UCL Anthropocene


Dr Julia Shaw

Academic position: Associate Professor in South Asian Archaeology

Department: Institute of Archaeology

Email: julia.shaw@ucl.ac.uk

UCL website: Dr Julia Shaw


I have been carrying out landscape-based research on religion, socio-ecological change and water and land-use in South Asia since 1998.  My current work focuses on the deep history of medico-environmental worldviews and its relevance for discourse on the global biodiversity and climate-change crises. My forthcoming book focuses on interactions between lowland irrigated agriculture and upland forest-based lifeways, and corresponding monastic, state, and 'alternative’ community governmentalities of land and water resources in India. It also draws on current grassroots environmental activism over river and forest conservation, and management of urban natures, weeds and insects, and its relevance for reconstructing past landscapes and identifying voices of marginal, oppressed and dissenting agencies and attitudes regarding the entwined socio-ecological and medical outcomes of environmental and human relationships. Other research interests include traditional versus biochemical constructions of purity and pollution; intersections between archaeology, environmental activism, and the medico-environmental humanities; and ecological public health, epigenetics and exposome theory. I co-run a Cambridge-based campaigning group, aligned with Pesticide Action Network UK, that works with local councils and other stakeholders to explore alternatives to synthetic pesticide use in public and private urban spaces. The results of this work feed into my research into the history of urban landscaping, including gardens, and the ways in which grassroots urban wildlife, biodiversity and climate-change activism shapes public attitudes towards urban ‘nature’ and its ‘management’, including synthetic pesticide-use. 

Research Projects

  • PI: Fields, Gardens and Forests: Upland:lowland Interactions and Environmental Worldviews in Ancient India (current).
  • PI: Urban Natures, Toxicities and Public Attitudes Towards ‘Weeds’, Insects and ‘Pest’ Control in the Wake of Grassroots Biodiversity and Climate Change Activism (current).
  • PI: Religion and 'Nature' in Ancient India: The Ecological Motif in Buddhist and Brahmanical traditions (British Academy / Leverhulme Small Grant). 2016-2017.
  • PI: Archaeologies of Well-being: Environmental Ethics and Buddhist Economics in Ancient India (British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship). 2014-15.
  • Collaborator: One Health, Deep History (PI: Naomi Sykes. Exeter University. Funding: Wellcome Trust). 2017-18.
  • PI: Landscape, Water and Religion in Ancient India (British Association for South Asian Studies Grant). 2006-8. 
  • PI: Sanchi Survey Project (Funding: British Academy and various). 1998-present.



All of the courses that I coordinate or contribute towards include sessions on climate /Anthropocene narratives and medico-environmental worldviews and ethics.
ARCL0050 Archaeology of Early South Asia (Coordinator, runs in alternating years, available 2021/22)

ARCL0052 Archaeology of Early-Historic South Asia (Coordinator, runs in alternating years, not running 2021/22)

ARCL0154 Archaeology of Buddhism (Coordinator, not running 2021/22)

ARCL0152 Archaeologies of Asia (Contributor, available in 2021/22)

ARCL0120 Archaeology of the Silk Roads (Contributor, available in 2021/22)