UCL Anthropology


Saffron Woodcraft


UCL Email: saffron.woodcraft.11@ucl.ac.uk
Websites: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/igp/people/academic-staff/saffron-woodcraft
Year of Start: 2011 
Supervisors: Prof Victor Buchli, Dr Hannah Knox
Subject: Material Culture 
Fieldsite: Olympic Park, East London

PhD Research

Void potential: Absence, imagination & the making of community in East London 

My research examines the meaning and making of community in London's Olympic Park where five new neighbourhoods-described as model communities for the 21st-century and known as the Legacy Communities Scheme (LCS)-are under construction.  By 2030, almost 10,000 new homes will be built in the Olympic Park. The LCS constitutes a major part of London's Olympic legacy promise of transformational regeneration in East London; redressing historical inequalities and bringing life chances in line with the rest of the capital.  My fieldwork focuses on the social and material effects of London's Olympic legacy by examining the making of Chobham Manor, the first LCS neighbourhood. My research follows the Chobham Manor development team, a loose network of built environment professionals, and the local citizens they encounter, during the planning and design process. Using ethnographic data collected over two years, I examine how emptiness, absence and immateriality pre-occupy my informants as they grapple with the question: "What is community and (how) can it be made?" The theoretical goals of my research are: first, to account for the 'ephemeral' and 'intangible' dimensions of community that my informants struggle to work with, which prove to be neither symbolic concepts of belonging or idealised notions of citizenship, but instead 'gaps', 'voids' and 'absences' that are entangled with the material to constitute urban space and social life.  And second, to scrutinise community as an ethnographic category that remains powerful, in spite of its problematic history in anthropology where it is seen as ambiguous and laden with theoretical and methodological baggage (Amit and Rapport 2002).

Research Interests

  • Community and home
  • Architecture and urban planning
  • Absence and imagination
  • Politics of community


Moore, Henrietta, L., and Woodcraft, Saffron. Forthcoming 2018.  Placing sustainable prosperity in East London: Local meanings and 'sticky' measures of the good life.
Woodcraft, Saffron, and Constance Smith. Forthcoming 2018. 'From the "Sustainable Community" to Prosperous People and Places: Inclusive Change in the Built Environment'. In Sustainable Futures in the Built Environment to 2050: A Foresight Approach to Construction and Development. Wiley-Blackwell.
Woodcraft, Saffron. 2016.  'Reconfiguring "the Social" in Sustainable Development: Community, Citizenship and Innovation in New Urban Neighbourhoods'. In Envisioning Sustainabilities: Towards an Anthropology of Sustainability. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Woodcraft. Saffron. 2014.  'Understanding and Measuring Social Sustainability: Ingenta Connect'. Journal of Urban Regeneration & Renewal Volume 8/ Number 2: 133-44.
Woodcraft, Saffron. 2012.  'Social Sustainability and New Communities: Moving from Concept to Practice in the UK'. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 68 (December): 29-42. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.12.204.

Presentations & Conferences

What is the good life in East London? Examining links between inclusive change and sustainable and resilient places. International Conference on Urban Sustainability and Resilience, London. London, November 2017.
"Social innovation" - at the intersection of collaboration and critique? Reflections from an ethnography of regeneration in London's Olympic Park. Workshop: Confronting Elite Anthropology.  University of Sussex, January 2016.
Designing our own lives: a more impactful citizen science. Engage 2015 (National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement) Bristol. December 2015.
Creating tomorrow's community today: "meanwhile space" as a temporal bridge to new urban futures. Panel: Towards an anthropology of the 'not-yet': development planning, temporality and the future. ASA 15, Exeter. April 2015.
Architectural anthropology or anthropological architecture? Bringing "lived experience" into architectural practice. International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Tokyo. May 2014.
Innovating places: A new role for "place difference"? Social Frontiers: The next edge of social innovation research, NESTA/Glasgow Caledonian University, London. November 2013.
Social sustainability and new communities: Moving from concept to practice in the UK. Asia/Pacific International Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies, Cairo. October 2012.
Social sustainability: a conceptual field in chaos or a radical planning practice? 1st International Conference on Urban Sustainability and Resilience, London. November 2012.
Urban translators? The role of anthropologists in sustainable urban planning. International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, August 2013.

Teaching Experience

Guest lecturer

  • UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, MSc Global Prosperity (2016-2017)
  • UCL Global Citizenship Programme 2016 - (Un)Urban: Investigating green spaces in East London
  • Workshop for Social Sustainability, Hebrew University. Jerusalem.  November 2012.

Teaching Assistant

  • UCL Anthropology - Courses: Introduction to Material and Visual Culture (2016), Mass Consumption and Design (2013/14)

Education History

MSc Anthropology and Development, London School of Economics, 2004

Additional Information

Saffron is a Research Associate at UCL's Institute of Global Prosperity, where she leads the Institute's work on prosperity and sustainable communities in East London.

Saffron is co-founder of Social Life, a social enterprise focusing on research about people and places affected by regeneration.