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UCL Anthropocene

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Centres and Projects

Below we highlight some of the projects and initiatives led by members of UCL Anthropocene that highlight and address the urgent realities of the Anthropocene.

We believe that we need a wide range of forms of knowledge to address the multifaceted questions raised by the idea of Anthropocene. Recognizing the complementary insights that different disciplines bring, the Anthropocene questions the academy’s usual division of labour between the social and natural sciences. It also raises profound questions about the proper valuing of indigenous knowledge and non-scientific and artistic forms of practice.

We are interested both in the challenges that the Anthropocene sets academic disciplines as well as how research and practice challenges the concept of the Anthropocene.

UCL Anthropocene is a workshop for rethinking our disciplines, and their constitutive relations in response to a concrete and urgent set of questions.


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The Centre for the Anthropology of Sustainability (CAoS) is a research centre drawing together the wide range of work of international excellence that questions what social and environmental sustainability means in different global contexts. Anthropology at UCL, with its four-field approach (social, biological, medical and material) examines these unfolding processes of establishing multi-species liveability based on multi-disciplinary studies in a wide range of global contexts.

Our research examines the cultural and social dimensions of sustainability, on the interdependence of cultural diversity with biological diversity, on local and global understandings of the concept that challenge dominant views, and on lived practices around the world that exemplify how humans can become part of multi-species living arrangements that will endure well into the future.

 CAoS blog  /  Follow @CAOS_UCL

Man at well
The Climate and Water Research Unit (CWRU) at UCL is a multidisciplinary network of scientists examining the interaction between climate and terrestrial hydrological systems and working together to address fundamental questions pertaining to the characteristics and dynamics of the global hydrological system and their consequences for our life-support systems.

Research Centre: Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS)

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Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) is a situated, bottom-up practice that takes into account local needs, practices and culture and works with broad networks of people to design and build new devices and knowledge creation processes that can transform the world.

ExCitesS blog / Follow @UCL_ExCiteS

Exhibition: Objects of the Misanthropocene

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This exhibition will form part of this year’s UCL Slade Scientist in Residence 2019-2020 projects. It is an experimental lab between the Institute of Archeology (IoA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, utilising speculative fabulation as a means of future making/world building, in testing the use of speculative design methods in heritage practice.

This temporary exhibition aims to question the authority of museum exhibitions in truth production about past and future worlds by presenting a time travelling exhibition of objects from the future. It will provide a certain future perspective on our uncertain present. The archaeological and geological artefacts of the Misanthropocene will be fabricated (through a series of online Slade/IoA workshops May- October 2020) to reflect different predicted futures found in literature about the Anthropocene. These insouciantly fabricated exhibits will be presented as a selection of time travelling objects loaned from the Museum of Beyond in the University at the end of the longest pier in the world (this is one part of a larger speculative design project developed by Goldsmith’s at Rhyl, North Wales).


    Fictional Exhibition:

    Traps as Artworks and Artworks as Traps

    Hermione Spriggs, Practice-based PhD research, UCL Anthropology/Slade School of Fine Art, 2018–

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    As famously noted by the anthropologist Alfred Gell, works of art and animal traps operate upon the attentional bias of their viewer/prey in conceptually analogous ways. My project begins with this analogy, detailed by Gell in his essay “Vogel’s Net: Traps as Artworks and Artworks as Traps” (1996), and progresses through an ethnography of pest control trapping in and around the North York Moors. Responding to calls across the arts and sciences to mobilize thought beyond anthropocentric frameworks, this project asks how hunters understand their relationship to animals through trapping, how this new knowledge can be used to inform works of art that attend more integrally to beyond-human worlds, and how the ‘conditions of display’ surrounding successful traps might be used to suggest where and how art is exhibited.

    Click here to view the panoramic exhibition.

    Glasgow Science Centre
    This is an international design competition to speculatively rethink museums as a radical form of climate action. Winning entries will contribute to an exhibition to be held at Glasgow Science Centre ahead of and during COP 26, as part of the AHRC Heritage Priority Area project.

    In the lead-up to COP26, the team invites concept and design proposals that radically reimagine the museum as an institution to help shape meaningful climate action. The aim is to explore how rethinking the design, purpose and experience of museums can help society make the deep, transformative changes needed to achieve a net-zero or zero-carbon world.

    Eight competition winners will be awarded £2500 each to develop their ideas for an exhibition at Glasgow Science Centre ahead of and during COP26.

     

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    The project seeks to critically evaluate the history of what is viewed as an ‘epidemic’ of chronic and non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa and provide an historical account of the evolution of chronic and non-communicable diseases in Africa, going beyond a simple account of ‘transition’, and to contribute to wider debates on the nature of epidemiological change. 

    This project is funded through a five year Wellcome Trust Investigator Award held by Megan Vaughan at the Institute for Advanced Studies, UCL. The team works in an interdisciplinary mode, combining anthropological, historical and social science methods, in dialogue with colleagues in medicine and biological sciences. The work is inherently collaborative with colleagues in Ghana, South Africa and Malawi, in universities and beyond. They welcome enquiries from colleagues and health activists working in the field of non-communicable and chronic disease in sub-Saharan Africa.
     

    Blog: Co-existing with Covid-19

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    'Co-existing with Covid-19: Moving into the post-pandemic world with the social sciences' is an initiative from the UCL Medical Anthropology blog

    Following the success of the ‘Consciously Quarantined’ series, the team is now inviting submissions for their new, and ongoing, series ‘Co-existing with Covid-19’. They also encourage those who have already submitted to the ‘Consciously Quarantined’ blog series to repost for the new series, to provide reflections on these changes. Academics of any career stage, as well as those working outside of academia, should submit articles of 600-1200 words reflecting on life alongside Covid-19 from a social science perspective.

    Please send submissions to Rebecca, Sahra, and Aaron with ‘COVID19 BLOG’ as the subject. Please include a short bio and 2-3 images in your submission. Find out more about submitting a story here.

    Project: Nature4SDGs

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    The Nature4SDGs project is a 2-year collaboration between academic institutions in UK, India and Sweden. They leverage multiple existing datasets on the relationship between nature and wellbeing, and how this varies for different types of people in varied parts of the Global South.

    The aim is to support the delivery of Agenda 2030 by understanding trade-offs and synergies between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the challenge of sustainable development that leaves no-one behind. 

     

    Project: PIMA (ended in 2016)

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    PIMA was a three-year interdisciplinary research project which aimed to discover how Tanzania's Wildlife Management Areas have changed people's lives and their effects on wildlife and the environment. Recent papers on the project: