Dr Deema Kaneff

Deema Kaneff

Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies
Reader in Social Anthropology

Contact details

Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies
School of Government
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham,
B15 2TT, United Kingdom


  • PhD in Social Anthropology, University of Adelaide, Australia
  • BA with Honours in Anthropology, University of Adelaide, Australia


Dr Kaneff gained her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Adelaide, Australia, before taking up a postdoctoral position at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, England.  In 1999 she became a founding member of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany, as a Senior Research Fellow.

She continues her affiliation with the Max Planck Institute as an Associate, as well as holding her present position (since August 2007) as Reader in Social Anthropology, Birmingham University.

Dr Kaneff has carried out long term fieldwork in Bulgaria, in both rural and urban areas and during the socialist and postsocialist periods, and, since 2000, also in Ukraine.  She has worked on a range of topics, including: local politics and state building, property relations, postsocialist transformations and global capitalism, markets and moralities, transnational migration, and social exclusion and inequalities. She is the author of: Who Owns the Past: The Politics of Time in a ‘Model’ Bulgarian Village (Berghahn, 2004) and a number of edited volumes (see below for these and other publications).

Dr Kaneff has been awarded a number of research grants (see other activities below) and has taken a leading role in initiating and supporting networks of scholars across Europe – she is a founding member of the International Association for Southeast European Anthropology (InASEA).


Courses taught:

  • European Societies: A Cross Cultural Perspective
  • Global Capitalism and Migration

Dr Kaneff has also taught a wide range of courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels on topics including: Introduction to Anthropology; Anthropological Understandings of the Balkans; Development and Emerging Inequalities in Europe; Researching Russia and Eastern Europe; Postsocialism and Postsocialist Development; as well as lecturing on research methods (especially ethnographic).

Previous teaching experience:

Before taking up her present position at the University of Birmingham, Dr Kaneff has taught  at various universities around the world, including:

  • University of Adelaide, Australia
  • Cambridge University,  England
  • Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

She is also highly experienced in supervising PhD students - on various topics - both in Germany (while at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) as well as, more recently, in the UK (at the University of Birmingham).


Research Interests

Trained as an anthropologist, Dr Kaneff’s  research is based on carrying out ethnographic fieldwork in particular rural and urban sites in Bulgaria and Ukraine for protracted periods of time (amounting to a number of years).


Topics researched:

  • postsocialist reforms -  especially property relations, emerging market relations, rebuilding the state and new political elites
  • local-national politics
  • migration – rural-urban and transnational
  • social exclusion/inclusion
  • informal economy


Topics researched:

  • postsocialist reforms – especially property relations, privatisation and emerging tensions
  • migration
  • rural development  
  • religion and identity
  • informal economy

Current and Recent Projects

  • 2012-14 - Bulgarian Science Fund, Bulgaria.
    Title of project: ‘Bulgarian Churches Abroad: Orthodox Values of National Identity’.  Dr Kaneff was an international consultant for the project.
  • 2010-2013 - British Council Grant, UK.
    Title of project: ‘Innovative teaching and research through academic partnerships’ between the University of Birmingham, UK, and the Kazakh-British Technical University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Lead Partners: G. Yemelianova (University of Birmingham) and S. Zhanabayeva (Kazakh-British Technical University).
  • 2003-2006 - Volkswagen Foundation Grant, Germany.
    Title of project: ‘Political, Economic and Social Inclusion and Exclusion in Bulgaria and Poland’.  Co-directed with C. Hann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany) and F. Pine (Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London, U.K.).
  • 1995 - Richard Carley Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, USA
    Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, U.S.A.
  • 1994 - Nuffield Small Grant in the Social Sciences, U.K.

Other activities

Professional Appointments

  • Associate Member of Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany
  • External Reviewer for the Nordic-Russian Cooperation Programme in Higher Education and Research, on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation
  • Member of Editorial Board ‘European Studies in Socio-Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology’,  Berghahn Press
  • Member of the Editorial Board, Südosteuropa
  • Member of Editorial Board,  Anthropology
  • Member of Editorial Board,  Bulgarska Ethnologia
  • Founding member, International Association for Southeast European Anthropology (InASEA)
  • Member, European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)


Books/Edited Volumes:

2011 Global Connections and Emerging Inequalities in Europe. Perspectives on Poverty and Transnational Migration, coedited with F. Pine, London: Anthem Press.

2006State borders and local boundaries: the case of Bessarabia (Moldova and Ukraine)’, Anthropology of East European Review, special edition, co-editor Monica Heintz. Vol: 24, Issue:1.

2004 Who Owns the Past? The Politics of Time in a 'Model' Bulgarian Village, Oxford: Berghahn.

2004  Memory, Politics and Religion: the past meets the present in Europe, co-edited with F. Pine and H. Haukanes, Halle studies in the anthropology of Eurasia No.4.  Münster: Lit Verlag.

2004 ‘Owning Culture’, Focaal, European Journal of Anthropology, special section editor, no. 44.

2002 Post-Socialist Peasant? Rural and Urban Constructions of Identity in Eastern Europe, East Asia and the Former Soviet Union, co-edited with P. Leonard. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave.

Selected Journal Publications:

2013 ‘Privatizing the Borders. Human rights and the British visa regime’,  Anthropology  Today, Vol: 29(2): 8-12.

2011 ‘Generations, unemployment and exclusion in urban Bulgaria’, Naselenie, Vol: 12:121-134.

2008 'Market activity and EU expansion: British involvement in the Bulgarian property market', Slovak Sociological Review, Vol 40(6), pp 530-547.

2006 ‘Holiday location or agricultural village?  British property owners in rural Bulgaria’ in Eastern European Countryside, Vol 12, pp 79-92.

2006 ‘Introduction: Bessarabian Borderlands: one region, two states, multiple ethnicities’, in Anthropology of East European Review, co-authored with M Heintz, Vol 24/1, pp 6-16.

2004 ‘Introduction: Owning Culture’, co-authored with A King, in Owning Culture, Focaal, European Journal of Anthropology, no 44, pp 3-19.

2002 ‘Why People Don’t Die ‘‘Naturally’’ Anymore’: Changing Relations Between ‘the Individual’ and ‘the State’ in Post-Socialist Bulgaria, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol 8, no 1 (March): pp 89-105

Selected Book Chapters:

in press, ‘Neoliberal property markets and spaces of immorality’, in  Everyday life in the Balkans, eds. D.W.Montgomery and A. Konitzer, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

2017, ‘Economies of Favour amongst Local Elite: comparing a case from rural Bulgaria and rural Ukraine’, in  Economies of Favour after Socialism: a comparative perspective, (eds) N. Makovicky and D. Henig, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2013 ‘Rural-Urban Relations in a Global Age’ in Global Villages. Rural and Urban Transformations in Contemporary Bulgaria, (ed) G. Duijzings,  London: Anthem Press.

2011 ‘Emerging Inequalities in Europe: Poverty and Transnational Migration’, coauthored with F. Pine, in Global Connections and Emerging Inequalities in Europe. Perspectives on Poverty and Transnational Migration, coedited with F. Pine, London: Anthem Press, pp. 1-36.

2009 ‘Property and Transnational Neoliberalism: the case of British migration to Bulgaria’, in Accession and Migration. Changing policy, society and culture in an enlarged Europe, (eds.) J. Eade and Y. Valkanova, Surrey: Ashgate, pp. 59-74.

2002 ‘The Shame and Pride of Market Activity: Morality, Identity and Trading in Post-

Socialist Rural Bulgaria’, Markets and Moralities: Ethnographies of Postsocialism, (eds), C. Humphrey and R. Mandel, Oxford: Berg.

1998 ‘When ‘‘Land’’ Becomes ‘‘Territory’’: Land Privatisation and Ethnicity in Rural

Bulgaria’ in Surviving Post-Socialism: Gender, Ethnicity and Underclass in Eastern   Europe and the Former USSR, (eds),  S. Bridger and F. Pine, London: Routledge.

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