Dr Anthony Pickles

Dr Anthony Pickles

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Assistant Professor in Social Anthropology

Contact details

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a social anthropologist with interests in economy, politics, digital technology, societal transformation and the future. I have done research in Papua New Guinea, the UK and the USA. My published work is often about gambling, but also anthropological theory, corruption, spreadsheets, markets, money and even pockets. I am currently working on a project about political gamblers influence on wider perceptions of politics.


  • BSc in Anthropology (University College London)
  • MRes in Social Anthropology (University College London)
  • PhD in Social Anthropology (St Andrews, funded by ESRC)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


I am a political and economic anthropologist working on capitalism, economic innovation, risk, colonisation, development and globalisation through its local collisions. I focus on economic life as experienced by people on the ground, most notably on gambling activity as a crucible for examining wider experiences of socio-economic and political rupture.

I am currently conducting research into political gambling and prediction markets, as a global phenomena at the cutting edge of shaping contemporary political understanding.

My ethnographic fieldwork in urban and rural Papua New Guinea began in 2009 during my PhD (University of St Andrews, 2013). I joined the University of Birmingham as Assistant Professor in Social Anthropology in 2023. In the interim I held research fellowships, one from Trinity College, Cambridge and then one from The British Academy (held in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge). Then I taught social anthropology and international development at the University of East Anglia, 


  • Social Life of the Economy (optional module for second- and third-year undergraduates and masters)
  • Research in Practice (core module for second-year undergraduates)
  • Undergraduate dissertation supervision

Postgraduate supervision

Economic anthropology, Oceania, gambling, political anthropology, anthropology of the future, anthropology of finance, anthropology of elites

Find out more - our PhD African Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Locations: Oceania (the Western Pacific), Papua New Guinea, the UK, online ethnography.

Topics: cash/money, cash transfers, corruption, socio-cultural escalations, ethnomathematics, experimental ethnographic methods, gambling, gifts, history of anthropology, informal economy, intra- and extra- family transfers, markets, pocket-use, sports, social change, technological adoption, the theory of economic transfers, new technologies, forecasting, prediction. 


Recent publications


Pickles, A 2019, Money Games: Gambling in a Papua New Guinea Town.


Pickles, A & Costa, PSD 2021, 'It is Christ or corruption in Papua New Guinea: bring in the witness!', Oceania, vol. 91, no. 3, pp. 349-366. https://doi.org/10.1002/ocea.5315

Pickles, AJ 2021, 'The escalation of gambling in Papua New Guinea, 1936–1971: notable absence to national obsession', History and Anthropology, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 32-46. https://doi.org/10.1080/02757206.2020.1790361

Pickles, A 2020, 'Distribution and denomination in Papua New Guinea: a field method and its results', Journal of Cultural Economy. https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2019.1684338

Pickles, A 2020, 'Transfers: a deductive approach to gifts, gambles, and economy at large', Current Anthropology. https://doi.org/10.1086/706880

Pickles, A 2017, 'To Excel at bridewealth, or ceremonies of Office', Anthropology Today. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.12325

Pickles, A 2014, ''Bom bombed kwin': How two card games model kula, moka, and goroka', Oceania. https://doi.org/10.1002/ocea.5061

Pickles, A 2014, 'Introduction: Gambling as analytic in Melanesia', Oceania. https://doi.org/10.1002/ocea.5057

Pickles, A 2013, 'Pocket Calculator: A Humdrum 'obviator' In Papua New Guinea?', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.12047


Pickles, A 2024, Gambling crowds as crypto-oracles? Bridging the real and the blockchain through utopian markets and oracular shenanigans. in M Shapiro (ed.), Crypto Crowds: Singularities and Multiplicities on the Blockchain. Critical Interventions: A Forum for Social Analysis, vol. 21, Berghahn Books Ltd, pp. 66-83. https://doi.org/10.3167/9781805392927

Pickles, A 2016, Gambling. in Cambridge Online Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. https://doi.org/10.29164/16gambling

Pickles, A 2014, Gambling Futures: Playing the Imminent in Highland Papua New Guinea. in Pacific Futures Projects, Politics and Interests.

Pickles, A 2013, 'One-Man One-Man': How Slot-Machines facilitate Papua New Guineans' Shifting Relations to Each Other. in Qualitative Research in Gambling . https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203718872


Pickles, A 2023, 'Comment by Anthony J. Pickles on Guido Sprenger's 'Expectations of the Gift: Toward a Future-Oriented Taxonomy of Transactions', Social Analysis, vol. 67, no. 1.

Review article

Pickles, A 2014, 'Goddard, Michael. Out of place: madness in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. xiv, 173 pp., map, bibliogr. Oxford, New York: Berghahn Books, 2011. £42.00 (cloth)', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.12124_25

View all publications in research portal


Gambling, political gambling, Papua New Guinea

Languages and other information

English, Tok Pisin.

Media experience

Radio and television interviews and writing for cross-over media (e.g. The Conversation).