LAURIE DENYER WILLIS
I am a post doctoral fellow in medical anthropology at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Politics and International Studies. I do multimodal ethnography, exploring the relationships between the sensory life of bodies, suburbanism, and human-animal-capital relations. I've recently started a new project on health, environment, and global suburbanism. I completed my PhD in Medical Anthropology at McGill in 2018, and my MSc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Urban Studies and Planning. You can see my recent published work in Cultural Anthropology here, a recent interview here, and an example of some of my multimodal work here.
You can email me at
This work is part of a transnational collaborative project with anthropologists in Kampala, Uganda and Bangkok, Thailand, through the project Antimicrobials In Society (AMIS) at LSHTM. In the suburbs of Kampala, chicken farming is being transformed through the logics of stacking and scalability. These practices are then interwoven with new commercial agrarian families in the suburbs, and their concerns about zoonotic disease, climate sustainability, economic futures, and the life and death of animals, microbes, plants and humans on their suburban lands. Our work attends to the logics of consumption and protein in the context of flexible industrialism in the post-colony, with an emphasis on how bodies - and what they consume - are racialised and made political through the policing of enmeshed life – human, animal, microbial. We approach bodies, their consumables, and their environments as interstiched; bodies sieve foods and microbes, as much as they sieve postcolonial environments premised in surveillance and captivity.
The Salvific Sensorium
My first book project, The Salvific Sensorium: Pentecostal Life in Rio de Janeiro’s Subúrbios, is based on long term ethnographic research. The manuscript has been selected by the University of California Press as part of the series Atelier: Ethnographic Inquiry in the Twenty-First Century.
In the manuscript I attend to the entanglements of bodies, pollutants and suburban infrastructures, tracing how Pentecostalism, race, and the senses are put to work in constructing new kinds of affective space. Here I pay particular attention to ways of smelling and touching in the affective political space and the emotional experience of a Pentecostal sensorium. I theorise and write through the ways that affective bodies move through space, where bodies are sniffing, glaring and eavesdropping, working not as contained subjects but as feeling bodies that must move and attach themselves in landscapes where power surges and amuses. In doing so, I work through feminist affect theory to develop a theory of power that foregrounds the senses, feeling, and emotion to break apart entrenched public-private binaries in analyses of religious communities, political refusal, and right-wing populism in the city.
Denyer Willis, Laurie. In Attention to Pain: Governance and Bodies in Brazil. Medical Anthropology, Forthcoming March 2020.
Hyde, Sandra and Laurie Denyer Willis. Introduction to a Special Issue: Balancing the Quotidian: Precarity, Care and Pace in Anthropology’s Storytelling. Medical Anthropology, Forthcoming March 2020.
Denyer Willis, Laurie. The File Story: A Multimodal Experiment in Sensory Ethnographic Writing on Sexual Violence. ‘Con-text-ure: Visual and New Media Review Series’, Cultural Anthropology.
Denyer Willis, Laurie and Clare Chandler. The antimicrobial ‘quick-fix’. The BMJ (Global Health), 4(4).
Dixon J, MacPherson E, Manyau S, Nayiga S, Khine Zaw Y, Kayendeke M, Nabirye C, Denyer Willis L, de Lima Hutchison C, Chandler CIR. The ‘Drug Bag’ method: Lessons from anthropological studies of antibiotic use in Africa and South-East Asia. Global Health Action, 12(1).
Denyer Willis, Laurie. It Smells Like 1,000 Angels Marching: The ‘salvific sensorium’ in Rio de Janeiro’s Western Subúrbios. Cultural Anthropology, 33(2), 324-348