Dr Thomas Strong



Rowan House
1st Floor
(01) 708 6719


I received my BA in anthropology from Reed College in 1994.  My BA thesis analysed the sociocultural significance of blood supplies, focusing especially on HIV risk and blood donor eligibility guidelines.  As a staff research associate at the University of California in the 1990s, I conducted two years of ethnographic fieldwork with gay youth on the streets of San Francisco, looking closely at social knowledge related to sex and HIV.  An abiding interest in the sociocultural symbolism of blood and body drew me to the ethnography of Melanesia.  Fieldwork in 2000-01 & 2003 in highland Papua New Guinea focused on changing forms of gender, personhood, and exchange in the context of modernity.  Highlanders often interpret their experience of colonialism and Christian conversion through images bodily diminishment, decaying vitality, and the increased danger of witchcraft, changes summed up in a powerful contemporary cultural motif:  the idea that men's bodies are shrinking.  I completed a PhD in anthropology at Princeton University in 2004.  After lecturing for two years at the University of Helsinki, I came to Maynooth in 2008.  For three years I worked closely with the Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium and with East African students and colleagues to build capacity for social research on health and illness in the developing world.  I have since returned to a sustained focus on highland Papua New Guinea, conducting major fieldwork in 2013 and 2014 on contemporary witchcraft phenomena and how these express the disappointed promises of modernity.

Since 2009 I have been active in NGO and activist organisations in Dublin responding to the HIV crisis in Ireland.

Research Interests

Witchcraft, the body, HIV/AIDS, risk, misfortune, queer theory and LGBT studies; Papua New Guinea, the United States, East Africa

Former Project:  "Culture and Sexual Risk:  An Ethnographic Analysis of Gay Male Sexual Worlds in Ireland Today"  Irish Research Council COALESCE Research Fund (2019/125), Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme research strand.

Former Project, with LL Wynn (Macquarie) and Susana Trnka (Auckland):  "Invisible Monsters?: The Pandemic Imaginary of Infectious Pathogens and Infectious Bodies" Social Science Research Council COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant.

Peer Reviewed Journal

Year Publication
2021 STRONG T.; TRNKA S.; WYNN L.L. (2021) '“L'ENFER, C'EST LES AUTRES”: Proximity as an Ethical Problem during COVID‐19'. Cultural Anthropology, 36 (3):341-349. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2021 Strong, T (2021) 'THE END OF INTIMACY'. Cultural Anthropology, 36 :381-390. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2020 Drazkiewicz, E;Strong, T;Scheper-Hughes, N;Turpin, H;Murphy, F;Saris, AJ;Garvey, P;Mishtal, J;Wulff, H;French, B;Miller, D;Maguire, L;Mhordha, MN (2020) 'Repealing Ireland's Eighth Amendment: abortion rights and democracy today'. Social Anthropology, . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2009 Strong, T (2009) 'Vital Publics of Pure Blood'. Body and Society, 15 :169-191. [DOI]
2007 S.L. Eyre, E. Arnold, E. Peterson and T. Strong (2007) 'Romantic relationships and their social context among gay/bisexual male youth in the Castro District of San Francisco'. Journal of Homosexuality, 53 :1-29. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2006 Strong, Thomas (2006) 'Land and Life: Some Terrains of Sovereignty in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea'. SUOMEN ANTROPOLOGINEN SEURA, 31 :37-52. [Full-Text]
2002 Strong, Thomas (2002) 'Kinship Between Judith Butler and Anthropology?'. Ethnos, 67 :401-418. [DOI] [Full-Text]
1997 Strong, Thomas (1997) 'Blood/Money'. CRITICAL MATRIX, 6 :20-37. [Full-Text]
1996 Strong, Thomas (1996) 'Plastic Heart, Black Box, Iron Cage: Instrumental Reason and the Artificial Heart Experiment'. DISCLOSURE, 5 :25-53. [Full-Text]

Book Chapter

Year Publication
2018 Strong, Thomas (2018) 'Mary Douglas' In: International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Hoboken : John Wiley & Sons. [Link]
2017 Strong, Thomas (2017) 'Becoming Witches: Sight, Sin, and Social Change in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea' In: Pentecostalism and Witchcraft in Melanesia and Africa. Basingstoke, United Kingdom : Palgrave. [Link] [Full-Text]
2013 Strong, Thomas (2013) 'Judith Butler' In: R. Jon McGee, Richard Warms(Eds.). Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage Publications.
2008 Strong, Thomas (2008) 'Kinship between Judith Butler and Anthropology' In: Delamont, Sara & Paul Atkinson(Eds.). Gender and Research. Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage Publications.
2006 Strong, Thomas (2006) '’Dying Culture’ and Decaying Bodies' In: Sandra Bamford(Eds.). Embodying Modernity and Postmodernity: Ritual, Praxis, and Social Change in the South Pacific. Durham, NC : Carolina Academic Press.

Other Journal

Year Publication
2013 Gray, Patty and Thomas Strong (2013) 'Ethical Currents: The Place of Ethics in Ireland and Elsewhere'' Anthropology News, 52 . [Full-Text]
2002 Strong, Thomas (2002) 'Deceptive Faces' Letter to The New Yorker, 2002 .

Published Report

Year Publication
2019 Crook, Fufurefa, Hukula, MacLeod, Munau, Sar, Strong (2019) KUSWA: A case-study of indigenous participatory film-making in addressing gender violence and sorcery accusations, Papua New Guinea. Centre for Pacific Studies, .


Year Publication
2018 Strong, Thomas (2018) Dispossession as historical allegory: Observing Dublin’s housing crisis. New York: BLOG [Link]

Conference Contribution

Year Publication
2020 Thomas Strong (2020) Ending Anthropological Association of Ireland annual conference Zoom / DCU, 26/11/2020-27/11/2020.
2021 Thomas Strong (2021) RESPONSIBILITY Attributions of responsibility and modes of crisis response St.Andrews, .
2021 Pranav Kohli and Thomas Strong (2021) Pandemic Imaginaries: Making Sense of Covid-19 Social Death from Martyrdom to Pharmakoi: A Goat Herder’s Menagerie Maynooth University, 27/10/2021-27/10/2021.
2019 Thomas Strong (2019) Irish Research Council COALESCE Launch Culture and Sexual Risk: An Ethnography of Gay Male Sexual Worlds Today Dublin, .
2019 Thomas Strong (2019) Ireland’s Unfinished Business Civil Society Dialogue: Achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights for all Unmet Needs: HIV Dublin, .
2019 Thomas Strong (2019) Do Witches Have Human Rights? Cambridge Social Anthropology Cambridge University, .
2019 Thomas Strong (2019) Michael Somare is a Snake: Ideas and Images of Occult Government in Papua New Guinea Pacific Interest Group, Cambridge Cambridge University, .
2019 Thomas Strong (2019) Social Anthropology Senior Seminar Do Witches Have Human Rights? Cambridge University, .
2019 Thomas Strong (2019) Is Madonna a White Woman? Extra Virgin: The Madonna Symposium Sutton House, London, .
2019 Thomas Strong (2019) Making the Occult Public American Anthropological Association Vancouver, .
2019 Thomas Strong (2019) The Trouble with Men who Have Sex with Men Irish Sexual Practices Symposium University College Dublin, .
2018 Thomas Strong (2018) Life's Errors: Witches, For Example European Society of Oceanists Cambridge, .
2018 Thomas Strong (2018) Errors in Kinship: Witches, For Example University of Helsinki Helsinki, .
2016 Thomas Strong (2016) The Axiom of Enmity: A Papua New Guinea Example American Anthropological Association Minneapolis, .
2012 (2012) Who's Responsible European Association for Socail Anthropology Conference Paris, .
2010 (2010) Translation as Domination/Translating Domination: Problems in the Grammar and Vocabulary of Same-Sex Nordic Africa Days Turku, Finland, .
2010 (2010) The Subject of Sex in Melanesia: Notes on Comparisons Here and There European Science Foundation Workshop Philadelphia, .
2008 Strong, Thomas (2008) Why are Men in the Papua New Guinea Highlands Shrinking? Washington and Lee University Virgina, .
2007 (2007) Structural Loss: Some Papua New Guinea Examples Melancholic States Lancaster University, .
2007 (2007) “Colonial Nostalgia: A Papua New Guinea Example Memory from Transdisciplinary University of Tartu, Estonia, .
2006 (2006) Modernity’s Mood: Sorrow and Social Life in Melane American Anthropological Association San Jose, .
2006 (2006) Celebrity Interpellation and the Qualities of Bran Society for Cultural Anthropology Milwaukee, .
2005 (2005) Some Muddles in the (Super) Models: Brands In Betw Reed College, “Fashioning Anthropology Portland, Oregon, .
2004 (2004) Negative Connections: Town Life Haunted by the Vil Association for the Social Anthropology of Oceania Salem, MA, .
2015 Thomas Strong (2015) Policing Witchcraft: Quandaries of Law and Justice in Papua New Guinea Today American Anthropological Association Denver, .
2013 (2013) Disagreeing with Witchcraft: Steps Toward Making Local Criticisms Heard State, Society, and Governance Program, Australian National University Canberra, Australia, .
2012 (2012) Criminal Meanings: Infection, Intimacy, and the Law European Association for Socail Anthropology Conference Paris, .
2012 (2012) Gay Sex Now American Anthropological Association Annual Conference San Francisco, California, .
2012 (2012) Size and Sociality: The Genders of Social Change in Papua New Guinea American Anthropological Association Annual Conference San Francisco, California, .
2012 (2012) Size and Sociality: The Genders of Social Change in Papua New Guinea Department of Anthropology, St. Andrews University St. Andrews Scotland, .
2011 (2011) Everybody's Mad, Everbody's Sad: Epidemic Affect in Culture and Cultural Theory Finnish Anthropological Society Helsinki, .
2011 (2011) On Mrs. Robinson American Anthropological Association Annual Conference Montreal, .
2010 (2010) Beyond Europe: Social science research in Non-Western settings Lecture at Abo Academy Turku, Finland, .
2008 (2008) Infection as a Social Relation American Anthropological Association Annual Conference San Francisco, California, .
2008 (2008) Infection as a Social Relation American Anthropological Association San Francisco, .
2008 (2008) Privates and Counterprivates American Anthropological Association Annual Conference San Francisco, California, .

Book Review

Year Publication
2009 Strong, Thomas (2009) Mika Aaltola, Western Spectacle of Governance and the Emergence of Humanitarian World Politics . BREV
2008 Strong, Thomas (2008) Sandra Bamford, Biology Unmoored: Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology. BREV
2005 Strong, Thomas (2005) Adam Reed, Papua New Guinea’s Last Place. BREV
2004 Strong, Thomas (2004) Gilbert Herdt, Secrecy and Cultural Reality: Utopian Ideologies of the New Guinea Men’s House. . BREV
2002 Strong, Thomas (2002) Eric Silverman, Masculinity, Motherhood, and Mockery: Psychoanalyzing Culture and the Iatmul Naven Rite in New Guinea. . BREV
2002 Strong, Thomas (2002) Paul Sillitoe, An Introduction to the Anthropology of Melanesia, Social Change in Melanesia . BREV

Gov. Report or Document

Year Publication
2010 McCartney, D.; Quinlan, M.; Donlon, S.; Strong, T.; McAnulty, H. (2010) Living with HIV: All-Ireland findings from the 2010 European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS). GOV
Certain data included herein are derived from the © Web of Science (2023) of Clarivate. All rights reserved.

Professional Associations

Description Function From / To
European Society of Oceanists Member 12/12/2018 -
Anthropological Association of Ireland Member -
American Anthropological Association Member -
Finnish Anthropological Society Member -
Association for Social Anthropology of Oceania Member -


Start date Institution Qualification Subject
Princeton University Ph.D.
Reed College B.A.

Teaching Interests

I have been blessed with opportunities to conduct substantial fieldwork and research in very different places.  Between 1998 and 2015 I made several field trips to highland Papua New Guinea, initially focusing on ways in which the body mediates sociality and symbolism, and therefore also history and transformation, for the Dano-speakers of the upper Asaro valley.  In the course of fieldwork, I unexpectedly learned that the upper Asaro is an epicentre in a wave of witchcraft violence that has overtaken the country in the last many years. As a result, I am one of a handful of anthropologists to have witnessed a witch hunt in real time:  a fascinating and terrible thing to experience.  Analysis of the social dynamics of such outbursts of violence informs my teaching in classes such as Magic and Witchcraft, Medical Anthropology, Misfortune and Meaning, and Troubling Identities.

In a very different mode, I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork on gay male sexual culture since 1996, first as a young graduate student ethnographer working with young gay men on the streets of San Francisco as a research associate with the University of California, and most recently as a middle-aged American puzzling his way through the often furtive social worlds of gay male sexuality in contemporary Ireland.  Though the watershed in conceptions of sexual morality (as well as reproductive freedom, gender equality, transgender rights, and more) Ireland has witnessed makes this an especially fascinating time to do research here, it has also afforded insight into how sentiments we thought might have been superseded continue to structure the experience of sexuality for gay men (and everyone):  above all, sex is always shadowed by shame, much as the past is ever-present.  My research on gay men, sexuality, HIV, and more informs modules I offer on topic such as:  Ireland in the World, Medical Anthropology, Troubling Identities, and (in the postgraduate programme) Privates and Counterprivates.

The Ethnographer's Magic

With a bit of cheek, I teach anthropology as a kind of wizardry, or sorcery:  Anthropology puts a spell on you.  Once the spell takes hold, the student of anthropology can't fail to feel its effect:  it elicits (or imposes) the capacity to 'think otherwise.'  The basic principle of this form of magic is deceptively simple — it is to approach one’s own way of life as strange by becoming familiar with the ways of life of others. Familiarity, however, should not be confused with comfort or indifference; in learning about the lives of others, anthropologists wish to recognise difference, to value Otherness, without making it disappear.  Making difference vanish is the trickery (the illusionism) of other disciplines built on universalist theories of the nature of human beings (as rational economic actors, or as fragile subjects fated to this or that psychodynamic anxiety).  To appreciate Otherness without making it vanish, anthropology counsels an elementary equation:  we too are an Other.  The principle adheres to a law of magic on the order of those adumbrated by Frazer in The Golden Bough.  It is the Law of the Familiarstrange.  Anthropology shows the wonders to be created when we are able to yoke the power of the familiarstrange in order to think otherwise.