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UCL events news and reviews


Sustainability: Concepts and Materiality

By news editor, on 29 May 2012

What does it mean to be sustainable? What enables or hinders sustainable behaviour?

A one-day interdisciplinary workshop on sustainability, held on 18 May and organised through collaboration between UCL Anthropology and the Environment Institute, successfully bought different disciplines together to discuss what sustainability means.

Keynote speaker Blanche Cameron, who among other roles is the founding director of RESET-Development, opened the day with a thought-provoking discussion of sustainability, particularly our relationship to nature.

Blanche argued that we need to move away from our current focus on CO2 emissions and the economy, and towards a focus on all aspects of the natural environment, in order the behave in a sustainable way. This really resonated with those attending and was picked up on again at several points throughout the day.

The first papers session on “cultural shifts” raised questions such as: at what levels do we need to be active in order to promote sustainability? Should we be acting locally? Can this influence global action?


Gender Online

By news editor, on 20 February 2012

Last weekend, UCL Gender Studies hosted Gender Online, an interdisciplinary post-graduate symposium which aimed to open a conversation about the relationship between gender, digital communications and the internet.

The event, funded by the Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies, brought academics, graduate students and members of the public together from many different backgrounds to create cutting-edge debate around a diverse selection of papers.

It had been widely promoted by the use of social networking sites such as Twitter and was recorded for podcasting at a later date. Speakers came from UCL Gender, and Digital Anthropology, the Institute of Education (IoE) Social and Educational Research, LSE Social Anthropology and NYU Tisch Interactive Telecommunications Programme.


Where have all the nomads gone?

By news editor, on 14 February 2012

Alexander Tasker writes about Professor Sara Randall’s inaugural lecture, held on 7 February

Professor Randall (UCL Anthropology) colourfully illustrated extensive problems that colonising powers, tax-hungry governments and struggling researchers have had in trying to ‘count’ nomads across the African Sahel, and some of the myths that surround these often elusive groups.

Before this evening, Professor Randall was more familiar to us from the dynamic exchanges of her small-group seminars as part of the Anthropology, Environment and Development Masters. We were looking forward to seeing how her extensive experience and forthright style translated into the more formal Gustav Tuck lecture theatre: there was no disappointment!

The lecture started with a quote from Professor Randall’s own fieldwork – a Malian Tuareg reflected on the increasing need to build houses not solely for practical purposes, but to become visible. It was this concept of visibility that continued as a theme throughout the lecture.


Against nature? Homosexuality and evolution

By news editor, on 25 November 2011

Dave Weston reports on a Lunch Hour Lecture guaranteed to generate robust debate.

Same-sex sexual behaviour is often condemned on the grounds that it’s ‘against nature’. Indeed, biology tells us that selection favours those who leave more offspring. But then, homosexual behaviour is widespread – not only among humans, but also throughout the animal kingdom.

So, does that constitute a paradox for Darwinian theory? And is there a connection between what goes on in nature and what is morally desirable? These were the tricky questions that Professor Volker Sommer set out to address in a Lunch Hour Lecture on 17 November.

I’ve heard Volker speak several times before. His official title is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at UCL and he’s an expert in behavioural ecology, having spent many years studying the behaviour of monkeys, apes… and people. The combination of an eminently quotable and engaging speaker with a live audience and potentially controversial subject matter meant this was always going to be a popular lecture.