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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 1TB
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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 Senior Lecturer in Anthropology.


My core undergraduate teaching:

  • Introduction to Social Anthropology (1st year core unit)
  • Language, Culture, and Society (2nd year option)
  • Culture & Mind (3rd year option, beginning 2016)
  • Dissertations (3rd year core)

I also contribute lectures to the following units:

  • Advanced Issues in Archaeology & Anthropology (3rd year core)
  • Maritime Cultures (3rd year option)
  • Current Debates in Biological Anthropology (3rd year option)
  • Introduction to Biological Anthropology (1st year core)
  • Kinship (1st year core)
  • History & Theory in Anthropology (MA core)




  • 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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