The Outer Limits

Soldier with head in hands

Witnessing the work of military surgical teams in Afghanistan caused conflicting emotions in an academic author and a sense of the futility of war and of his own profession

Svalbard, Norway

An academic conference in the world’s northern-most human settlement was a profoundly unsettling – and enlightening – experience for Randy Malamud

Indian prison bars

James Tooley reflects on who helped him, who let him down and what he learned from his time in prison in Hyderabad

An academic researching the Camorra talks to John Elmes about Kalashnikovs and pizza, investigating a closed community, and how she stays safe

Clive Oppenheimer and Wwerner Herzog standing beside volcano

Clive Oppenheimer recounts dodging lava bombs and gunmen as he guided the director to global hot spots for his film about volcanoes

Group of people standing near baobab trees, Madagascar

David Mould had to navigate cartoon lemurs and other barriers in order to help local academics study factors hindering development

Children playing, viewed through open window, Dharavi, Mumbai

An academic who takes students from the UK to Mumbai to lead a community theatre programme tells Chris Parr how the project affects all who take part

Resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) in flight, Mexico

Neil Reid is fulfilling a childhood dream and working in a cloud forest in Honduras, where the natural wonders and the need to defend them can push the region’s dangers out of mind

Unified Communist Party of Nepal supporter with painted face

John Elmes talks to Paul Jackson about the politics scholar’s central role during negotiations between the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels

Human skull lying in-grass, researcher Kate Spradley in background

Matthew Reisz on the scientific benefits of leaving corpses out to rot

Armed Iraqi fighters standing on smoke-covered road

Academic Victoria Fontan has borne witness to Iraq’s unfolding tragedy. She discusses encounters with Islamic State and US troops and her fears for the country’s future

Children inside water pipes, Marina Beach, Chennai, India

James Tooley ran into trouble while researching low-cost private education in developing nations

To study mass tourism, Hazel Andrews entered a world of binge-drinking, sexism and racism. She describes why she did it and what she learned

For 15 months, social geographer Jane Dyson lived in a mountain village with young Indian workers, bonding over ‘mountain ice cream’

Donna Yates is tackling the illicit trade in antiquities, and although it can be dangerous, the archaeologist says it’s a world away from Lara Croft

An academic talks about her experience, the impact on her work and the long road to recovery

Tanya Bunsell’s immersion in the world of weightlifting yielded insights into steroid use and ‘muscle worship’

Elisabeth Kendall’s work on jihadist poetry led to tribespeople seeking her expertise

The academic who says riding the waves can boost cross-cultural communication and sustainable tourism

Data gathering can be a dangerous business, oceanographer Penny Holliday tells Paul Jump