Catherine Trundle

Senior Lecturer School of Social and Cultural Studies


Teaching in 2017

Dr Catherine Trundle profile picture


ANTH (Hons), MA (VUW), PhD (Cambridge)

Research specialties

My research centres on the politics of inclusion and exclusion, citizenship and intersubjective ethics. I have interests in: medical anthropology and science and technology; charity, humanitarianism and volunteering; militarism; aging; the ethics of responsibility, compassion, and detachment; contested illness and environmental health; and political anthropology.

My doctoral research in Florence, Italy, examined the role of charity practices in migrant communities (Americans in Tuscany: Charity, Compassion and Belonging, Berghahn 2014). Through participant observation research, I examined how financially secure American expat women negotiated their social, economic and symbolic ties to Italy through the medium of charitable acts and fundraising. As many of the recipients of charity were socially and economically marginalised migrants from developing nations, this research in part explores how wealthy migrants constituted subjecthood through their engagements with, and categorisation of, other migrant groups.

Americans in Tuscany centrally engages with contemporary anthropological debates about morality and ethics, humanitarianism and the gift. The book’s themes reflect my ongoing intellectual interests in the ethical and emotional labour of charity volunteering, in how the ideals and practices of compassion, detachment, cynicism, hope, disappointment, empathy, civic-mindedness and Christian hospitality are negotiated, cultivated, understood and enacted within humanitarian endeavours.

Since 2009, I have also been researching military veterans’ claims for healthcare and the politics of recognition and responsibility. Specifically, I am examining New Zealand and British nuclear test veterans who are currently seeking state recognition, increased healthcare entitlements, and compensation for ill health, which they attribute to radiation exposure.

Through this project I am engaging with medical anthropological ideas of contested illness, exposure, risk, proof, in/visibility and uncertainty. Thanks to a Royal Society Marsden grant, I am exploring the ideals and practices of Military Citizenship, a term I use to encapsulate they ways in which veterans make claims on the state. I am thus interested in ethical, political, medical, military and juridical enactments of responsibility, entitlement, duty and obligation.

I am interested in supervising masters and doctoral students in the field of medical anthropology (particularly in the areas of contested illness, aging, environmental health, veterans’ health, the politics of healthcare, and STS); charity, humanitarianism, volunteering and development; ethics; citizenship; and the politics of inclusion and exclusion.

Recent publications


2015 (ed. with Thomas Yarrow, Matei Candea & Jo Cook). Detachment: essays on the limits of relational thinking. Manchester : Manchester University Press

2014 Americans in Tuscany: Charity, compassion and belonging, Berghahn, New York.

2010 (ed. with Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich). Local Lives: migration and the politics of place. Aldershot: Ashgate.


April 2014 (with Susanna Trnka). Competing Responsibilities: beyond neoliberal responsibilization. Anthropological Forum 24(2): pp. 136-153

2013 (with B. Scott). Elusive Genes: nuclear test veterans’ experiences of genetic citizenship and biomedical refusal. Medical Anthropology 32(6): 501-517.

2012 Review Essay: Military Citizenship: Emerging and Enduring Relationships between Soldiers and the State. Political and Legal Anthropology Review 35(2): 357–365.

2012 The Future of the Social Sciences: On Scientific Value, Impact, Error and Cynicism. New Zealand Sociology. 27(1): 103-110.

2011 Searching for culpability in the archives: Commonwealth nuclear test veterans’ claims for compensation History and Anthropology 22(4). 497-511.

2011 (with Chris Kaplonski). Tracing the political lives of archival documents. History and Anthropology 22(4). 407-414.

2011 Biopolitical endpoints: Diagnosing a deserving British nuclear test veteran, Social Science & Medicine. 73(6): 882-888.


2015 (with Matei Candea, Jo Cook and Thomas Yarrow). Introduction. In M. Candea, J. Cook, C. Trundle & T. Yarrow (Eds.).  Detachment: essays on the limits of relational thinking. Manchester : Manchester University Press

2014 (with Ilina Singh and Christian Broer) Fighting to be Heard: Contested Diagnoses  . In A. Jutel & K. Dew (Eds.)., Social Issues in Diagnosis: An Introduction for Students and Clinicians. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

2012 The transformation of compassion and the ethics of interaction within charity practices. In S. Venkatesan & T. Yarrow (Eds) Differentiating development: beyond an anthropology of critique. Oxford: Berghahn Books: pp. 210-226.

2012 Memorialising the Veteran Body: New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans and the Search for Military Citizenship. In K. McSorley (Ed.) War and the Body: Militarisation, Practice and Experience. London: Routledge: 194-209.

2010 Against the gated community: contesting the ‘ugly American dream’ through rural New Zealand dreams. In C. Trundle & B. Bönisch-Brednich (Eds) Local Lives: migration and the politics of place. Aldershot: Ashgate: pp. 31-48.

2010 (with Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich) Introduction: Local Migrants and the Politics of Being in Place, In C. Trundle & B. Bonisch-Brednich (Eds) Local Lives: migration and the politics of place. Aldershot: Ashgate: pp. 1-16.

2009 Romance tourists, foreign wives or retirement migrants? Cross-cultural marriage in Florence, Italy. In M. Benson & K. O'Reilly (Eds) Lifestyle Migration: expectations, aspiration and experiences. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Memberships, appointments and other work

  • visiting Scholar, University of Michigan, 2014
  • Fulbright New Zealand Scholars Award. American Veterans with Dementia: Ageing, Care and Responsibility, 2014
  • Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fast Start Grant. The rights of servicemen and the politics of citizenship, 2011-2013
  • ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council, UK) International Training and Networking Opportunities Grant (with Dr Jo Cook, Dr Matei Candea and Dr Thomas Yarrow) Reconsidering detachment building an exploratory network. 2009-2010
  • William Wyse Completion scholarship, 2009
    Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand Top Achiever Scholar 2005-2009
  • Honorary Commonwealth Scholar, 2005-2009
  • Overseas Research Students Award (UK), 2005-2009
  • conference co-convenor: Reconsidering detachment: the ethics and analytics of disconnection, University of Cambridge, 30 June - 3 July 2010
  • conference co-convenor: The Political Life of Documents, University of Cambridge, 15 - 16 January 2010
  • conference co-convenor: Enacting improvement: the ethics of development and philanthropy, University of Cambridge, 6 October 2008.