Penny Harvey

Some information about me


  • I work ethnographically and use ethnography to think about relational knowledge practices, about process, complexity and specificity. I have carried out research in the Andean Region and in the Peruvian Amazon, in Spain and in the U.K. My main interests are in the following general fields of enquiry:

    • the anthropology of science and technology particularly in relation to design, engineering and construction practices
    • ethnographic approaches to state formation and neo-liberal regulation
    • environmental controversies
    • the politics of communication broadly conceived to includes language practice, information technologies, community radio, digital visualisation, and art and exhibition practice.

    I am currently working with Hannah Knox on an ethnography of roads in the Andean and Amazonian regions of Peru (more info here). We are writing a book in which we track the material, moral and social controversies produced by a volatile mix of engineering expertise, transnational capital and territorial politics. We are particularly interested in how road construction projects mobilise spatial and temporal imaginaries. Roads are field sites that allow for the empirical study of trans-local places that register histories of travel and of settlement, and that draw together the preoccupations and speculative investments of multilateral funders, international trade and local enterprises.  

    Within CRESC I am co-ordinating the research theme on ‘Topologies of Social Change’ in which an inter-disciplinary group is looking at a range of themes which address questions concerning the politics of space and matter in three broad areas (i) mobilising matter and engineering social change (ii) edges moral borders, visceral boundaries and (iii) mediation, affect and presence.

    From October 2010-June 2012 I have funding for a research project entitled Unsettling the State: Law, Engineering and Regional Government in Cusco, Peru. This is a collaborative project with Deborah Poole, an anthropologist working at Johns Hopkins University.

    The project is funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Science Foundation/AHRC.


Book Chapters


Social life of methods

Infrastructures of Social Change

  • The UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is leading the development of a new cross-Research Council research programme on Connected Communities in partnership with the EPSRC,...

  • Research on the construction and use of digital models in projects of urban change.

  • Roads to Development: Uneven Modernities and the Politics of Knowledge was an anthropological study of road building in Peru, based upon ethnographic fieldwork which was funded by the ESRC (Award...

  • The project 'Experimental States' was born of a methodological question: how to deploy ethnography, known for its attention to detail, to the everyday, the subjective, the relational, the...

  • In January 2014, we began a new research project about big data and urban waste management in collaboration with the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA). The aim of this project is...

  • The project was funded by the ESRC’s Impact Acceleration Accounts in collaboration with the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA). The primary concern of the research was to stage a...

Cultural Values and Politics: Social Cohesion and Expertise

  • This pilot research project focuses on the digital models currently being built and used by urban designers in Manchester. The project asks how such models render diverse realities and knowledge...

  • A major integrating interest has been in how various social network approaches and methods can be used to develop new insights into social cohesion. We have conducted a literature review to...