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UCL Anthropocene

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Past Events

UCL Anthropocene programmes events which reflect the diversity of the subject, with regular seminars, lectures, debates and conferences through the year. See below for our previous events.

A full list of our recorded seminars can be found on our Event Recordings page here.

15 June 2021, 4:00-5:15pm

Engineering Vaccine Equity & The Future of Global Health Innovation

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqK40h7GMns

Roundtable: Gustavo Matta (Fiocruz), Priti Patnaik (Geneva Health Files), Penny Carmichael (UCL), Hyo Yoon Kang (University of Kent), hosted by workshop co-convenors Andrew Barry (UCL) and Paige Patchin (UCL)

Following a series of workshops, this final roundtable will see the panel sum up conclusions and answer the questions addressed over the course of the two previous days. Is it possible to both accelerate vaccine research and production and ensure global vaccine equity at the same time, or what might potential tensions between these two goals be? How far do biomedical innovations, such as new technology platforms, themselves points towards possibilities for significant transformations of traditional R&D models? To what extent to the demands for equitable vaccine access foster the creation of new biochemical infrastructures? What changes need to happen both to reduce the threat of pandemics on a similar scale, and to address the problem of vaccine equity?

11 May 2021, 5:00-6:00pm

The Challenge of the Anthropocene

Crops

During this event, Professor Sasha Roseneil chairs a panel of six experts drawn from the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences to discuss how research and teaching at UCL helps us advance thinking about the Anthropocene, as the world responds to the Covid-19 pandemic and prepares for the United Nations Climate Change conference, COP26, in November. 

Panel:

Link to event recording

1 March 2021, 13:00-14:00

Cultural Ecology - Colin Sterling, 'Reimagining Museums for Climate Action: An Ecological View'

john zhang

This talk will provide an introduction to the main themes and questions underpinning the Reimagining Museums for Climate Action project: an international design and ideas competition and associated exhibition to be hosted at Glasgow Science Centre ahead of and during COP26. Rather than focus on one specific type of institution or context, the RMCA project takes an expansive view of the museum field, asking how radical change in the sector might contribute to and inspire broader forms of climate action across society. Central to this is the idea that museums are ecological entities in their own right: complex eco-systems made up of human and more-than-human processes, forces, materialities and possibilities. Thinking about museums ecologically to address the climate crisis means considering everything from curating and conservation to recruitment and retail. It also means recognising that museums are densely entangled with wider social, cultural, political and environmental phenomena, from colonialism and capitalism to urbanisation and extractivism. As a quintessentially modern apparatus, the emergence and spread of the museum around the world tracks broader patterns of social injustice and ecological collapse. More recently however activists, Indigenous groups and grass-roots organisations have lobbied and mobilised museums globally to support more just and sustainable futures. Reimagining Museums for Climate Action responds to this critical conjuncture, where simultaneous calls to decolonise and decarbonise speak to a generational demand for lasting systemic change.

Image Caption: The British Museum of Decolonized Nature. © John Zhang

See the Cultural Ecology webpage for more information on the seminar programme.

17 December 2020, 4:30-6:00pm

Book launch and panel discussion: Sujit Sivasundaram’s Waves Across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire (William Collins, 2020)

Hosted by UCL Anthropocene in partnership with the UCL Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World.

sujit
With: Sunil Amrith (Yale), Debjani Bhattacharyya (Drexel), Margot Finn (UCL), Jagjeet Lally (UCL), and Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge)

Sujit Sivasundaram’s Waves Across the South is a wide-ranging and far-reaching new history of the origins of the British empire c.1790–1850. Inverting the usual northern focus on the ‘age of revolution’ it shows how empire, war, and counter-revolt were shaped by southern geographies and environments while being contested by indigenous communities. It does so by stressing the physical setting of the oceans as highways for mobile indigenous peoples who were independently exploring ideas of liberty and progress even while the British violently appropriated both peoples and ideas for themselves. Waves Across the South offers an integration of environmental, global, imperial, material, and southern histories. As Sivasundaram suggests, in our age of rising sea levels reflecting on how this global imperialism failed to flatten ocean-facing communities can help us ‘while the clock ticks for what can be done to turn around the environmental impact of globalisation and imperialism’.

Sujit will be discussing Waves Across the South with the leading historians of empire, environment, material culture, and Asia: Sunil Amrith, Debjani Bhattacharyya, Margot Finn, and Jagjeet Lally.

15 December 2020, 3:30–5:00pm

VIRTUAL EVENT: Toxic peanuts in the Anthropocene -  Noémi Tousignant (UCL, Science and Technology Studies)

Toxic Peanuts
“Anthropocene” invites us to tell certain kinds of stories about unnaturalness, pathogenicity and damage. What is the range of options, and what kinds of evidence are needed, for producing “Anthropocene accounts” of history, ecology and toxicity?

In this seminar, Noémi will reflect on these questions with respect to aflatoxins, metabolites of crop-colonizing fungi that are classified as carcinogens, as they arise in Senegal’s peanut economy.

Peanut farming has, since the early twentieth century, radically altered Senegalese landscapes, foodways and demography. Yet there is little data on how these changes may have affected fungal metabolisms, or on the parameters and effects of varying Senegalese exposures to aflatoxin-bearing peanuts.

Without such causal threads to pull on, can aflatoxin and its carcinogenicity in Senegal be historicized as effects of the peanut economy?

8 December 2020, 3:30-5:00pm

VIRTUAL EVENT. Staple Security: Procuring, Assessing, and Storing Wheat in Egypt - Dr Jessica Barnes (University of South Carolina)

Staple security
In Egypt, bread is fundamental to daily life. Most Egyptians eat bread every day, multiple times a day, many relying on the cheap bread subsidized by the government. The wheat from which this bread is made is widely grown within Egypt, but the government is reliant on imported wheat to meet the needs of its large subsidized bread program. To Egyptians, the possibility that their nation could run out of wheat, or that they might not have enough bread to eat is an existential threat. Jessica Barnes’ current book project, The Taste of Security: Wheat and Bread in Egypt, is about how various actors, from within the government to within a home, understand, experience, and respond to that threat. The book introduces the concept of staple security to refer to a set of practices that are oriented towards securing the continuous supply of a quality staple on a national, household, or individual level. Such practices range from scientists breeding new varieties of wheat that are productive and disease resistant to the government building silos for strategic grain storage, farmers growing wheat for homemade bread, and women freezing and heating loaves for their families. In bringing together these disparate domains of action, the book presents a novel theorization of the nexus between food and security, drawing attention to staples and the lengths to which people go to secure their consistent availability and quality.

This event focussed on one chapter of the book, which looks at how the Egyptian government procures foreign wheat, assesses grain quality, and stores wheat. A draft of the chapter was circulated to attendees in advance and the event was structured as an open discussion around the text, following a brief overview by Dr. Barnes and comments from a discussant.

1 December 2020, 3:30-5:00pm

VIRTUAL EVENT: Walking the Sound: Beside the Ocean of Time - Dr Carina Fearnley (UCL, Science and Technology Studies)

carina fearnley

How do individuals and communities understand Deep Time? A relatively short-term perspective is dominant in contemporary societies as they face the complicated ongoing consequences of landscape change on every aspect of the human life, from agriculture and provision of food and energy to the protection of natural or cultural landscapes. A more holistic and deeper knowledge is required.

The project ‘Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time’ aims to generate new understandings of the interrelationship between human community, Deep Time and landscape change by using an interdisciplinary approach that draws on Social Anthropology, Literature, Archaeology, Palaeoecology and Geology. The project team worked with Orcadian artist, Anne Bevan and our project partner, The Pier Arts Centre, to find innovative ways to investigate and represent time-depth in landscape, using Orkney in Scotland as a model. This research culminated in a Deep Time Festival with six public events, including a walk along the west shore, where attendees could experience, hear, and see new deep time perspectives to their familiar landscape, crossing nearly a billion years worth of time. This presentation provides an overview of the project and takes you for a walk along the west shore, to show how our interdisciplinary perspectives provided novel and engaging ways of thinking about deep time and humans relationships with the environment over varying timescales.

17 November 2020, 2:30–4:30pm

VIRTUAL EVENT: Contemporary Art in the Anthropocene

coverphoto

Expanding the focus on scientific data which is common to discourse on the subject, UCL Anthropocene emphasises the causal links between the conditions of human experience and escalating ecological collapse. In this vein, this se­minar will explore the potential of contemporary art practice in addressing the problems that the Anthropocene poses for our collective future.

Given the scope of the subject at hand, the format will be expansive and discursive. Each of the six contributing UCL artists will give a short presentation (10-15 minutes) to introduce the significance of the notion of the Anthropocene within their practice and point towards ways in which contemporary art might effectively address the environmental crisis. Afterwards, these perspectives will be brought into dialogue through a 30-minute round table discussion, which will also be an opportunity to welcome questions from the audience.

Contributing artists:

20 October 2020, 4:00–5:30pm

VIRTUAL EVENT: Double Book Launch — Algorithmic Governance in the Anthropocene. Hosted by UCL Anthropocene and the Institute for Advanced Studies.

ias

Celebrating the launch of 'New Laws of Robotics: Defending Human Expertise in the Age of AI' (Harvard, 2020) by Frank Pasquale (Brooklyn Law School) and 'AI in the Wild: Sustainability in the Age of Artifical Intelligence' (MIT, 2020) by Peter Dauvergne (University of British Columbia).

Respondent: Andrea Leiter (University of Amsterdam).

Image: collage by Michael Picard (IAS, UCL)

13 October 2020, 3.30-5:00pm - 'Earth Indices: On Evidence and Experiment' - Dr Simon Turner

Earth Indices EventExploring the background of the stratigraphic start of the Anthropocene through the Earth Indices: On Evidence and Experiment project.

A video recording of the seminar is available under 'Event Recordings' on the Resources page.

June 2020 - UCL Anthropocene hosts inaugural seminar series

anthropocene ucl

As part of our lead-up to the launch of UCL Anthropocene, a first series of seminar discussions for UCL staff and students was held.

This series was framed by two questions: What implications does the Anthropocene have for our disciplines? And what can our disciplines do to how we understand the Anthropocene?

In each seminar, contributors addressed the question of what the Anthropocene 'does' to their disciplines, and discussed the value of interdisciplinary thinking on the environment which UCL Anthropocene facilitates.

Recordings from each seminar are available under 'Event Recordings' on the Resources page.