is typically taken to represent the quintessence of Englishness? The book is a personally mediated, reflexive ethnography of the historically influenced, geographically situated, embodied, classed and racially differentiated constitution of contemporary urban and suburban identities. It is grounded in my experience of the ways in which social identity is constructed and maintained via ethnography of a village-like community, a post-industrial town and an inner-city locale, all of which are situated within close proximity to one another. The central focus is on how it is that white ethnicity is rendered invisible. What comes to light is a picture of contemporary people's conceptions of themselves conditioned by, and deriving from, the unknown and forgotten legacy of a colonial past that cannot be confined to the past.

I have also co-edited a book with Prof. Bo Petersson, Lund University Sweden, entitled Majority Cultures and the Everyday Politics of Ethnic Difference: Whose House is this? This book examines the ways in which 'majority' cultures govern and represent minorities and recent immigrants. The volume asks what is the impact of globalization, governance and immigration controls on the construction of the majority 'self' and minority 'other'? How do people perceive minorities and the arrival of immigrants of different nationalities to local societies? How are issues of ethnic difference represented and managed in sites of entrenched ethnic violence and ongoing conflict? In addressing these questions this book offers a rich collection of essays that scrutinize the processes through which Western cultures represent and exclude those people that are considered to be ethnically 'other'.

Research Supervision

Current Doctoral Students University of Exeter


Stuart Scrase - Understanding the  London Riots 2012 - (full time, funded by the ESRC)

Rebecca Yeo - Asylum and Diasbility (with the University of Bath, full time, funded by the ESRC)

Hazel O'Brien - an ethnographic study of Mormons in Ireland, (full time, funded by the Waterford Institute of Technology, 2014-)

Completed  Doctoral Supervision at the University of Surrey, Department of Sociology

Lexi Scherer (1+3 ESRC studentship, PhD awarded 2013) Children, reading and ethnic identities, based on ethnographic fieldwork in a primary school in London

Helen Moore ( 1+3 ESRC studentship, Principal Supervisor, PhD awarded 2013) Rurality, white ethnicity and Englishness, an ethnographic study that examines white villagers' perceptions of Eastern European migrants in an English village

Charlie Leddy-Owen ( +3 ESRC studentship, Principal Supervisor, PhD awarded 2013) Everyday perceptions of Englishness, based on interviews with the residents of a suburban area of London

Sylvie Patel (PhD Awarded June 2010; self-funded) A Comparative study of Islam and ethnicity amongst school children in Britain and France

M. Abdou (PhD awarded Sept 2009; funded by Ministry of Education, Egypt, full-time) Ethnicity, religion and workplace segregation in Egypt

Sam Murphy (PhD awarded Dec 2008, ESRC funded, full-time) A qualitative study of gendered experiences of stillbirth

Harshad Keval (PhD awarded Jan 2008 self funded, part-time) Cultural negotiations in health and illness

Wong (PhD awarded 2007 self funded, full-time) An ethnography of British Chinese children