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Department of Social Anthropology


 David Sneath)

This research cluster focuses on how humans live within the accelerating feedback loops of environment and infrastructure in the Anthropocene, and explores their shifting possibilities for care and wellbeing. Centuries of capitalist-colonial development now spur extreme weather that puts pressure on transport, communication, and energy networks, creating new geographies of disconnection and vulnerability. In turn, some reimagine nature itself as infrastructure—as carbon sink or refugia—while infrastructural constraints are required to recreate or model natural conditions, as in lab and field experiments. Such convergence prompts the emergence of new behaviourist, managerial, and design imaginaries around risk and event, as well as new ethical imperatives towards care, maintenance, and conservation. It assumes turbulence and resilience, not stability, and induces a range of knowledge practices, from embodied intimations of harm to data-rich apparatuses of monitoring and surveillance. All of these are prime themes for anthropologists to track. Such practices demand thinking across spatiotemporal scales, from the micro-organismic to the planetary, and invite a range of conceptual and methodological orientations. Against this background, this research cluster asks how meshworks of law, science, medicine, forests, mountains, grids, rivers—and many other vital systems besides—generate overlapping rhythms and life cycles, mediate sovereignty and livelihoods, and generally structure the contours of collective life. It tracks struggles over access to these vital systems, the sacrifice zones they create, and the various distributions (racialized, gendered, speciated, inspirited) of care and kin they materialise.


Research undertaken in this cluster includes work on:

- human-animal relations, colonial environmentalisms, and decolonial practices of territorial appropriation and conservation

- museums as infrastructures of environmental knowledge and history

- energy transition, decarbonization, and the politics of basic service delivery

- struggles for legal recognition amongst minoritized populations

- indigenous sovereignty, resource politics, post-extractivism and dispossession

- field sciences, infrastructures of data, comparison, and commensuration

- climate change, environmental adaptation, degradation, and catastrophe

- militarised landscapes and post-conflict ecologies 

- the politics of reproductive technologies and medical anthropologies of ageing and dying

- infrastructures of epidemic management and bio-surveillance

- politics and poetics of behaviourism

- affective ecologies of care and circulation of care in affective environments 

- more-than-human frameworks and methodologies in the analysis of ecocide and genocide.