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Debra McDougall

Senior Lecturer In Anthropology
science & technology
life sciences & biomedicine
solomon islands
arts & humanities
Debra McDougall's Profile Picture

Debra McDougall

Debra McDougall's Profile Picture

Debra McDougall


Debra McDougall is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Director of the Anthropology Major at the University of Melbourne. She is a scholar of Oceania with expertise in the anthropology of religion, language and culture, and gender relations; she has a growing interest in the anthropology of education and global socio-economic, political and epistemological inequality.

Over two decades, her ethnographic and historical work has explored dynamics of community making in Australia’s near neighbour, Solomon Islands, with particular attention to how religious commitments shape ordinary people’s visions of what a polity should be. Debra is author of Engaging with Strangers: Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands (2016), a historical ethnography that explored how people of Ranongga Island have managed relationships with strangers over more than a century, from the long distance warfare at the turn of the twentieth century to the struggles over resources and civil war that marked a transition to the twenty-first century. She has published numerous book chapters and articles exploring the dynamics of Christian conversion in Solomon Islands. Her current work is a collaborative project undertaken in partnership with Dr Alpheaus Zobule, founder and director of the Kulu Language Institute of Ranongga. This remarkable grassroots initiative from classes in basic literacy into a thriving campus where thousands of students study the grammar of their own small languages. With support from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne, the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, and the Endangered Languages Documentation Program at SOAS University in London, they are working to bring the lessons of this local movement to a broader public in Solomon Islands. Debra studied History at Penn State University as an undergraduate and completed her MA and PhD at the University of Chicago. Prior to coming to the University of Melbourne, she taught anthropology at the University of Western Australia and theNotre Dame University (Indiana). At the University of Melbourne, she teaches units on ethnographic methods, religion, kinship and family, and anthropological theory. She encourages students to write for one another and a broader public (see, for example, this blog She has also developed an subject (ANTH20014) that gives undergraduates hands-on experience doing ethnographic research on the hidden lives of students at the university.

Scholarly Works

Displaying the 26 most recent scholarly works by Debra McDougall.



Senior Lecturer In Anthropology

Social And Political Sciences


Australian Anthropological Society


Doctorate of Philosophy

University of Chicago