Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


HYBRID - Symposium: Growth/Emergency - book now!

13 June 2022–14 June 2022, 1:00 pm–3:00 pm


UCL Urban Laboratory and the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) will host a symposium over two half days on June 13th - June 14th on Growth/Emergency: Re-Imagining Cities, Economies and Ecologies in the Time of the Anthropocene.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







UCL Urban Lab and Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Common Ground
G11, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building,
UCL, Gower St, London
Join us virtually here
Grow! is a mantra so powerful that it obscures the destruction it portends
(Julie Livingston, Self-Devouring Growth, 2019)


The Urban Lab and the Institute of Advanced Studies are interlacing their respective research themes of Emergency and Growth in a cross-disciplinary symposium to reflect critically on each of these concepts and on their relationship to each other in the current moment. Two half-day workshops to discuss pre-circulated papers will be open to the public both in-person and online.

The idea that growth – economic, biological, scientific and personal – establishes a secure foundation for the future underpinned the modern era and has proved remarkably persistent despite the increasing volume and intensity of criticism to which it has been subjected over the last two decades. This symposium is prompted by an urge to discuss the extent to which the conditions for debate have been irreversibly changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. During this period emergency measures have been imposed by governments of all political stripes to suspend normal economic and social activity throughout the world, and much discussion of the need to implement new and better models of operation post-pandemic has been aired. At the same time, there has been an acceleration of extreme weather events, which have increasingly affected parts of the world hitherto accustomed to temperate living conditions. Public discourse has mutated from a framework of crisis to one of emergency: we are no longer talking about a crisis of capitalism or even a crisis of civilisation, but instead of a state of planetary emergency that threatens our very existence, and challenges certain assumptions around continuous growth as a desirable paradigm for the future.

Our symposium has three aims:

  1. To take stock of debates on growth (degrowth; agrowth) in light of the pandemic. We now have global evidence about what the ‘pedagogy of catastrophe’ (Latouche) looks like in practice. How does this alter the conditions for thinking, beyond the obvious injection of urgency? Is it easier or harder to imagine compelling new futures, especially from within the universities?
  2. To generate deep cross-disciplinary exploration of the capacious concept of growth, which ranges across the social and natural domains to describe a huge variety of phenomena from miniscule particles of living matter to the complex social assemblages of mega-cities. Our starting point is that in order to stand any chance of understanding the enduring power of growth as a concept we will need to think across borders of all kinds: geographical, temporal, institutional and disciplinary.
  3. To bring into the mainstream theories, insights and examples from as many parts of the world as possible, given that the concept of growth means such different things in different places. Two examples with which the organisers happen to be familiar from their own work are the Scandinavian model of consolidation and repair and the Latin American philosophy of buen vivir, in which living well entails social justice, connectedness to other people and harmony with the natural world.  In many parts of the world, there is a deep history of criticism of ‘modernization’, ‘development’ and their correlates of exponential growth and trickle-down benefits, but these ideas, especially from the global South, are still relatively unknown in discussions that purport to be planetary in remit.

Through combining these three aims we hope to generate new thinking on questions such as:  Are terms such as ‘sustainable development’ or ‘Green growth’ inescapably self-contradictory and wedded to the avoidance of necessary change? Is it possible or even desirable to break with the logic of growth? Which other concepts might we bring to bear to calibrate the possibilities for human and nonhuman flourishing? In current conditions, what realistic options are there for re-configuring our economies, our cities, our societies –not to mention our universities-- in the face of the multiple emergencies we face, and to redress fundamental historic inequalities in access to the planet’s resources?  


Monday 13th June

13.00 - 13.45 Welcome lunch

13.45 - 15.15 Panel 1: Conceptualising Growth in Conditions of Oppression and Emergency

  • Growth gone wrong: Biology, eugenics and the biomedical deployment of human growth in Malawi and South Africa. Speakers: Catherine Burns, University of Witswatersand, and Megan Vaughan, UCL Institute of Advanced Studies
  • Revelation and Recursion: Conceptualising luck and growth in a resource emergency. Speaker: Rosalie Allain, ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford

15.15 - 15.30 Refreshment break

15.30 - 17.00 Panel 2: The Problems of Scaling

  • From Small to Large: Frictions in scaling food rescue. Speaker: Viktor Bedo, FHNW Critical Media Lab
  • Urban Ecotones: Ontologies and frontiers in the wetland communities. Speaker: Richard Muller, PhD Department of Geography, University College London

17.00 Drinks reception

Tuesday 14th June

9.30 - 11.00 Panel 3: Growth and Social Reproduction 

  • Imagination and the Economics of Growth and Non-growth. Speaker: Geoff Mulgan, Professor of Collective Intelligence, Public Policy and Social Innovation, UCL
  • Popular Economies and Growth. Speaker: AbdouMaliq Simone, Professor of Sociology and Urbanism, the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

11.00 - 11.15 Refreshment break

11.15 - 12.45 Panel 4: Growth and the Politics of Space and Place 

  • Urgency, Growth, and Spatial Practice. Speaker: Anthony Powis on behalf of MOULD
  • On the Edge of Just transition: Reimagining peri-urban planning in the Anthropocene. Speaker: Lakshmi Rajendram, UNEP-DTU Partnership, Copenhagen

12.45 - 13.30 Lunch

13.30 - 15.00 Panel 5: Escape Routes 

  • ‘Wasteland: Building Escape Routes’. Speakers: Pushpa Arabindoo, Co-Director UCL Urban Laboratory and Nicola Baldwin, Visiting Research Fellow, UCL Institute of Advanced Studies

15.00 Close



Photo by Rosanna Gaddoni on Unsplash
Photo by Rosanna Gaddoni on Unsplash

About the Speakers

Catherine Burns

Catherine Burns is based at Wits in the CHSE, the Dept of Family Medicine & Primary Care and the Adler Museum of Medical History, where she is an Associate Professor of Medical History and she teaches and supervises students in the Health Sciences Faculty. Part of the first medical humanities interdisciplinary programme in the Southern African region, she continues to develop this field. Catherine was educated at WITS, and then won a Fulbright Scholarship to study medical history at Johns Hopkins University; later she earned her PhD at Northwestern University, in African History.


Her research and publication interests focus on gender relations, women and health history; medical and health history; the history and ethnography of reproduction and sex and ethics in biomedical research.

Megan Vaughan

Megan Vaughan is Professor of African History and Health at the Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL. She has worked on the history of colonial medicine and psychiatry in Africa, on gender, environment, agriculture and nutrition in central/southern Africa and on slavery in the Indian Ocean. She heads a project on ‘chronic’ disease in Africa, funded by the Wellcome Trust and is writing on ‘colonial metabolism’.

Dr Rosalie Allain

Dr Rosalie Allain is an ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford. She completed her PhD in Anthropology at UCL in 2021, for which she received the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Radcliffe-Brown Sutasoma Award for research of potentially outstanding merit. She is a founding member of the new Centre for the Anthropology of Technics and Technodiversity at UCL and is a member of the ‘Anthropologie de la Vie’ (Anthropology of Life) research group at the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale (Paris). Her research engages with the study of techniques, natural resources, cosmology and economic life in Cameroon where she explores artisanal gold mining techniques practiced by Gbaya communities, and how these mediate local understandings of generativity and scarcity in a context of resource depletion.

Dr Viktor Bedö

Dr Viktor Bedö has returned to academic research in experimental design and design theory in the past four years. Currently, he is Visiting Professor at the FHNW Critical Media Lab and Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, University of London, crafting care-based and more-than-human imaginaries of urban tech futures. In the decade before that, he created street games exploring the interplay between architecture, urban scale infrastructure, and the body. He has also built service design and innovation expertise during ten years of client work and teaching. His initial academic focus has been the philosophy of embodied knowledge and epistemologies of vision and urban mapping. His past academic affiliations include Visiting Fellowship at the Institut für Raumexperimente at the Berlin University of the Arts in 2009, Visiting Research Fellow at the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik at the Humboldt University Berlin in 2008 and Junior Research Fellow at the Institute for Philosophical Research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences between 2003 and 2006. He is the founder of Tacit Dimension, an independent research lab for street game design, and he co-founded the street games collective Invisible Playground, of which he was a member between 2010 and 2014.

Dr Viktor Bedö’s research practice is concerned with making- and fiction-based design methods invested in the hard work of imagining urban futures. More specifically, exposing friction between city-scale infrastructure and idiosyncratic, situated street-level experience, probing the shift from human-centred to more-than-human design methods, and critically conceptualising scale domains in scaling up urban processes.

Dr Viktor Bedö holds a doctoral degree (PhD) in Philosophy from Humboldt University Berlin and the University of Pécs (2011) and a graduate degree (Magister) in Philosophy as a major and a combination of Art History and Media Studies as a minor from the University Vienna.

His works were featured in numerous international festivals such as the Festival of Future Nows in the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin (GER), Metropolis Festival (DK), Hide&Seek Weekender London (UK), Copenhagen Art Festival (DK), Transmediale (GER), Aichi Triennale (JP).

Richard Muller

Ph.D M.A. University College London


Supervisor: Dr. Pushpa Arabindoo Secondary Supervisor: Sarah Pickering

MA - Contemporary Art Theory - Goldsmiths, University of London, London
MFA - Fine Art Media - The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, London
BFA - Painting & Drawing, Philosophy - Concordia University, Montreal

More about Richard Muller

Sir Geoff Mulgan

Sir Geoff Mulgan is Professor of Collective Intelligence, Public Policy & Social Innovation at University College London (UCL).  He has previously been CEO of Nesta and the Young Foundation, director of the UK Government's Strategy Unit and head of policy in the Prime Minister's office.  Past books include ‘The Art of Public Strategy’ (OUP) and ‘Big Mind: how collective intelligence can change our world’ (Princeton UP).   His latest book ‘Another World is Possible: How to Reignite Social and Political Imagination’ is published by Hurst Publishers in June 2022.  His Twitter handle is @geoffmulgan.   More about Sir Geoff Mulgan

AbdouMaliq Simone

AbdouMaliq Simone is Senior Professorial Fellow at the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield and Visiting Professor of Urban Studies at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. Key publications include, For the City Yet to Come: Urban Change in Four African Cities, Duke University Press, 2004, City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at the Crossroads: Routledge, 2009, Jakarta: Drawing the City Near: University of Minnesota Press, 2014, New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times, Polity (with Edgar Pieterse, Polity 2017),  Improvised Lives: Rhythms of Endurance for an Urban South (Polity 2018), and The Surrounds: Urban Life Within and Beyond Capture (Duke University Press 2022).

Anthony Powis

at on behalf of MOULD

I am interested in the interrelation of spatial production, knowledge production, and climate production. I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins, UAL, working on the project Architecture after Architecture: Spatial Practice in the Face of the Climate Emergency with other members of the research collective MOULD. My background is as an architect, working mostly on various types of public spaces (urban landscapes, museums, playgrounds) with muf architecture/art. I studied at Cardiff, Westminster, and the Architectural Association. My PhD (also at Westminster) was part of a larger research project, Monsoon Assemblages, which looked at the relationship between rapid urban development, and changing monsoon climates in South Asia. My project focussed on Chennai and its subterranean environment: materials, processes, and experimental knowledges. I am interested in more-than-human research methodologies, as well drawing as a research method. I have previously been an associate with Architecture sans Frontieres-UK, working with participatory design techniques, and my MA thesis was about the production of space in protests.

Nicola Baldwin

Nicola Baldwin is a playwright and scriptwriter and Visiting Fellow at IAS. She was UCL Creative Fellow (2019-2020) at Urban Lab and IAS for their joint research theme of ‘Waste’, working in collaboration with Dr Pushpa Arabindoo on “The City Dionysia”.  Previously a filmmaker and camerawoman, her projects often involve co-creation, research, and site-based production.  During her Creative Fellowship, We The Young Strong was performed for the Bartlett100 celebrations; her film DuchessRevolt! relocated a site-specific performance for UCL Art Museum. Theatre commissions / productions include Royal Exchange Theatre, Sheffield Crucible, Royal Court Theatre, Theatre of Debate, Wellcome Genome Campus, Imperial War Museum / Manchester Jewish Museum. Nicola was Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at University of Greenwich, Associate lecturer at Drama Centre / CSM and, as Writing Tutor for the Royal Court theatre, establishing the Young Writers Programme course at Sloane Square. Writing for young performers includes large scale shows for Albany Youth Theatre, NT Education and adaptations of Metropolis and Beowulf for Storm On The Lawn at Bath Theatres (the egg). She has written for episodic TV and is developing original series. She writes regularly for radio, recently a two-part crime thriller Camberwell Green starring Chizzy Akudolu, and Madison Chorus with Lisa McGrillis. Her series Have Your Cake is on Audible.  Jointly with Dr Elaine Cloutman-Green of Great Ormond Street Hospital, Nicola set up The Nosocomial Project in 2019, which uses drama to tell 'hospital acquired' stories of health and science. Nosocomial won the 2019 CSO Partnering Patients and Citizens award from the Chief Scientific Officer and 2020 Antibiotic Guardian award. She was Creative Director of 2021 Rise Of The Resistance festival at UCL Bloomsbury Theatre and online, and Public Engagement/ PPI coordinator for the UCL Precision AMR £3m research initiative into antimicrobial resistance. Her plays have won the George Devine award, Time Out award and MGCfutures bursary; shortlisted twice for Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, three times for BBC Audio awards.

Some links:

Camberwell Green 2-part drama for BBC Radio 4 (April 2021)

Madison Chorus  short drama for BBC Radio 4 (May 2021)

Have Your Cake 6-part drama series for Audible (from September 2021)

Imperial War Museum Second World War and Holocaust galleries; 2 short audio dramas created in partnership with Manchester Jewish Museum, and Devil’s Porridge Museum, on civilian experiences 1939-1945 (October 2021).

More about Nicola Baldwin