UCL Anthropology


Previous Seminars

Departmental Seminars 2016-17

Resilience - Merits and Critique of a Concept

  • Joint cross-section event (social anthropology, material culture, medical anthropology, biological anthropology)
  • Open to students, academics and the public
  • Daryll Forde Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, Taviton Street 14 (additional live-stream in the common room)
  • Wednesdays, 11:00-12:30, followed by a drinks reception

16 Nov 2016

Georgina Mace

(Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL)

People and Nature: Resilience to Extreme Weather

Dominant attitudes to nature in conservation over the past half century will be reviewed, illustrating fundamental shifts in foci and priorities. This concludes with arguments for moving away from preserving the components of nature, and towards maintaining nature's own adaptive capacity. The lecture's second half presents findings from a Royal Society report on resilience to extreme weather, quantifying risks to people over the next century and comparing engineered versus nature-based solutions.

23 Nov 2016

Benedetta Rossi

(Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham)

Slaves of Hunger: Dependence and Unfreedom at the Desert's Edge

What is the relation between the resilience of slavery, as an institution, and the resilience of slaves? At the Sahara's edge, environmental challenges posed by the desert influence people's choices. This renders dependence - often extreme - more acceptable than in places where risks attached to autonomy are less severe. The lecture interrogates meanings of 'slavery' and 'freedom' in the Nigerien Sahel, exploring how living in such a desert region affects dispositions toward social dependence.

30 Nov 2016

Soumhya Venkatesan

(Department of Anthropology, The University of Manchester)

The Marriage of Two Trees: Resilience in Shared Doing but not Shared Understanding

Tamil villagers in South India conducted a marriage between two trees. Different explanations were advanced for this union although all focused on ensuring the success of the 'wedding'. The talk argues that reasons for performing a ritual need not be shared. So long as all parties are agreed that what will be accomplished is worthwhile, they will invest time, efforts and money. Resilience, here understood as flexibility, becomes revealed as ethnographically important.

07 Dec 2016

Andrea Migliano & Jerome Lewis

(Department of Anthropology, UCL)

How Come They Still Exist? Biological and Cultural Approaches to Understanding Hunter-Gatherer Resilience

For 99 percent of human history, our ancestors carved out a living through gathering and hunting. This once prevalent lifestyle has all but disappeared. Nevertheless, despite mounting pressures, some communities continue to rely on these traditional modes of subsistence. The speakers will draw on their vast experience with hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Congo to illustrate how these groups can persist - and which challenges they face.

Departmental Seminars 2015-16

Autumn 2015

18th November 2015

Anna Grimshaw, Emory University

Film screening of "At Low Tide" (59 mins)

25th November 2015

Joe Calabrese, UCL Anthropology

The Meta-Relativity of Mental Illness: Reflections on Clinical Ethnography with Native Americans and in Bhutan

2nd December 2015

John P. Ziker, Boise State University

Sharing meat and norms of sharing: Pathways to cooperation among contemporary north Siberian hunter-gatherers

9th December 2015

João de Pina-Cabral, University of Kent

Brazilian Serialities:Personhood and Radical Embodied Cognition

Departmental Seminars 2014-15

Autumn 2014

12th November 2014

Professor Emily Martin
Department of Anthropology
Director, Institute for the History of Production of Knowledge
New York University

Towards an Ethnography of Experimental Psychology

Historians of psychology have described how the "introspection" of early Wundtian psychology largely came to be ruled out of experimental psychology settings by the mid 20th century. In this talk I take a fresh look at the years before this process was complete -- from the vantage point of early ethnographic and psychological field expeditions. Focusing on the psychological research conducted during and after the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Straits Islands (CAETS) in 1898, I will discuss the importance of the CAETS in the history of anthropology and psychology and explore some possible ways of approaching experimental psychology ethnographically.

19th November 2014

As two European Research Council (ERC) grants launch under the leadership of Dr Rebecca Empson and Dr Martin Holbraad, three other ERC research grants pass their midway points. Professor Ruth Mace (Biological Anthropology), Professor Daniel Miller (Material Culture) and Dr Lucia Michelutti (Social Anthropology), with total combined ERC funding of over €6 million, present some of their findings in the second instalment of a three-part combined departmental seminar series.

Professor Ruth Mace
The Evolution of Cultural Norms

We are studying the evolutionary basis of cultural behaviour, currently funded by an ERC grant on the evolution of cultural norms.  I will outline the different schools of thought in evolutionary studies of human behaviour, and will illustrate how we study these things using some of our studies on human kinship and co-operation.  I will draw especially on our recent work on the origins of matrilineal kinship including some fieldwork in the Tibetan borderlands in China.

Professor Daniel Miller
The Global Social Media Impact Study

Currently half way through our five year study, this talk will briefly describe our aims and what we have achieved so far. We will discuss the plans for both the popular and academic dissemination of our results. We will consider some of the core issues of anthropology that the project addresses. The talk will conclude with a short discussion, based on the English field site, which illustrates how the study of social media can contribute to a social anthropological concern to finesse our understanding of what it is to be human.

Dr Lucia Michelutti
Mafia Raj: the rule of strongmen in South Asia

In South Asia, 'gangster politicians' and their mafias have become objects of fear, admiration and fantasy. As part of an ERC grant on muscular politics in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, we are studying how strongmen rule de facto on the ground. The talk illustrates what it means to conduct a collaborative ethnography on crime and politics across the subcontinent; it highlights how powerful muscular figures are made and how our study is developing classical anthropological debates around the figure of 'the big man', sovereignty and violence.

26th November 2014

Professor Douglas P. Fry
Chair, Anthropology Department
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)

War, Peace, and Human Nature: Implications from Nomadic Forager Research

A conflagration is raging over whether nomadic foragers are peaceful or warlike. On one front, the issues are debated in scholarly journals, and on another, the arguments are laid forth in popular books. Why does this topic matter? One answer is that nomadic forager data are seen as crucial or at least relevant to much larger issues: How old is war? Are humans inherently warlike? Is war an evolved human trait? Do humans (read: males) have an evolved psychological propensity to form coalitions to attack members of neighboring societies? Data on lethal aggression and conflict management for a systematically derived sample of nomadic forager societies are presented and the broader implications considered.

Departmental Seminars 2017-18

The 'Animal Turn'. What Is It and Why Now?

  • Joint cross-section event (social anthropology, material culture, medical anthropology, biological anthropology)
  • Open to students, academics and the public
  • Daryll Forde Seminar Room, 2nd Floor, Taviton Street 14 (additional live-stream in the common room)
  • Wednesdays, 11:00-12:30, followed by a drinks reception
  • Dates: 15, 22, 29 Nov & 6 Dec
  • Organizer: Volker Sommer, v.sommer@ucl.ac.uk

15 Nov 2017

Samantha Hurn

(Department of Sociology, Philosophy & Anthropology, University of Exeter)

Be(a)ware of the Dog. Anthrozoology, the Animal Turn(ing) and the Evolution of Anthropology

The 'animal turn' facilitated the recognition that nonhuman animals are active subjects in all aspects of human social lives. However, we still grapple with the implications of these entanglements - the wheels of the animal turn are still turning. The talk will investigate what it means to live with other animals (including humans) through ethnographic vignettes of individual members of diverse cultural and taxonomic groups - including stray dogs and animal rights activists in Romania, baboons and conservationists in South Africa, and captive elephants and their keepers in the UK.

22 Nov 2017

Garry Marvin

(Department of Life Sciences, Roehampton University)

The Art of Tracking. Engaging with Animal Traces

Excellent trackers take students on game walks during an undergraduate module on conservation and wildlife taught each year in South Africa. The talk will explore the knowledge, skills, craft, and experience of these local experts while they engage with traces left by an animal in the past. Particular attention will be paid to the ways how the trackers create a relationship with an animal even though it is not present, to bring about a meeting of some kind.

29 Nov 2017

Lewis Daly (on plants) & Aaron Parkhurst (on cyborgs)

(Department of Anthropology, UCL)

Anthropology's Daffodil. Ecological Politics at the Human-Vegetal Interface in Amazonia

Can the 'on-trend' multispecies approach be feasibly applied to those (apparently) sessile, silent beings - plants? And what might a 'phyto-anthropology' contribute to overarching debates about environmental politics? The talk explores such questions through an ethnography of the Makushi, an indigenous horticulturalist group from Amazonian Guyana, for whom the interconnectivity of people and plants lies at the very forefront of social and political life.

Cyborgs and the City. Natural Technology for an Unnatural World

In cyborgian movements, people experiment with boundaries of human flesh and aesthetic realities. Some devices allow for novel intimate relationships that interfere with human subjectivity. Public disseminations of these developments invoke transcendence, therapy and trans-humanism, but often neglect the lived-experience of cyborgian identity as alternative modes of being. However, rather than focus on post-human discourses, these cyborgs seek inspiration in the natural and animal world to shape terms of engagement between their bodies and their environment.

06 Dec 2017

Jessica Ullrich

(University of Fine Arts, Münster, Germany)

Creating with Critters. Interspecies Art in the 21st Century

Animals are generally seen as artless beings - without urge or capacity to engage with aesthetics. This reflects the traditional binary of placing non-human animals in nature, while culture is a human realm. Although gradualist evolutionary paradigms have gathered popularity, artistic production still counts as a human privilege. Nevertheless, some contemporary artists involve living animals in their creations. These initiatives of 'interspecies art' raise timely questions related to the discourse of post-humanism, for example with respect to the agency of non-humans and human-animal co-authorship.

(c) Komar & Melamid, The Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project