Marella Sophie Hoffman is a social and political scientist who takes a 'big picture' approach to the individual, their culture and the politics that shape both. Much of her work is transdisciplinary and applied.

A former Cambridge University academic, she has also lectured or held research awards at universities in France, Switzerland, Ireland and the US , and has worked extensively for government. A Fellow of Britain's Royal Anthropological Institute, she uses ethnographic oral history to build bridges between academia, communities and government. She was for a decade chief editor of a public policy magazine in Cambridge, communicating policy to poorer communities in 40,000 copies per year. Her projects boosting civic participation in poor and ethnic communities have been taught as best practice models by government agencies.

In her moving book Asylum under dreaming spires - Refugees' lives in Cambridge today, a dozen extraordinary life-stories intersect across the spaces between academia, ethnography and public policy, with the city of Cambridge as a central character. Her ethnographic book Savoir-faire des Anciens, written in French with an 88-year-old hermit shepherd, has been described as 'life-changing'. Her recent book for Routledge - Practicing oral history to improve public policies and programs - teaches how to use ethnographies and oral testimonies to implement social change. Her next book, under contract for publication by Routledge in 2019, teaches how to use oral testimonies to improve policy outcomes for refugees and host communities.

For an overview of all her books (pictured below left), click here.

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current projects

A keen windsurfer, Hoffman often puts the wind and water before the busy calls of the world. But recent work includes...

  • Preparing a workshop on her books and methods for the Dangerous Oral Histories Conference in Belfast in June 2018, and a presentation for the American Oral History Association conference in Montreal in October.
  • Buying Caussarieu, a writers' retreat centre nestled between the Bordeaux vineyards and forest, to share with visiting writers and thinkers from 2019 onwards
  • Translating her French book Savoir-faire des Anciens: the English-language version - Wisdom of the Elders, Learning Ecology in a French Mediterranean Village - will be published in 2019. It will include practical self-help tools to apply the book's grounded ecological wisdom in our own lifestyle, wherever we are.  
  • Giving a conference presentation in Minneapolis on her recent book for Routledge, Practicing oral history to improve public policies and programs
  • Dr. Mathew Staunton, book-making specialist at the Sorbonne University in Paris and editor of Onslaught Press, Oxford, producing a beautiful private collectors' edition of Hoffman's book Savoir faire des Anciens - Un village des Corbieres Maritimes, hier et demain
  • Ethnographic research in Ireland and the Irish-American USA on Catholic ritual practices around the body, home and landscape. For a transnational study between rural Irish villagers and their Irish-American descendants. Explores the place of religions in the multi-cultural, secular twenty-first century, building on work funded by Cambridge University and the University of Notre Dame, USA.
  • The publication of Gooseworld, (click on Gooseworld to read the text) - an eco-poem by Hoffman to mark the 10th anniversary of The Goose, A journal of arts, environment and culture in Canada (click here to browse this interesting journal).
  • Moving offices! (see below for photos) The Big Picture office is moving from France's Mediterranean coast to near its Atlantic one. The destination is Caussarieu, Hoffman's new writer's retreat centre in Sauternes, among the Bordeaux vineyards. Information will be here from early 2019 about the writers' retreat accommodation there.  

Click on Books to view some recent publications.


big news! The big picture office is Moving...

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see some Work

Hoffman's writing base in France, The Eyrie - in a nature reserve 15 minutes from the Mediterranean beach at the top of this page - is up for sale! Have a virtual visit here... of this beautiful house and grounds.

The Big Picture office is expanding to Caussarieu, a forest property in the Bordeaux vineyard region, with acres of private land and independent accommodation to host writers on retreat. Watch this space for a tour of the new venue soon, or to come and visit...