Dr Ian McGonigle


Ian McGonigle is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology with research interests in religion, technology, and social theory. Previously, he was a Nanyang Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University, where he founded and directed a Global Science, Technology, and Society Laboratory. He has also held postdoctoral positions at Tel Aviv University, Harvard University, and the University of Cambridge. Currently, he serves as an Advisory Board Member of East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal (EASTS).


Ian received a BA in Biochemistry with Cell Biology from Trinity College Dublin in 2007; a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge in 2010; an MA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2013; and an AM in Social Anthropology, in 2015, and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology, in 2018, from Harvard University. 


As a biologist, Ian worked on resolving the structure-function relationships of ligand-gated ion channels, through site-directed mutagenesis studies, computational modelling, and electrophysiological and pharmacological assays. His work helped reveal the molecular basis of the selective insecticidal activity of Ginkgo biloba, an ancient Chinese herbal medicine. He also helped identify a novel agonist binding mechanism in an insect GABA receptor involving a double cation-pi interaction. His work was published in top scientific journals including Biochemistry, Biophysical Journal, The FASEB Journal, and The Journal of Neuroscience.


Ian’s work in the social study of science circles the role of science in identity formation and nation-building, taking two broad approaches: One set of projects has examined the ways biology refracts and reiterates individual and group ethnic and national identities, as, for example, in genetic testing, in intellectual property rights to ethnomedical knowledge, or natural product consumption. The second major line of work examines the ways states enrol the biosciences to build up national scientific prestige and to foster a vision of prosperous and healthy futures through initiatives such as national genome programs, national biobanks, or national scientific development plans. Together, these two bodies of research reveal the privileged role of biology in mediating ethnic and national identities and, consequently, in stabilizing national consciousnesses. His book, Genomic Citizenship (MIT Press 2021), based on his Harvard dissertation that won the Association for Middle East Anthropology dissertation award, expands on this theme and theorizes these relationships.


His second long-term ethnographic project focused on religious nationalism in contemporary Israel and examined how ethnic and indigenous identities get reified in the context of contested West Bank territories and its Jewish religious settlers. This project yielded a multi-award-winning ethnographic film and a co-edited volume titled Settler Indigeneity (McGill-Queen’s UP 2023), which documents and discusses the processes of settler-nativization in conversation with a variety of related literature in anthropology, cultural studies, Israel studies, religious studies, and settler-colonial studies. This project delineates the complex and sometimes surprising ways in which ethnoreligious identities and biblical textual traditions become concrete structures in the context of the contested West Bank. This material also led to an article that discusses the temporal experiences of the settlers in relation to the perception of fulfilled biblical prophecies.


As a filmmaker, Ian has produced and directed two documentary films. His first film, Redemption: Wine and Prophecy in the Land of Israel, explores religious nationalism through the lens of winemaking in contested territories. His second film, Technologies of the Soul: Ancient Wisdom in the Smart Nation, investigates the views of Singapore’s ten recognized religions towards contemporary technological change. These films have won more than a dozen international film festival awards and his films have been screened at selective venues around the world, including Ethnografilm Paris, Dhaka International Film Festival, Religion Today Film Festival, and Catalina Film Festival. Both films have been licensed for distribution by Salt Media in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines.


Ian is currently interested in the relationships between Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism) and social theory.

Certain data included herein are derived from the © Web of Science (2024) of Clarivate. All rights reserved.