Dr Paul Dresch

Dr Paul Dresch

Formerly Fellow by Special Election in Social Anthropology and Emeritus Fellow


I studied Human Sciences at Oxford, did doctoral work in anthropology in Yemen, was a Junior Research Fellow at St John’s for a time, and then moved to Michigan. I came back from there to Oxford and from then on have been based in Oxford. Mainly I’ve been interested in history, politics, and law. Most of my fieldwork was done in Yemen, some in the Arab Gulf. At present I am editing a set of texts on tribal law gathered variously by Ettore Rossi and R.B. Serjeant. Part of the fun is the sheer range of topics in Social Anthropology, from kinship to states and power, by way of colour-classification, concepts of time, social memory, ethnicity and much else.

Research Interests

So far, I have worked and written mainly on the Arab World. My great ethnographic love is Yemen, which I visit regularly. I have also done fieldwork in the United Arab Emirates, and my research students in recent years have worked in Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, as well as Iran and even northern India. My main research interests are in comparative historiography, politics, and (lately) law. 

Recent publications 

with Hannah Skoda (ed.), Legalism: anthropology and history, Oxford 2012

with Judith Scheele (ed.), Legalism: categories and rules, Oxford 2015

Rossi’s Kitâb al-Sinna: a seventeenth century note of tribal law in Yemen, Arabian Humanities (10) 2017

with Roy Ellen and John Horsley Russell Davis, Biographical Memoirs of the British Academy (XVII) 2018


Some principles and continuities of tribal law, in Brandt (ed.) Tribes in Yemen, Vienna 

Experience and its modes, in Scheele and Shryock (eds.) The Scandal of Continuity in Middle East Anthropology, Indiana