Dynamics of Civilisation

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Impression of a jade seal designed by Professor Wang Mingming for CREDOC, containing the Chinese characters Xue (interpretation) and Wenming (civilisation).

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Centre for Research into the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC)
B05 Gordon House
29 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 7522



Watch CIVILISATION AND ITS CRITIQUES - CREDOC Seminar 1: Civilisation in Political Thought

Civilisation and its critiques: Perspectives from Archaeology


Monday 8th December 2014

Time: 4pm

Location: Room 612, Institute of Archaeology

University College London, Gower St, London WC1H 0PY

Click here for more details.


Images, diagrams, and tables in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Sep image

Images, diagrams, and tables have long been central to the representation and conceptualization of calendars and of their computation. In this workshop, we explore the use of these visual devices in this and other contexts in ancient and medieval primary sources.

The aim of the ERC Calendars project workshops is to share, discuss, and broaden our research with colleagues from the wider, international academic community. Our workshops are open to anyone interested.

The Eventbrite page for registrations is here

and the UCL workshop page is here

CREDOC Lecture on India: Wendy Doniger 

Hinduism: Civilisations in Contest and Conflict


Thursday 13th November 2014

Time: 6.30-8pm

Location: Gordon Street (25) E28 Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre

Register here.

followed by a reception from 8-9pm, Location: Gordon House 106

University College London, Gower St, London WC1H 0PY

Since the 6th century BCE, Hinduism has held in creative suspension two movements so different as to merit the title of separate civilisations: one is the dominant strain of ritual, of celebration of life, of family, of children, of sexuality, of food and poetry and sculpture and the worship of many gods; and the other is the strain of philosophy, of renunciation, of the drive to become released from the cycle of rebirth, through denial of the senses, of family life, of children. These two paths lived peacefully side by side, as available options for most Hindus, until the philosophical strain developed into a new form of Hinduism under colonization in the nineteenth century; and now, in a new, Fundamentalist avatar, it has introduced an unprecedented form of repression that threatens freedom of speech in India today.

Wendy Doniger

Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, Divinity School, University of Chicago. Author of over thirty books, The Hindus:  An Alternative History (2009) and On Hinduism (2013).

On the recent censorship of her publications in India, see an article by John Williams in the New York Times, 16 February 2014 - click here to see: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/books/author-resigned-to-ill-fate-of-book.html?_r=2

and Doniger’s own comment piece in The New York Review of Books, 8 May 2014, click here to see: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/may/08/india-censorship-batra-brigade/?insrc=whc

wendy_doniger_pic Bookshop Picture


Horizons of History: Framing Religion and Politics in India and Beyond


A workshop with Wendy Doniger on the politics of the longue durée and other temporal frames.

Friday 14th November 2014

Time: 2-5pm

Location: Department of Anthropology Common Room, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW

followed by a reception from 5-6pm


University College London, Gower St, London WC1H 0PY

Wendy Doniger’s lecture on 13th November will examine different ‘civilization[al]’ possibilities that have co-existed in India since the 6th century BCE. The lecture proposes an encounter between this longue durée and the short durée of a new Hinduism that imagines itself to be ageless. The accepted response up until now has been to describe these encounters as the difference between history and historicity or historical consciousness.

We are used to thinking about the politics of spatial framings and historiographical metaphors (short-term and long-term histories; ‘micro’ versus ‘oceanic’), but what about temporal horizons? We are all aware of the dangers of ‘foundational’ approaches. Yet how might we reconcile them with arguments (such as that of Dipesh Chakrabarty) about ‘geological’ time in relation to narratives of human intervention in climate change and the predicament of species survival?

Such wide horizons also raise the question of what is sometimes called the ‘ontological turn’: how can ‘local’ histories be reconciled with the wider frame of longer term histories? What are the modalities through which the political claims of short and longue dureés can be best evaluated?

The workshop will pursue these issues through the interventions of an invited group of panellists including:

C.A. Bayly (Cambridge)
Jo Cook (UCL)
Faisal Devji (Oxford)
Kevin Fogg


Dave Rampton (LSE)
Nira Wickramasinghe


Civilisation and its critiques: Perspectives from Archaeology


Monday 8th December 2014

Time: 4pm

Location: UCL Institute of Archaeology, room 612

31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY

More information here.

Mike Rowlands, Andrew Bevan, Dorian Fuller & David Wengrow will give the final seminar in the Term I Institute of Archaeology Research Seminar series highlighting current research at the Institute on 8 December.


Gordon Childe's definition of civilisation based on a list of cultural traits (urbanism, trade, literacy, early states, monumental art etc.) has been the most influential archaeological contribution to the debate. What is present archaeological thinking on its utility? Perhaps now used more for the focus on particular aspects rather than 'civilisation' per se - the implications are critical. 

A CREDOC meeting will be organised at the research seminar to debate current archaeological thinking on the utility of the concept of civlisation from different perspectives (eg scale, stage, transformation, transmission etc.).

The UCL Centre for Research on the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC) seeks to understand the social phenomenon of 'civilisation' and to challenge the role it is being made to play in the modern world.

Page last modified on 17 nov 14 10:07