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Anthropology and the Anthropocene

PhD Course, Spring 2024.

Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University. 

Examiner: Susann Baez Ullberg


The Anthropocene, a term coined to conceptualize a distinct geological epoch of significant human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems, has become a contemporary catchword for climate change, loss of biodiversity, contamination and multiple other environmental crises. It entails both socioenvironmental problems on unprecedented scales as well as societal capacities to devise adequate solutions. Academic and public debates on the Anthropocene have exploded in recent years, with anthropologists contributing both theoretically and ethnographically with understandings of how people apprehend and deal with the effects of such dramatic changes.

The aim of this course is to approach the Anthropocene critically as a category with different social, cultural, political, economic and ethical implications. By examining different “anthropocenic” relations ethnographically, the course interrogates established dichotomies such as human/nonhuman and nature/culture; addresses methodological aspects of studying such relations ethnographically, and discusses the collaborative and caring possibilities of an anthropological perspective.


Anthropology and the Anthropocene: Concept and Context

Susann Baez Ullberg

  • Davis, H. & Z. Todd. 2017. “On the Importance of a Date; or, Decolonizing the Anthropocene.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 16, no. 4: 761–80.

  • Haraway D. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham NC: Duke University Press. Chapter 2: Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene. pp. 30-57.

  • Hetherington, K. 2019. “Keywords of the Anthropocene.” In: Infrastructure, Environment and Life in the Anthropocene edited by K. Hetherington. Pp.1-16.

  • Howe, C. & A. Pandian. 2020. “Introduction.” Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon. pp. 17-23.

  • Latour, B. 2014. “Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene: A Personal View of What Is to Be Studied.” In: The Anthropology of Sustainability edited by M. Brightman & J. Lewis. pp. 35-49.

  • Malm, A. & A. Hornborg. 2014. “The geology of mankind? A critique of the Anthropocene narrative.” The Anthropocene Review 1(1): 62-9.

  • Moore, J. W. 2017. “The Capitalocene, Part I: on the Nature and Origins of our Ecological Crisis.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 44(3): 594–630.

  • Tironi, M. et al. 2018. “Inorganic becomings: situating the Anthropocene in Puchuncaví.” Environmental Humanities. 10:187–212.

  • Tsing, A. L., A. S. Mathews, and N. Bubandt. 2019. “Patchy Anthropocene: Landscape Structure, Multispecies History, and the Retooling of Anthropology: An Introduction to Supplement 20.” Current Anthropology 60 (S20): 186–197.

Waste, Pollution and Slow Violence: Invisible Materiality and Time

Vladislava Vladimirova

  • Allon, F., Barcan, R., & Eddison-Cogan, K. Eds. 2021. The Temporalities of Waste Out of Sight Out of Time. Oxon (UK): Routledge. Chapter 1: Allon, F., Barcan, R., & Eddison-Cogan, K. “Introduction: Out of joint—the time of waste”, pp. 1–17; Chapter 3: Munn, L. “Chip, body, earth: toxic temporalities of Intel processor production,” pp. 47-58; Chapter 5: Grealy, L. & T. Lea:“Housing waste in remote Indigenous Australia,” pp. 75-86; Chapter 12: Probyn, E. “Wasting seas: oceanic time and temporalities,” pp.179-192; Chapter 13: Brylska, A. “Today’s waste is tomorrow’s future: on the temporalities of two post-nuclear sites,” pp.195-210.

  • Gregson, N. & M. Crang. 2010, Guest editorial: “Materiality and waste: Inorganic vitality in a networked world.” Environment and Planning A. 42:1026-1032

  • Kim, E. J. 2016. “Toward an anthropology of landmines: rogue infrastructure and military waste in the Korean DMZ.” Cultural Anthropology, vol. 31 no. 2: 162–187.

  • Nixon, R. 2011. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Chapter 7: “Ecologies of the Aftermath Precision Warfare and Slow Violence.”

  • Vladimirova, V. 2023. “Indigenous People Living with Waste and Pollution in the Arctic.” In: Ecological Concerns in Transition: A Comparative Study on Responses to Waste and Environmental Destruction in the Region edited by N. Mörner. Centre for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University. pp. 45-58.

  • Yellow Fever, documentary

Planthropocene and Planthropology: The Anthropology of Plant Life

Beppe Karlsson

  • Chao, S. 2018. “In the Shadow of the Palm: Dispersed Ontologies among Marind, West Papua.” Cultural Anthropology.33(4): 621–649.

  • M. Gagliano, J. C. Ryan & P. Vieira. 2017. “Introduction.” In: The Language of Plants edited by Gagliano, M. et al. Minneapolis and London: Minnesota University Press (E-book SUB)

  • Hartigan, J. 2019. ”Plants as ethnographic subjects.” Anthropology Today 35 (2), 1–2, and the other articles in that special issue of Anthropology Today by Lewis-Jones; Schulties; Daly & Shepard; Goldstein; and Boke. pp. 1-28.

  • Karlsson, B. G. 2022 "The imperial weight of tea: On the politics of plants, plantations and science", Geoforum Vol 13: 105-114.

  • Myers, N. 2015. ”Conversations on plant sensing: Notes from the field.” NatureCulture 3, 35–66.

  • Myers, N. 2017. ”From the anthropocene to the planthropocene: Designing gardens for plant/people involution.” History and Anthropology 28 (3), 297–301.

Infrastructures and Environments in the Anthropocene

Chakad Ojani


Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change, Floods and Sea Level Rise

Camelia Dewan

  • Dewan, C. 2021. Misreading the Bengal Delta: Climate Change, Development, and Livelihoods in Coastal Bangladesh. Culture, Place, and Nature. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Chapters 1 and 2 + potentially Introduction.

  • Ley, L. 2021. Building on Borrowed Time: Rising Seas and Failing Infrastructure in Semarang. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Introduction.

  • Vaughn, S. 2017. “Disappearing Mangroves: The Epistemic Politics of Climate Adaptation in Guyana.” Cultural Anthropology 32 (2): 242–68.


  • Barnes, J, & M. Dove. Eds. 2015. Climate Cultures: Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change. Yale Agrarian Studies Series. New Haven: Yale University Press.

  • Crate, S. A. & M. Nuttall. Eds. 2016. Anthropology and Climate Change: From Actions to Transformations. Second edition. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

  • Sillitoe, P. Ed. 2021. The Anthroposcene of Weather and Climate: Ethnographic Contributions to the Climate Change Debate. 1st ed. Berghahn Books.

Bodies in Disasters: Encounters of Flesh, Ecology and Technology

Claudia Merli

  • Barrios, R. E. 2017. ”What does catastrophe reveal for whom? The anthropology of crises and disasters at the onset of the Anthropocene.” Annual Review of Anthropology 46: 151-166.

  • Dalby, S. 2017. ”Anthropocene Formations: Environmental Security, Geopolitics and Disaster.” Theory, Culture & Society, 34(2–3), 233–252.

  • Merli, C. 2019. ”Gendered and ungendered bodies in the Tsunami: Experiences and ontological vulnerability in Southern Thailand. In: Climate Hazards, Disasters, and Gendered Ramifications edited by C. Kinnval & H. Rydstrom. London: Routledge. pp. 165-183.

  • Merli, C. & T. Buck. 2015. ”Forensic identification and identity politics in 2004 post-tsunami Thailand: Negotiating dissolving boundaries.” Human Remains and Violence 1(1): 3-22.

  • Schwartz-Marin, E., C. Merli, L. Rachmawati, C.J. Horwell, and F. Nugroho. 2022. ”Merapi multiple: Protection around Yogyakarta’s celebrity volcano through masks, dreams, and seismographs.” History & Anthropology 33(5): 588-610.

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