Discover the work of UCL Anthropocene with these event recordings from past seminars
Forthcoming UCL Anthropocene events can be found on our Events page.
- ‘Anthropocene and the Challenges of Deep Historical Imagination’
Pratik Chakrabarti (Manchester) with Anna Echterhölter and John Sabapathy (UCL) as discussants.
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- 'Original sin & the Anthropocene'
Sylvain Piron (École Des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris), with Juliane Schiel (Universität Wien) and Alexis Litvine (Cambridge) responding.
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- ‘Thinking with extinction’
A panel discussion with Elizabeth Boakes (UCL), Lee Raye (Open University), Sadiah Qureshi (Birmingham), & Sandra Swart (Stellenbosch), chaired by Sophie Page (UCL).
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- ‘What should historians do in the next decade of the climate crisis?’
A panel discussion with Andreas Malm (Lund), Julia Adeney Thomas (Notre Dame), and Ling Zhang (Boston College), chaired by John Sabapathy (UCL).
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- ‘Epistemicides and the resources of justification’
David Ludwig (Wageningen University), Elizabeth A. Povinelli (Columbia) and Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge)
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- ‘Animal History in the Anthropocene’
Erica Fudge (Strathclyde), Peter Adamson (King’s, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich), Dolly Jorgensen (University of Stavanger, Norway) and Nayanika Mathur (Oxford), chaired by Sophie Page (UCL).
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- ‘Teaching environmental history & the Anthropocene: challenges and possibilities’
A panel discussion with Karen Jones (Kent) and Mark Levene (Southampton), chaired by John Sabapathy (UCL), who also presented on behalf of Amanda Power (Oxford).
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- 'Climate in Motion: Science, Empire and the Problem of Scale'
A retrospective discussion of Deborah Coen's important book 'Climate in Motion: Science, Empire and the Problem of Scale' (Chicago University Press, 2018). Followed by commentary by Eva Horn (University of Vienna) and Richard Staley (University of Cambridge).
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The Challenge of the Anthropocene
Professor Andrew Barry (UCL Geography), Professor Dorian Fuller (UCL Archaeology), Dr Caroline Garaway (UCL Anthropology), Dr Sahra Gibbon (UCL Anthropology), Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) and Dr John Sabapathy (UCL History). Chaired by Professor Sasha Roseneil (Dean, Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences).
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.
Vanesa Castán Broto - The Uses of Messiness: For a Reparatory Reading of the Anthropocene
Humanity is operating in crisis mode. The climate emergency has developed into panic responses. Declarations of emergency have swept institutions, following a youth-led social movement that has built momentum for a radical transformation. Promises of radical transformation proliferate in academic discourse, both from the natural and social sciences. Transformation thinking seeps into policy and practice—prescriptions for a Green New Deal, which in Europe have crystalized into a continent-wide plan for action, contain the promise of a government-led global transformation.
One characteristic feature of those responses is a concern with reordering the world. Many of these epochal narratives have a tone of nostalgia, looking back to a well-ordered past when climate change was not yet a concern or perhaps when we lived ordered, unpolluted lives. Practices of ordering are visible in international climate change governance, climate urbanism, and everyday climate change action. However, this impulse towards ordering has already encountered the messy realities of the world. The spectre of authoritarianism haunts the deployment of a politics of ordering in climate change.
In this lecture, I propose to engage with an alternative, reparatory reading of the landscape of climate change action. Such reparatory reading requires embracing the world as messy and harnessing that messiness as a means for delivering situated actions for a heterogeneous edifice of hope.
Vanesa Castán Broto is Professor of Climate Urbanism, University of Sheffield, UK, where she heads a research group on that topic. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded project LOACT (Low Carbon Action in Ordinary Cities) and of the GCRF-funded project (for now) CESET (Community Energy and Sustainable Transitions in Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique). She is also a Lead Author of the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group II.
Suzanna Sawyer - Radical Inspections: Of Sensorium as Toxic Proposition
This project explores the processes that compelled an Ecuadorian court in 2011 to find Chevron liable for $9 billion, and compelled the US District Court in 2014 and Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2018 to delegitimize the Ecuador ruling for being procured through fraud.
Working against Chevron’s corruption worlding, this talk offers a glimpse into the litigation in Ecuador that found Chevron culpable. It suggests that the Ecuador litigation (despite its flaws) serves as an instructive judicial assembly for reckoning near-intractable contamination disputes. By subsuming complex scientific evidence within experiential truths, unique evidentiary procedures in Ecuador triggered a process for distributing responsibility under the law. Given multiplying socio-ecological harms, this project hazards a method for thinking challenging environmental controversies and making sense of formidable corporate challenges.
Suzana Sawyer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis. She earned her undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley and PhD from Stanford University. Her work has focused on conflicts surrounding resource extraction (Crude Chronicles , Politics of Resource Extraction ).
Book launch - 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. 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’.
Contemporary Art in the Anthropocene
Contributing artists: Kat Austen, Rhona Eve Clews, Simon Faithfull, Christina della Giusina, Nick Laessing, Onya McCausland and Hermione Spriggs
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 se¬minar 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.
UCL Anthropocene Inaugural Seminar Series
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.
- Seminar 1: Geography+
Véra Ehrenstein (STS) – Science and Technology Studies (STS) and the Anthropocene
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Mark Maslin (Geography) – The Conjunction of all Disciplines
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Andrew Barry (Geography) – Early and Late Anthropocenes
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- Seminar 2: History & Politics+
Tom Pegram (Political Science) – What does the Anthropocene do to Politics?
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Nils W Metternich (Political Science) – Climate change and conflict
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John Sabapathy (History) – What does the Anthropocene do to History?
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- Seminar 3: Anthropology+
Jerome Lewis (Anthropology) – Anthropology in the Anthropocene
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Katherine Homewood (Anthropology) – What do Human Ecology studies offer the Anthropocene?
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Sahra Gibbon (Anthropology) – Medical Anthropology and the Anthropocene
- Seminar 4: Archaeology+
Manuel Arroyo Kalin (Archaeology) – Rewilding the Anthropocene in Amazonia
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Dean Sully (Archaeology) – Objects of the Misanthropocene
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Dorian Fuller (Archaeology) – Early Anthropocene carbon emissions
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Colin Sterling (Archaeology) – Heritage in the Anthropocene
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Elizabeth Graham (Archaeology) – The Future is Rubbish
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Engineering Vaccine Equity & The Future of Global Health Innovation
Panel: 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?
Book Launch - Hannah Knox's Thinking Like a Climate: Governing a City in Times of Environmental Change
Hannah Knox discusses Thinking Like a Climate, with responses from Dr Pushpa Arabindoo (UCL Geography and co-director of UCL Urban Laboratory) and Professor Andrew Barry (UCL Geography and co-convenor of UCL Anthropocene).
In her new book, Thinking Like a Climate, Hannah Knox confronts the challenges that climate change poses to knowledge production and modern politics. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among policy makers, politicians, activists, scholars, and the public in Manchester, England—birthplace of the Industrial Revolution—Knox explores the city's strategies for understanding and responding to deteriorating environmental conditions.
Climate science, Knox argues, frames climate change as a very particular kind of social problem that confronts the limits of administrative and bureaucratic techniques of knowing people, places, and things. Exceeding these limits requires forging new modes of relating to climate in ways that reimagine the social in climatological terms. Knox contends that the day-to-day work of crafting and implementing climate policy and translating climate knowledge into the work of governance demonstrates that local responses to climate change can be scaled up to effect change on a global scale.
Kat Austen: Artistic Approaches to the Echoes of Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuel use is essential to the anthropocene. In this presentation artist Kat Austen will discuss two artworks that address the topic of fossil fuel legacies. In the context of the climate crisis, Stranger to the Trees looks at microplastic, themselves a product of fossil fuel-intensive industrial processes, and their coexistence with trees in forests as carbon sinks. This Land is not Mine looks at the postextractive landscape of Lusatia as the region transitions from brown coal mining towards sustainability. Leveraging diverse methods including DIY science, acoustic ecologies and new material studies, Austen creates multimedia works that develop aesthetics of sustainability.
Kat Austen is a person. In her artistic practice, she focusses on environmental issues. She melds disciplines and media, creating sculptural and new media installations, performances and participatory work. Austen’s practice is underpinned by extensive research and theory, and driven by a motivation to explore how to move towards a more socially and environmentally just future.
- Florian Mussgnug - Ecologies of Grief: Narratives of Covid, Climate and Care
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- Colin Sterling - Reimagining Museums for Climate Action - An Ecological View
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- Andrew Patrizio - The Disappointing Apocalypse - Visualising Climate in Art Since the 1960s
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- Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham - Earth Logic - Radical Sustainability Action for Transforming the Fashion Sector and Beyond
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- Choreography as Climate Action: Inspiring the Environmental Movement Through Dance
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- Archaeology of Sacrifice: Mobilising Collaborative Artistic Practice Against Extractivist Violence
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- Listening, for a better world! Why sound, and the art of listening, hold the key to solving environmental crises
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Noémi Tousignant - Toxic Peanuts in the Anthropocene
“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?
Carina Fearnley - Walking the Sound: Beside the Ocean of Time
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.
Simon Turner - 'Earth Indices: Evidence and Experiment, A Golden Spike for the Anthropocene'
Exploring the background of the stratigraphic start of the Anthropocene through the Earth Indices: On Evidence and Experiment project.