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Professor Fiona Jordan

Professor Fiona Jordan

Professor Fiona Jordan
BA(Auck.), BSc Hons (Auck.), PhD(Lond.)

Professor of Anthropology

Area of research

Cultural Phylogenetics

43 Woodland Road,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1UU
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+44 (0) 117 954 6078


I am an evolutionary and linguistic anthropologist who studies cultural evolution. Like most anthropologists, I want to understand cultural diversity. There are two parts to that inquiry: Why do humans–a single species–have so much variation in behaviour and culture? But: Why don’t human societies vary more? My work seeks to do cross-cultural research in new and innovative ways by combining methods, data, and theory from biology, psychology, anthropology, and linguistics. My core subfield is cultural phylogenetics: understanding cultural diversity using the same statistical tools that biologists use to investigate evolutionary and diversity processes in other species. I am particularly interested in kinship and language, and my primary region of interest is the Austronesian-speaking world. My published work has ranged widely: demonstrating the use of phylogenetic techniques to study Pacific prehistory and language dispersal; biocultural adaptation in the human sex ratio; cultural transmission of craft techniques; inferring past aspects of kinship and family structures; the evolution of semantic systems conceptualising colours and body parts; and modelling land tenure evolution. I also have broad interests in a number of evolutionary approaches to human behaviour, as well as the intersections of language, culture, and society.


My undergraduate degrees were combined in a conjoint BA/BSc in Anthropology and Biology/Psychology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where I also completed an Honours programme in evolutionary psychology. My PhD was obtained from University College London in Anthropology, where I also held an AHRC-funded postdoctoral position in the Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity. After four years as a Staff Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, I moved to Bristol in 2012. I am currently a Professor in Anthropology.



I teach broadly across anthropology, with a focus on linguistic and evolutionary anthropology.

Teaching 2016--present

  • Evolution & Human Behaviour (2nd year, core)
  • Sociolinguistic Anthropology: Language, Culture & Society (3rd year, option)
  • Culture & Mind (3rd year, option)
  • Dissertations (3rd year core)

I also contribute lectures to the following units:

  • Peoples, Cultures, Languages (1st year, core)
  • Human Challenges (3rd year, core)



I am interested in supervising MPhil or PhD students in topics of cultural evolution, linguistic anthropology, and kinship.

Please see my research group's webpages (excd.lab) for more details and for any announcements of funded positions or scholarship calls. 



  • cultural phylogenetics
  • evolutionary anthropology
  • kinship
  • cross-cultural analysis
  • Austronesian languages
  • linguistic anthropology



Department of Archaeology and Anthropology

Academics by department

Selected publications

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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