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Recap of C-URGE Kick-off Event: An Invigorating Week of Exchange

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On October 2, 2023, our Principal Investigators and Doctoral Candidates convened for the first time during the kick-off event hosted by KU Leuven. We launched the project in due spirit for the exciting weeklong program and future partnerships to come.

To begin, the PhD students became immersed in the intricacies of ethnographic fieldwork during presentations given by Professors Noel Salazar, Katrien Pype, Asta Vonderau, Mara Benadusi, Paolo Favero, and Doctors Anaïs Ménard and Nick Rahier. The training sessions introduced innovative methods and sparked engaging discussions on fieldwork relationships, citizen participation and multimodal techniques.

We were honored to welcome Professor Jennifer Deger for her keynote speech on attuning to co-creativity that inspired the cohort to foster deep collaborations in the field. Her meditations on Feral Atlas offered a crucial approach for the PhD students to situate their diverse research projects as patches of the Anthropocene. The PhD candidates also received training on data management that provided informative strategies and tools for rigorous research. These skills are essential building blocks for organizing data in an ethical way that also makes science accessible to the public.

Additionally, further contributions were added by Doctors Leonardo Vasconselos de Castro Moreira, Yotam Gidron and Anaïs Ménard on wellbeing and safety based on their multifarious experiences during fieldwork. They led discussions with the cohort about negotiating and anticipating risk in their respective projects. This was followed by Professor Constanza Parra’s presentation on transdisciplinarity which produced thoughtful reflections on participatory action research methods that are instrumental for creating sustainable transformations. Revisiting the theme of wellbeing, the attendees participated in a workshop by Virginie Vandaele from the Leuven Mindfulness Center and learned impactful mindfulness techniques—the relaxing effects were immediate!

In the training session on theory development led by Professor Susann Baez Ullberg, the PhD candidates dialogued with the notion of climate urgency through a range of texts. They brainstormed in teams and presented their ideas, resulting in a rich and thought-provoking exchange. We then welcomed Doctors Tine Huyse and Luc Janssens de Bisthoven who presented their engagements with citizen science that will help pave the way for our PhDs’ future collaborations. Finally, we wrapped up the week with an eco-game during which we calculated our carbon footprints, followed by conversations on eco-ethnography guided by Professor Katrien Pype that highlighted its vital role for addressing climate change in anthropology.

At the end of this stimulating week, our PhD students have begun settling into their new home universities, equipped with plentiful learnings and fresh perspectives to make headway in their respective research projects. With the insights of many scholars in a robust environment, our kick-off event served as an incubator for a productive cross-pollination of ideas and offered a glimpse into the bright path that lays ahead for the C-URGE consortium.

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