Tom Neumark

Postdoctoral Fellow
Image of Tom Neumark
Norwegian version of this page
Phone +47-22858925
Postal address Postboks 1116 Blindern 0317 OSLO

Academic interests

I am a social anthropologist with a long-standing research interest in interventions that seek to alleviate poverty and ill-health in East Africa.

I am particularly interested in how expertise is being imagined, deployed and (re)negotiated within the existing epistemological hierarchies that have historically underpinned these sorts of interventions. I currently explore this by focussing on emerging technologies, such as smart phones, off-grid electricity and machine learning. These technologies are considered capable of 'leapfrogging' historical developmental and infrastructural pathways and, in the process, interweave with the production of new futures of expertise in Africa.

My research interests began in Kenya with a long-term study of unconditional cash transfer schemes that aim to curtail technocratic expertise while recognising the epistemological sovereignty of the poor. My book, Caring Cash (in press with Pluto Press) explores how the care within but also for certain relationships among the urban poor in Nairobi was revealed, enabled and provoked by such schemes. 

Most recently I have been studying Tanzanian-led efforts to design digital technologies that respond to the unevenness of infrastructures of medical expertise in the country. This current research is based at the Institute of Health and Society, and is part of the European Research Council project "Universal Health Coverage and the Public Good in Africa" led by Dr. Ruth Prince. I am interested in how hopes and valuations around different sorts of digital health technologies, data and expertise play out in diverse spaces, from health clinics to hackathons. I explore these through an appreciation of a longer postcolonial, history of donor-funded, and more recently financialised, development and global health interventions in Africa. 

Building on this research, from 2023 I will be leading a new research project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council, titled Bits, bytes and bodies: Local innovation and digital healthcare in Tanzania.


I studied at the University of Oxford and Durham University, before receiving my PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge. Prior to my current position at the University of Oslo, I was a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, and before that lectured in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

Grants, appointments and partnerships

  • Principle Investigator, Bits, bytes and bodies: Local innovation and digital healthcare in Tanzania, University of Oslo (Norwegian Research Council, Researcher Project for Scientific Renewal, 2023-2027)
  • Co-Investigator, mHEALTH-INNOVATE (led by NIPH), Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo (Norwegian Research Council 2022-2025)
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute for Health and Society and Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo (European Research Council: 2019-present)
  • Research Fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, University  of Edinburgh (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council: 2018-2019)
  • Teaching Associate, Supervisor and Affiliated Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge (2014-2018)
  • Honorary William Wyse Student/Domestic Research Studentship, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge (2010-2014)


At SUM, I currently co-convene the MA course Research Methods and Project Design (SUM4100) and in 2022 led a PhD course, Digitalisation, Health and Society. In a previous position at the University of Cambridge, I convened and taught courses on Economic Anthropology (SAN2), and Social Protection and Welfare (SAN8). There I also provided small-group teaching on a range of anthropological topics including anthropological theory, kinship, economics, politics, development and humanitarianism and political economy.

I currently supervise the following PhD student:

  • Josephine Namitala (University of Oslo/Makerere University)



2023. Caring Cash: Free Money and the Ethics of Solidarity in Kenya. Pluto Press. In press. 

Peer-reviewed articles, and book chapters

2022. Digital diagnostics from Tanzania: beyond mere technological fixing? Social Science and Medicine. (Open Access and available online)

2022. Leapfrogging the Grid: Off Grid Solar, Self-reliance and the Market in Tanzania. Social Anthropology 30 (2), 140-160 (Open Access).

2022. Curious Utopias: Dreaming Big Again in the 21st century? (Introduction to special issue) With Ruth Prince. Social Anthropology 30 (2), 1-15 (Open Access). 

2021. Solar Power and its Discontents: Critiquing Off-grid Infrastructures of Inclusion in East Africa. With Jamie Cross. Development and Change 52 (4), 902-926 (Open Access)

2021. Digital health in East Africa: Innovation, experimentation and the market. With Ruth Prince. Global Policy 12 (6), 65-74 (Open Access)

2020. Trusting the poor: Unconditional grants and the caring bureaucrat in a Kenyan slum. Anthropological Quarterly 93 (2), 119-149

2019. Inequality. In A Research Agenda for Economic Anthropology (ed) J. G. Carrier. Edward Elgar Publishing.

2017. ‘A good neighbour is not one that gives’: Detachment, ethics and the relational self in Kenya. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 23, 748–764.

Editorial work

2022. Curious Utopias: dreaming big again in the 21st century? With Ruth Prince. Special issue for Social Anthropology 30 (2)

Non-peer reviewed articles and blogs

2020. The hype and hope of data for healthcare in Africa. Somatosphere.

2013. Surviving on identity. Vision – Cambridge University International Development Society (Easter Term) p.g. 10 - 11


Tags: Social anthropology, East Africa, Development and humanitarianism, Global health Digital and data, Renewable energy, Ethics and morality
Published June 20, 2019 1:13 PM - Last modified Sep. 27, 2022 12:18 PM