Subjectivity and the Cultural Imagination

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Recent books by SCI members:

Animism in Rainforest and Tundra ed. Marc Brightman, Vanessa Elisa Grotti, and Olga Ulturgasheva

Truth in Motion by Martin Holbraad

Dreaming and Historical Consciousness in Island Greece by Charles Stewart

Cosmology, Religion, Ontology and Culture (CROC)



Bringing together researchers who share an interest in cosmologically informed approaches to anthropology, CROC’s research programme focuses on such topics as religion and ritual, mythical landscapes, indigenous knowledge, cosmologies of modernity, cosmopolitics, emergent imaginaries, and questions of ontological alterity. Run since 2005 as a fortnightly gathering of staff and students, CROC has established itself as one of the leading international centres for the anthropological study of cosmology, hosting regular seminars, major international events and collaborations, a series of on-going research projects, as well as fostering research-led teaching in the context of UCL Anthropology’s degree programmes. For more information, contact Dr Allen Abramson ( and/or Dr Martin Holbraad ( who run CROC together.

Research Projects

Martin Holbraad is presently preparing a major comparative research project on cosmologies of revolution, in association with the I-SCI research cluster on Images of Democracy and Revolution. Provisionally titled ‘Securing the Self: The Political Autology of Revolution’, the project builds on Holbraad’s previous research on socialist ethics and religion in Cuba (British Academy, 2004-06) and his on-going collaboration with the Centre for Advanced Security Theory, Copenhagen University, exploring the interface of anthropology and securitization theory in International Relations. The aim of the project is to provide a comparative ethnographic perspective on the emergence of new forms of revolutionary action and political organisation, and their relationship to cosmological dimensions of religious devotion and ascetic action in different contemporary settings. Incorporating current CROC research students working ethnographically on political subjectivities and cosmologies in Latin America and the Middle East, the project aims to be recruiting Doctoral and Post-Doctoral researchers during 2013 and 2014. More information will be posted here as the project develops in coming months.

Jerome Lewis, and social anthropologists working in the cross-disciplinary Resilience Project are focusing their research on the range of ways that people make their cosmologies manifest – from ritual action, music and dance, to taboo and myth, language styles, the gendered division of labour, social organization and spatial arrangements. Through detailed ethnography we seek to illuminate the processes that enable cosmologies to be re-discovered by each new generation, and to be made manifest through activities and artifacts that construct persons in particular and distinctive ways.

Allen Abramson is currently researching the spatial and cosmological coordinates of ‘extreme sports’, ‘outdoor activities’ and adventure practice (including space journeying) in neo-liberal contexts. Together with post-doctoral students in the department he is working up two projects. One is on the metaphorical appropriation of ‘extreme sports’ by third-sector, state and commercial organisations. The other is on the locii of cosmology-production in contemporary UK society, a project that will include studies of amateur astronomers and astrologers, but also contemporary religiosities from e.g. The New Age, Pentecostalism, Quaker and Unitarian denominations.


In November 2012 CROC hosted a panel in the  Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in San Francisco, on the theme Moving Scales and Scales of Movement: Cosmologies of Borders and Crossing Building on a workshop held at UCL on this theme in June 2012 (see below), the panel was chaired by Alice Elliot, and included papers by Alice Elliot, Tobia Farnetti, Martin Holbraad, and Antonia Walford, with Morten Axel Pedersen as discussant.

In June 2012 CROC research students Alice Elliot, Tobia Farnetti, Alison Macdonald and Antonia Walford organised the two-day workshop Moving Scales and Scales of Movement: Cosmologies of Borders and Crossings. Exploring how questions of movement and scaling creatively intersect at the level of ethnography, analysis and methodology, the workshop brought together researchers from the anthropology departments of UCL, LSE, Goldsmiths, Cambridge, Bergen, Aarhus and Copenhagen. In addition to graduate students from these departments, participants included Allen Abramson, Joanna Cook, Annelin Eriksen, Martin Holbraad, Morten Nielsen, Morten Pedersen, Knut Rio, Michael Scott, Marilyn Strathern and Brit Winthereik.

In May 2011 CROC organised a major international workshop on Contemporary Cosmologies and the Cultural Imagination, with speakers including Marshall Sahlins, Gregory Schrempp, Caroline Humphrey, Don Handelman, Stephan Feuchtwang, Morten Axel Pedersen, Knut Rio, Michael Scott, Soumhya Venkatesan, and Daniel Miller among others. An edited volume based on this event is currently under consideration by Manchester University Press (see below).

Students, Post-Docs, Associates

Alessandra Basso Ortiz
Dasa Bombakova
Alice Elliot
Diana Espirito Santo
Tobia Farnetti
Sergio Gonzalez Varela
Daniel Kircheff
Dimitra Kofti
Giannis Kyriakakis
Alison Macdonald
Tom McDonald
Camille Oloa Biloa
Galina Oustinova
Aaron Pankhurst
Julia Sauma
Matan Shapiro
Phil Swift
Beata Switek
Nico Tassi
Catalina Tesar
Antonia Walford
Ryan O’ Byrne

Teaching activities

Emerging out of the research activities of CROC, a course in Cosmos, Society and the Political Imagination is co-taught annually at UCL Anthropology since 2012 by Allen Abramson and Martin Holbraad at BSc and MSc level, and involves guest lectures by Professor Bruce Kapferer.

Selected Publications

Abramson, Allen & Martin Holbraad (eds.) Forthcoming in 2013. Cosmologies: Making Contemporary Worlds. Submitted to Manchester UP.

Lewis, Jerome. (In press 2013) A Cross-Cultural Perspective on the Significance of Music and Dance on Culture and Society, with Insight from BaYaka Pygmies. In Michael Arbib (ed) Language, Music and the Brain: A mysterious relationship. Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 10. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Tassi, Nico and Diana Espirito Santo (eds.) In press 2013. Making Spirits: Materiality and Transcendence in Contemporary Religions. London: I.B. Tauris Publishers

Abramson, Allen & Martin Holbraad. 2012. Contemporary cosmologies, critical re-imaginings. Religion and Society: Advances in Research, Vol. 3

Holbraad, Martin. 2012. Truth in Motion: The Recursive Anthropology of Cuban Divination. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press

Marc Brightman, Vanessa Elisa Grotti, and Olga Ulturgasheva (Eds) 2012 - Animism in Rainforest and Tundra. Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia, Berghahn Press, Oxford

Cook, Joanna.  2010.  Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Abramson, Allen. 2009. “The Lie of the Land: Suturing the Jural and the Ritual in Fiji, Western Pacific”. In: Freeman, MDA and Napier, D. (eds.) Law and Anthropology. Pp. 269-291. New York: Oxford University Press:

Lewis, Jerome 2008. Ekila: Blood, Bodies and Egalitarian Societies. In Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 14:2: 297-315

Abramson, Allen. 2006. Worlds of knowledge, cosmologies of skills: ethnography outdoors in a neo-liberal university. LATISS Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences 3(1): 5-28.

Amiria Henare, Martin Holbraad, Sari Wastell (eds.) 2006 - Thinking Through Things Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically, London: Routledge

Abramson, A and Theodossopoulos, D, (eds.) 2000 Land, Law and Environment: Mythical Land, Legal Boundaries. Pluto Press: London.

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