Sam Derbyshire is an anthropologist whose photographic work has primarily accumulated by means of his long-term ethnographic research in eastern Africa, where he has lived with and studied issues facing a series of rural communities pursuing a wide range of livelihoods and subsistence strategies.
Born in London in 1989, he studied a BA in Egyptian Archaeology at University College London before pursuing his masters and later his doctorate at the University of Oxford. He is currently a Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology at St John’s College, Oxford.
His interest in the histories, cultures and livelihood practices of communities making their way in remote and marginal regions of the world, and the ways in which such populations thrive and endure in the face of substantial ecological, economic and socio-political barriers, has led him to work under a variety of disciplinary banners. His research continues to comprise diverse theoretical and methodological influences, drawing together ideas and techniques from the fields of social anthropology, archaeology, history and photo journalism.
Drawing on fieldwork undertaken over the past decade in Uganda, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania he has sought to examine a range of critical issues facing non-industrialised peoples in the 21st century.
His exhibitions, newspaper and journal articles and other publications have explored themes such as: globalisation, socio-cultural resilience, pastoralist responses to climate change, the denial and neglect of pastoralist histories, the social dynamics and fraught politics of economic development and the visual and rhetorical representation of rural African societies in the popular press.
The focus of his most extensive research, and the foundation of his doctoral thesis, has been the 20th century history of the Turkana – a pastoralist people who occupy Kenya’s remote north-west. Sam has been involved with communities in southern Turkana since 2012, and between 2014 and 2016 he lived in the region for over 15 months conducting research amongst fishermen, herders, farmers and traders. He remains actively engaged in community life, exploring and emphasising local issues and concerns in the face of various ongoing large-scale infrastructural projects that seek to harness the region’s resources. His most recent fieldwork in Turkana has sought to examine the effects of climate change on diet and nutrition.
Over the coming years Sam is due to undertake an extensive cross-regional comparison of pastoralist histories and practices in central Sudan and northern Kenya by means of further long term ethnographic study.