Simon May

Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Teaching this semester

ANTH 1101. Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropology explores the diversities and commonalities of cultures and societies in an increasingly interconnected world. Introduces students to the significant issues, concepts, theories, and methods in cultural anthropology. Topics may include cultural relativism and ethnocentrism, fieldwork and ethics, symbolism, language, religion and ritual, political and economic systems, family and kinship, gender, class, ethnicity and race, nationalism and transnationalism, and ethnographic representation and validity.

ANTH 2217. The Mystery of the Nation-State: Political Anthropology of the Modern World

The nation-state is often seen as the epitome of modern rationality. Employs a cross-cultural analysis, however, to examine the seemingly “irrational” practices and discourses that also produce the nation-state: rituals, spectacles, sacred sites, sacrifices, etc. Combines political and anthropological theory to examine the often mysterious ways in which “the state” and “the nation” are produced and connected. Relates these theoretical approaches to ethnographic accounts of nation-states in Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa, to investigate how the nation-state can be simultaneously abstract and concrete, can be spectral but also have a material presence in people’s daily lives.

I am a sociocultural anthropologist from Ireland whose work examines the intersections of power, identity, and global political economy, with a particular focus on Oceania. My current research combines ethnographic and historical methods to investigate the contemporary military service of indigenous Fijian men in the private military industry and the British Army.


  • B.A. , National University of Ireland
  • M.A., M.A., Ph.D., Chicago

Selected Publications

n.d.      “Being a Soldier is in our Blood: Fijian Service in the British Army and the Commodification of the Self,” under review with American Ethnologist.

n.d.      “Warriors Incorporated: The Militarization of Ethnicity in the Era of Neoliberal Warfare,” under review for inclusion in Ethnicity, Inc. Revisited, edited by Jean and John Comaroff, forthcoming from University of Chicago Press.

n.d.      “The Pitcairn Trials: Performing Jurisdiction and Claiming Sovereignty in the Pacific and the Privy Council,” under review with The Contemporary Pacific.

n.d.      We Are Born Soldiers: Fiji and the Outsourcing of Military Labor, book manuscript in preparation.