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Professor Jamshid Tehrani

Head of Department

Head of Department in the Department of Anthropology
Professor in the Department of Anthropology+44 (0) 191 33 41631
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing+44 (0) 191 33 41631


My research focuses on how culture evolves as it gets transmitted from person to person and from generation to generation. I am interested in understanding what makes some things catch on, others die out, and how these processes shape patterns of cultural diversity within and across populations. I was trained in social anthropology at the London School of Economics and gained a Master's degree in Human Evolution and Behaviour at University College London. I remained at UCL to study for a PhD in Anthropology (2005), writing my thesis on the transmission of craft traditions in Iranian tribal groups. In 2006 I took up a postdoctoral research fellowship at the AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity (CECD) at University College London, before joining Durham in 2007 as a RCUK Fellow. I was appointed as a Lecturer in Anthropology at Durham in 2012 and made a Chair in 2020. In 2022 I took up the role of Head of the Department of Anthropology. My current work focuses mainly on the transmission of popular narratives, such as traditional folktales, urban legends and modern day conspiracy theories.

Research interests

  • Cultural evolution
  • Phylogenetic analysis of culture
  • Social learning
  • Cognitive anthropology
  • Oral traditions
  • Fairy tales


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Supervision students