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Department of Social Anthropology


Refiguring conservation in/for ‘the Anthropocene’: the global lives of the orangutan (GLO) is a research project funded by the European Research Council (Starting Grant no. 758494, Jan 2018-June 2023) and based in Cambridge and Brunel University London. It is led by Liana Chua (Principal Investigator), who works with postdocs Viola Schreer and Sophia Hornbacher-Schönleber, and PhD student Anna Stępień.  The project is funded by ERC.

GLO puts socio-cultural anthropology to work in increasingly interdisciplinary conversations about multispecies entanglements and ‘the Anthropocene’. In recent years, conservationists have engaged in heated debates about how to respond to the challenges of ‘the Anthropocene’ – an era marked by the overwhelming influence of human activity on planetary processes and formations. Our project explores how this debate is playing out in multiple, patchy and unpredictable ways in the global nexus of orangutan conservation. It entails the first multi-sited ethnography of this field: a sprawling network of models, ideas, practices and human and nonhuman players spread across Borneo, Sumatra and the global North. Treating orangutan conservation as a contact zone between multiple players, ontologies, values and regimes of power and knowledge, we ask: How is conservation scaling up to engage with the Anthropocene? And how are Anthropocenic phenomena and discourses experienced, conceptualized or contested in specific conservation contexts?

Through this ethnography, we seek to add empirical depth and nuance to emerging cross-disciplinary discussions about the Anthropocene, and to develop new theoretical and conceptual analytics for figuring, and figuring out, conservation and ‘the Anthropocene’ at a time of planetary change and crisis.

Researchers involved

University of Cambridge: Liana Chua, Sophia Hornbacher-Schönleber; Admin: Candie Furber
Brunel University: Viola Schreer, Anna Stępień

Tunku Abdul Rahman University Associate Professor in Malay World Studies
Fellow and Director of the Tunku Fund, St Catharine’s College
Tutor, MPhil in Social Anthropological Research
Co-editor Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
Office hours, by appointment