Luci Attala Dip RN , Dip Body Language, BA (Hons), PG cert, Social Science (OU)

Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology


Tel: 01570 424941

Luci Attala

  • Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology
  • Faculty Learning and Teaching Lead
  • Sustainability Committee

Current Teaching

  • Introduction to Skill for the Humanities (Level 4)
  • Skill for Academic Study in the Humanities (Level 4)
  • People’s Worlds: Lives and Livelihoods (Level 4)
  • Interactions with the Environment: making things, transforming things (Level 4)
  • Anthropology in Context (Level 4)
  • Themes and Theories (Level 4)
  • Human Evolution (Level 6)

My interests are primarily ethno-botanical focusing specifically on plant agency. My work explores human-plant interactions and repositions them as plant-human relationships in an attempt to expose the abilities of plants, the mechanisms that draw human attention, and the value to plants of being used by humans. Using this ‘phyto-centric’ perspective my work draws on phenomenology and the ideas of the more-than-human, post-humanist and multi-species movements to reinterpret plants as ‘persons’ and as affective players in their relationships with humanity.

Presently, I am particularly concerned with the ethno-botanical relationships created via the consumption and digestion of vegetation. I am concentrating on the communicative capabilities and relational potential that occurs at the interface of digestion. Using the blending boundaries of ingesting, digesting and assimilating plant bodies, I explore the messages of consumption by examining the consequences of eating plants, with particular attention to effects such as hallucination and addiction.

I also examine the benefits plants receive by being eaten by humans through investigating the diverse cultural meanings associated with the plants that humans ingest – both medicinally and nutritionally – and am presently writing on the advantages to plants of being hallucinogenic taking the example of Ayahuasca as illustrative of the relationships plants forge with humans.

My ethnographic expertise is primarily associated with Africa, but I have also completed long term fieldwork in South Wales researching into Welsh alternative, acephalous eco-communities to determine the unifying mechanisms employed to stabilize mobile-membership ahierarchical communities including alternative conceptions of land, space, ownership and property. I am currently engaged in fieldwork with a community of Giriama subsistence farmers in rural Kenya exploring the traditional, spiritual and economic meanings of trees in association with a tropical reforestation and sustainable development initiative the farmers are co-creating with a partner community in Wales.

Prior to working in academia, I was a registered adult nurse. In connection to my previous career in the care industry I am also an Associate Lecturer for the Open University’s School of Health and Social Care. I teach two 60 credit modules designed to link care theory to practice: ‘An Introduction to Health and Social Care’ and ‘Adult Health, Social Care and Wellbeing’.

Since 2010 I have conducted annual fieldwork in the remote community of Bore near Malindi in the Coastal Province of Kenya commenting on the local responses to a reforestation initiative in the area. The region is subject to considerable tropical deforestation and is increasingly prone to severe droughts, floods and other unpredictable climatic changes. The increasing desertification is dramatically altering lifestyles.

To combat subsistence insecurity local farmers are attempting to diversify in order to achieve food sovereignty by shifting from a reliance on maize horticulture and herding to any available alternative – in this case having partnered with a Welsh farming community for support via a carbon forestry focused community link under the Welsh Government’s International Sustainable Development and Wales/Africa Programme.

Within this socio-political and environmental context, I work with the local Giriama farmers’ interpretations and solutions associated with the changing weather patterns and the socio-economic effects of the changes that their community is now undergoing. In connection, I am exploring the revitalization of the traditional methods and ontologies increasingly being seen as effective, immediate solutions to drought by the younger members of the group. In particular I focus on the local understandings of trees, tree planting, the forest in general and the spiritual part trees play in the production of rain.

In addition, I monitor and evaluate the project commenting on the implementation methods and the environmental consequences of the communities’ link where the exchange currency is trees and the product is carbon absorption. I have returned to Kenya each year since 2010.

Monitoring and evaluation report on the implementation of the Bore Climate Change Adaptation Scheme Wales/Africa Clean Energy Grant commissioned by the Welsh Government, 2012

‘Making sense of snakes: exploring the phenomenology of myth and the cosmogenetic properties attributed to the sign snake’ in Hurn. S (ed.) Cryptozoology: cross cultural engagements with mysterious creatures, Ashgate 

Articles in peer-reviewed journals

(with E-J Abbots) ‘A Good, Clean Fair Fight: Understanding the Embodied Spaces of Competitive Eating’ in Geoforum

Conferences and Panels Convened

‘Interfaces: The Consumption and Production of Becomings’ ASLE-UKI 2013: Ecological Encounters: Agency, Identity, Interactions. Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI) Biennial Conference, University of Surrey, 29-31 August 2013

‘Knowing plants’ at ASA conference Vital Powers, University of Wales Trinity St David

Conference Papers

Conversations over Dinner ASLE-UKI 2013: Ecological Encounters: Agency, Identity, Interactions Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI) Biennial Conference, University of Surrey

The Spirits Move Faster than God: Giriama accounts concerning waiting, the Kaya and the religious economy of prayer2013 Satterthwaite Colloquim on African ritual and Religion, Manchester University

Seeing Snakes and Vomiting: cross cultural symbol correspondences associated with consuming hallucinogens, Association of Social Anthropologists Conference, University of Wales Trinity St David

Luci was recently recognised by NIACE, and won an award for being an inspirational tutor based on her teaching at Lampeter.

Presently, Luci is active with The Community Carbon Link (CCL,) a not-for-profit organisation that attempts to link communities through carbon absorption. Luci has helped link Lampeter with Giriama in Bore near Malindi, Kenya through negotiations with the tribal elders to create a tree-planting initiative which is sponsored by WCVA and WAG. The project received a Gold Star Award and is now being used as a pilot project for the Size of Wales – a scheme, promoted and supported by the Prince of Wales, that aims to protect and plant an area of rainforest the ‘size of Wales’. The CCL has joined with The Great Primate Handshake to raise money to buy rainforest in that area too. Luci is also linked to the Ashinka in Peru in a similar tree planting programme.

Having originally trained as a nurse, Luci uses her expertise in both anthropology and health/social care to teach in the school of Health and Social Care for the Open University. There she is responsible for a selection of modules that concern themselves with how both health and care are conceived of as well as how they are best achieved.

Other areas of interest include – ethnobotany: the cross cultural use of hallucinogens; gender and performing sexuality; psychology and the mind; non-verbal communication

Luci is currently studying for an Msc in Psychology.