UCL European Institute


Facing the Ground: Reading Group

29 October 2014, 12:00 am

Event Information

Open to


29 October 2014
This reading group forms part of the JRF funded project: Facing the Ground. The reading group will draw together graduate students and staff across the humanities department to discuss selected readings exploring the theme of "the Ground"


Wednesday 29 October 2014, 1:30pm

Wednesday November 19 2014, 1:30pm

Wednesday December 10 2014, 1:30pm


G.01, 23 Gordon Square

G.01, 23 Gordon Square

G.01, 23 Gordon Square

As an aspect of a year long project, facing the ground,  there will be a reading group to discuss selected readings. The topics for the reading group this year are:

  • Earth and Soil
  • Mountains and Stone
  • Fossils and Relics 

For more information on the readings for each week, visit the project website or contact the organiser, Catherine McCormack (PhD candidate) 

Why think critically about the ground?  

Semantically complex and rich, the 'ground'  and its corollaries of earth, dirt, rock, mountains, soil, stones, clay are a fertile metaphor within the intellectual scope of the arts and humanities and yet have been overlooked, undervalued, or pre- determined thus far within the scholarly field. The ground is material substance, structural support, and acts as a chronicler of human and environmental activity and narratives for archaeologists, geographers and anthropologists. The ground conceals, aids in forgetting and acts of ritual, and so has a charged relationship with time, and history. It acts as something of a liminal border between what is known and unknown and so is powerfully coded within systems of ritual, burial, relics or revelation of new data and understanding in the sciences.

In representation it often seems to display itself as surface, while simultaneously withholding something of itself or other objects from sight or thought.  New digital technologies such as Google Maps have reoriented and adapted our visualizations of the ground and changed the way that we traditionally envision the ground, since man first landed on the moon. Furthermore the ground is the site of territorial claims and issues of national identity which have been contested and redrawn across the European terrain. The ground is and has been a place where political contention and resistance to control within the city is registered with the reminder that 'under the paving stones, lies the beach', and yet the ground can also be inchoate, anonymous 'other', somewhere between matter and form.

This research network aims to bridge the distances between the arts and humanities and earth and life sciences via their common interest in the ground- as field of representation, fields in representation; material substance or material support; or site of knowledge, philosophical or scientific.

This project is funded by the European Institute Junior Research Forum