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Antiquity and the Anthropocene: Ancient Materiality

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This online workshop aims to bring ancient historians, archaeologists, and artists into dialogue with contemporary environmental concerns.

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Antiquity and the Anthropocene: Ancient Materiality

In the last two decades, the current, unprecedented environmental crises have increasingly led scholars and policymakers to question anthropocentric assumptions about our political, economic, and social priorities. As the formative role of nature in shaping the human experience is increasingly recognised, so is the irreversible impact that human activities have had on our planet. In response to this, there has been a recent expansion in engagement with environmental themes in ancient cultures, but the creative potential of ancient environmental thinking is only now starting to be explored.

Building on the success of the Antiquity and the Anthropocene online workshop (February 2021), we aim to once again bring ancient historians, archaeologists, and artists into dialogue with contemporary environmental concerns. The overarching goal of the event is to generate innovative, interdisciplinary research on the role of the past as a resource for creative responses to environmental crises in the present. At the same time, we expect that the workshop will bring opportunities for the artists involved by helping them to generate new projects inspired by their dialogue with other participants.

This time, our focus is on ancient materiality and the environment. Key topics include landscape alteration, extractivism, water resources, urbanisation, and over-consumption in antiquity, which offer useful points of comparison for our contemporary relations with natural resources. We also expect to give attention to parallels between ancient ideas of pollution and contamination, often involving complex entanglements of religion, social practices, and environmental sensitivity, side by side with their modern equivalents.

This event is made possible thanks to the generous funding from the UCD Humanities Institute and College of Arts and Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Grant

Programme – Saturday 11 December 2021

2pm (Dublin time)–2.10: Introduction by Giacomo Savani (University College Dublin) and Matthew Mandich (independent scholar)

2.10–2.40: Andrea Brock (University of St Andrews): From Opportunity to Challenge: Rome’s Relationship with the Tiber River in Prehistory

2.40–3.10: Krešimir Vuković (LMU Munich) and Peter Campbell (Cranfield University): The River Tiber as a Hyperobject: Confluence, Hybridity, and the Anthropocene

3.10–3.30: Break

3.30–4.00: Jay Ingate (Canterbury Christ Church University): A Foundation Myth for Your Tap Water: How Roman Archaeology Can Change Perceptions of Urban Water Supply

4.00–4.30: Vanda Strhan (University of Oxford): Of Flashes and Fossilisation: A Classical Perspective on our Journey into Stone

4.30–4.50: Matthew Griffiths (poet): Can There Be Poetry in the Anthropocene?

4.50–5.00: Break

5.00–5.30: Matthew Mandich (independent scholar): Ancient Mines, the Economy, and the Anthropocene

5.30–5.45: A conversation with Celeste Sterling (visual artist)

5.45–6.20: Keynote address by Patty Baker (Virginia Tech): Humanities and the Creative Arts: New Approaches to Environmental Issues

6.20–6.30: Closing remarks


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Organiser UCD Humanities Institute

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UCD Humanities showcases the university's expertise and scholarship in the humanities and stimulates new interdisciplinary areas of research of international distinction.

The institute promotes the international visibility and distinctiveness of interdisciplinary research in the humanities at UCD by acting as a laboratory for the study of culture and the human experience. It complements research undertaken within related UCD Schools and research institutes while concurrently providing a neutral space for the delivery of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research of key societal challenges. The institute acts as a driving force for knowledge creation and transfer within UCD and in the context of the humanities in Ireland and Europe.

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