Professor Insa Koch

Professor Insa Koch

Visiting Professor

Department of Anthropology

English, French, German
Key Expertise
Britain and Europe

About me



Insa Koch holds the Chair of British Cultures at the University of Sankt Gallen. Previously she was Associate Professor in Law and Anthropology at the LSE. Trained as both an anthropologist and as a lawyer, Insa  works on topics including the democratic crisis and populist movements, processes of inequality, the welfare state and the criminal justice system. She is committed to engaging diverse publics in her research, and combines advocacy work with ethnographic research.

Insa's book with OUP, published in December 2018, is an ethnography of class, citizenship and punishment in austerity Britain. The book was awarded the 2020 Hart Book Prize for Early Career Academics by the Socio-Legal Studies Association. It was also shortlisted for the Hart-SLSA Book prize in the generic rubric. 

Insa's current research is on 'modern slavery', its moral-legal ramifications in relation to the illicit economy of so-called county lines and the legacies of Empire in contemporary Britain. She is also researching social polarisation in the Britain, including with respect to the unequal effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on vulnerable communities. 

In 2016, Insa was appointed Academic Fellow at Inner Temple. She is also a member of the LSE Mannheim Centre and a Faculty Associate of the International Inequalities Institute. She regularly contributes to public debates on inequality, law, politics, and the social effects of policy making in advocacy circles, on social media and in policy forums.

Expertise Details

Anthropology of Britain and Europe; political and legal anthropology; class inequalities; criminal justice; welfare; modern slavery; Empire; post-colonialism; populism; democratic crisis

Selected publications


 2018       Personalizing the State: An Anthropology of Law, Politics and Welfare in Austerity Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press

-              Winner, 2020 Hart-SLSA (early career) Book Prize

-              Runner-up, 2020 Hart-SLSA (general rubric) Book Prize

Special Issues of Journals

 2020       Special Issue on “The state of the welfare state” (with Deborah James). Ethnos (advance online publication)

2018       Special Issue on “Moral economies of housing’” (with Catherine Alexander and Maja Hojer Bruun). Critique of Anthropology 38(2): 121-139


Forthcoming       “From criminals to slaves: ‘modern slavery’, drugs trafficking, and the cultural politics of victimhood in postcolonial Britain. Current Anthropology

2021      “Moving beyond institutional differences: towards a critical anthropology of law beyond the doctrine of separation of powers”. Part of ‘Emergent Conversations 14’ published in POLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 44 (2) 

2021      „Everyday authoritarianism: class and coercion on housing estates in neoliberal Britain“ (with Ryan Davey). POLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 44(1): 43-59 

2021       “From social security to state-sanctioned insecurity: how welfare reform mimics the commodification of labour through greater state intervention“. Economy & Society 50: 1-23 

2020       “Social polarisation at the local level: a four-town comparative study on the challenges of politicising inequality in Britain” (lead author; with Drs Mark Fransham; Sarah Cant, Jill Ebrey, Luna Glucksberg and Professor Mike Savage). Sociology 55(1): 3-29 

2020       “The state of the welfare state: advice, governance and care in settings of austerity” (with Deborah James). Ethnos (advance online publication) 

2020       “The guardians of the welfare state: universal credit, welfare control and the moral economy of frontline work in austerity Britain”. Sociology 55(2): 243-262 

2019       “Turning human beings into lawyers: why anthropology matters so little to the legal curriculum'”. Journal of Legal Anthropology 3 (2): 99-104 

2018       “Towards an anthropology of global inequalities and their local manifestations: social anthropology in 2017”. Social Anthropology 26 (2): 253-26 

2018       “The matriarchs of the home: unspeaking subjects in times of austerity”. Feminists@law 8 (2) 

2018       “From welfare to lawfare: environmental suffering, neighbour disputes and the law in UK social housing”. Critique of Anthropology. 38 (2): 253-268 

2018      “Political economy comes home: on moral economies of housing’” (with Professor Catherine Alexander and Professor Maja Hojer Bruun). Critique of Anthropology 38(2): 121-139 

2017       “What's in a vote? Brexit beyond culture wars”. American Ethnologist 44 (2): 225-230 

2017       “When politicians fail: Zombie democracy and the anthropology of actually existing politics”. The Sociological Review 56(1): 105-120 

2017       “Moving Beyond Punitivism: Punishment, State Failure and Democracy at the Margins”. Punishment & Society 19(2): 203-220 

2016       “‘Bread and butter politics’: democratic disenchantment and everyday politics on an English council estate”.  American Ethnologist 43(2): 282-294               

2015       “‘The state has replaced the man’: citizenship, women and family homes on an English council estate’. Focaal - Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 73(13): 84-96 

2014       “Everyday experiences of state betrayal on an English council estate”. Anthropology of this Century 9 

Book Chapters

2020       “Changing care networks in the United Kingdom” (with Laura Bear, Nikita Simpson, Michael Angland, Jaskiran K. Bhogal, Rebecca E. Bowers, Fenella Cannell, Katy Gardner, Anishka Gheewala Lohiya, Deborah James, Naseem Jivraj, Megan Laws, Jonah Lipton, Nicholas J. Long, Jordan Vieira, Connor Watt, Catherine Whittle, Teodor Zidaru-Barbules) in Eckert, Andreas and Hentschke,  Felicitas. Corona and Work around the Globe. Work in Global and Historical Perspective 

2020       “Economies of advice” (with Professor Deborah James) in Aldenderfer, Mark, (ed.) Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Anthropology. Oxford: Oxford University Press 


2017       “When politicians fail: Zombie democracy and the anthropology of actually existing politics”. Reprinted as part of Reconfiguring the Anthropology of Britain: Ethnographic, Theoretical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Edited by Cathrine Degnen and Katharine Tyler. The Sociological Review Monograph: SAGE Publications