UCL Anthropology


Historical Consciousness

Historical Consciousness


This research cluster bridges studies of the storage and retrieval of information (memory), and research on how information about the past is ascertained in the first place (historical production). The attempt to know the past involves contemplating an incomplete set of traces, and using the imagination to formulate a picture of how life was. Western archaeologists and historians do this according to canons of probability, the 'historical imagination' as Collingwood termed it. The historical imagination works differently in other cultures. People can learn about the past through being possessed by historical figures, or encountering ghosts and spirits from the past, or asking an elder or a shaman to dream the past to disclose knowledge. This research cluster coordinates work on temporality, memory, historicization, and urges the comparative study of the epistemologies that authorize historical knowledge in world societies. For more information contact Professor Charles Stewart (c.stewart@ucl.ac.uk).


Charles Stewart, dreaming as a mode of historicization in Greece and more general work on the concept of 'historicity'.

Michael Stewart, works on the features of Roma memory/collective memory, and on the Gypsy holocaust through oral histories.

Filotas Ditsas, PhD student, researching alternative archaeologists in Greece and their accounts of the Ancient Greeks.

Manuela Pellegrino (PhD, UCL 2013) Is studying the Greek dialect of Puglia (Italy) with a focus on generational experiences of speaking or not-speaking the language. Memory organized according to different epochal periods of common experience.

Dimitra Kofti, post-doc at the Max Planck Institute, Halle, Germany: on the sense of past, present and future among Bulgarian workers who have become downsized flexible labour force in the very same factory where they were once more enfranchised under socialism.

Daniel M. Knight, post-doc at Durham University, concepts of time and temporality in Greece and work on embodied history in the economic crisis.

Tobia Farnetti, PhD student, researching an isolated hunting and gathering group in northeastern Siberia after the collapse of the Soviet state, with particular focus on ideas of time, history, and reversibility.

Stephan Palmié, University of Chicago, Afro-Cuban rituals as historical praxis.

Debbora Battaglia's (Mount Holyoke College) interest in world-making draws upon historical events in the inhabited cosmos which enfold nature and culture in anthropocenic relations.

Matt Hodges (University of Kent) works on themes of time, historical consciousness and cultural rupture in southwest Europe; anthropology of French historical discourse; temporality and biotechnology.

Alan Strathern (University of Oxford) is an historian of Sri Lanka and, more recently, of comparative world history. His work has included reflections on origin myths, sacred kingship, religious conversion and first encounters.   

Eleana Yalouri (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences [PhD UCL]) works on themes of Material Culture; cultural heritage and the politics of remembering and forgetting; Anthropology and Archaeology; Anthropology and Art.


Matthew Hodges (Kent) has published a review essay considering Charles Stewart's, Dreaming and Historical Consciousness in Island Greece in the context of the anthropological study of historicity. The review appeared in the journal History & Anthropology and it my be downloaded at: www.tandfonline.com/eprint/Mh7K4q7U6Np3dxn7TFVm/full

Research Projects

Tobia Farnetti and Charles Stewart have translated and prefaced an article by Ernesto de Martino: 'Crisis of Presence and Religious Reintegration', HAU 2, 2 (2012).


The research cluster on Historical Consciousness maintains an active programme of events within UCL and beyond, fostering a strong trans-disciplinary dimension to its research activity.

We will continue to run a Research and Reading Group on 'Existential Anthropology' during the 2015-16 academic year. For information on upcoming dates and topics please contact Joshua Burraway (joshua.burraway.09@ucl.ac.uk).

Charles Stewart will deliver the Nicholas Christopher Memorial Lecture at Harvard University on 17 November 2015. The title is: 'From Athens to the Anthropocene: Affect, Epoch and Analogy'.

Charles Stewart will be a commentator on the panel 'Discordant Afterlives of History' organised by Sarah Muir (Barnard College) and Kabir Tambar (Stanford).

Events Archive

Stephan Palmié and Charles Stewart convened a conference on: The Varieties of Historical Experience at the University of Chicago, 4-5 April 2014.

Charles Stewart delivered his inaugural lecture, For an Anthropology of History, on 28 January 2014 at UCL. The lecture is available as a podcast.

We held a double-session panel at the AAA Annual Meeting in Chicago on Wednesday 20 November 2013. Beyond the Historic Turn: Toward an Anthropology of History.

The Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago has awarded a grant to Charles Stewart and Stephan Palmié to hold an international conference on 'The Ethnography of History' to take place in Chicago in spring 2014.

In June 2013 we held an international workshop at UCL Anthropology on the theme of Anthropological Perspectives on the Crisis in Southern Europe, which was convened by Daniel Knight and Charles Stewart. For more information visit the event page of Anthropological Perspectives on Crisis workshop.

In 2012-13 we were running a reading group devoted to the theme of Crisis: Social Suffering and Temporality which jointly with colleagues at the LSE.

In September 2012 we held an international workshop at UCL Anthropology on the theme of The Ethnography of Eastern Christianities, which was convened by Charles Stewart. For more information visit the event page of The Ethnography of the Eastern Christianities.

In May 2011 Professor Stewart also convened an international conference at the American College of Greece (DEREE), titled Colonizing the Greek Mind? The Reception of Western Psychotherapeutics in Greece.

During the academic year of 2008-09 Charles Stewart and Southampton archaeologist Yannis Hamilakis convened a seminar series run jointly between the Institute of Archaeology and the Department of Anthropology at UCL on the theme of Ethnographic Approaches to Materiality and Time.

Teaching activities

Charles Stewart has been teaching since 2010 a course in Temporality, Consciousness and Everyday Life which explores some of the core themes developed in the work of the research cluster.

Web Publications

Charles Stewart, 'Zeitgebers, Pacemakers and Objects of Time', Material World Blog, July, 2013 

Debbora Battaglia, Cosmic Exo-Surprise, or, When the Sky is (Really) Falling, What's the Media to Do? e-flux journal #46, June, 2013.

Selected Publications

Stewart, Charles. 2012. Dreaming and Historical Consciousness in Island Greece. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press

Stewart, Michael (ed.) 2012 - The Gypsy Menace. Populism and the New Anti-Gypsy Politics, London: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd

Stewart, Charles. 2007. Creolization: History, Ethnography, Theory. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. 2007

Stewart, Michael. 2007. How does genocide happen? In R. Astuti et al (eds.), Questions of Anthropology. London: Berg

Hirsch, Eric and Charles Stewart (eds.) 2005. Ethnographies of Historicity. Special issue of History and Anthropology 16(3).

Stewart, Michael. 2004. Remembering without commemoration: The mnemonics and politics of Holocaust memories among European Roma. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 10(4): 561-582