IKOS PhD seminar: Politics of the Anthropocene: Globalisation, Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity

Three-day PhD-course in cooperation with the Department of Social Anthropology, UiO

The course invites the participants to develop an ecologically informed approach to anthropology, where the political is studied mainly through its effects. The global situation demands a critical reconsideration of some of the basic categories that have defined anthropology for over a century. The extent of ecological devastation, threatening to undermine the very conditions of the global civilization that has produced these effects, implies a need to regard anthropos as an integral part of ecosystems rather than an isolate representing culture as opposed to nature.

            Accelerated neoliberal globalisation has, in the space of a few decades, decimated wildlife, increased productivity in agriculture and aquaculture with technological means leading to potentially catastrophic unintended consequences, expanded logging industries and mining operations exponentially, and inspired the coining of the term Anthropocene as a general designation for the current era, characterised by the presence of human ecological footprints everywhere on the planet. Since the beginning of the fossil fuel revolution, human population has increased eightfold, while energy consumption has grown by a factor of 30. At the same time, the forces of nation-building, state power and global modernity have contributed to cultural standardisation and homogenisation, witnessed perhaps most obviously in language death. A premise for this course is that the same global processes that lead to a loss of biodiversity also contribute to a loss of cultural diversity, and that there is no useful distinction between the two, being two sides of the same coin or two facets of the same lens.

            The study of Anthropocene effects and responses to them must be studied comparatively and with methods and theory conversant with achievements across a range of disciplines, from environmental history and geoscience to ecological philosophy and behavioural economics.

Empirically, the course draws on cases indicating a loss of diversity, ranging from Ritzer's famous McDonaldization thesis, inspired by Weber's sociology, to studies of stateless peoples, small languages and peasant societies being confronted by plantation economies, infrastructural developments, overfishing, habitat loss, industrial food production and the ultimate causes of zoonoses. A second set of cases describes alternatives, resistance and attempts to recover diversity, through withdrawal, rewilding, delinking, localising practices and so on. The analysis incorporates both the small scale and the intermediate, large and global scales.

            Theoretically, the course introduces biosemiotics as an outlook and methodology enabling fieldwork encompassing more than human culture and society. Inspired by C.S. Pierce, Gregory Bateson and others, biosemioticians interpret processes in nature as communicative practices, thereby enabling ecological fieldwork without relinquishing the scientific ambitions and methodological strengths of anthropology. Other theoretical approaches will also be discussed, including critical discourse analysis, STS and political economy.

The intended outcomes of the course are as follows:

            • Historical insight into the causes and origins of the Anthropocene situation,

            • Empirical knowledge of the effects of globalisation on diversity and local responses to them (‘Anthropocene effects’),

            • A heightened awareness and deepened knowledge of the embeddedness of human endeavours in a broader ecological context,

            • An overview of some relevant perspectives from outside of anthropology,

            • Methodological skills enabling ecological fieldwork using anthropological methods,

            • Familiarity with biosemiotics and related theoretical approaches aiming to transcend the nature/culture divide.

How do I sign up for the course:

Please send an email to kari.andersen@ikos.uio.no by 6 September. 


Candidates will present material from their work, which could be a theoretical discussion, a draft chapter or a text based on the course readings. In most cases, this presentation will form the basis for the essay to be submitted after the course


Paper presentation and 3,000–4,500 word essay on a relevant topic, to be submitted by 15 November.

ECTS points:

3-4, depending on submission of written paper


The course will be taught by Prof. Thomas Hylland Eriksen (SAI) and Prof. Helge Jordheim (IKOS), with a guest appearances by other to be announced.

The course is physically located to hotel Scandic St. Olavs place and runs for three days, Monday to Wednesday. Each day is divided into a lecture part (morning) and a seminar part (afternoon). Participants are expected to submit a text to be discussed during one of the afternoon sessions.


Genese Marie Sodikoff, ed.:The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death, Indiana University Press 2012.

Articles and book chapters

Bastian, Michelle: Encountering leatherbacks in multispecies knots of time. In Extinction Studies : Stories of Time, Death, and Generations, edited by Deborah Bird Rose, et al., Columbia University Press, 2017.

Bateson, Gregory: Ecology and Flexibility in Urban Civilization. In G. Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, pp. 499–511. New York: Chandler 1972.

Duara, Prasenjit: Nationalism and the crises of global modernity. Nations and Nationalism, 2021, DOI: 10.1111/nana.12753.

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland: The loss of diversity in the Anthropocene: Biological and cultural dimensions. Frontiers in Political Science, 2021.

Hoffmeyer, Jesper: From thing to relation: On Bateson's bioanthropology. In J. Hoffmeyer, ed., A Legacy for Living Systems, pp. 27–44. Berlin: Springer.

Jordheim, Helge & Espen Ytreberg: After Supersynchronization: How Media Synchronize the Social. Time and Society, 30 (3), 2021, 402-422-

Knox, Hannah: Thinking Like A Climate: Governing a City in Times of Environmental Change, chapter 1. Durham: Duke University Press 2020.

Kohn, Eduardo: How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human, Chapter 1. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mathews, Andrew S.: Anthropology and the Anthropocene: Criticisms, Experiments, and Collaborations. Annual Review of Anthropology, 49: 67–82, 2020.

Ritzer, George: The Globalization of Nothing. SAIS Review, 23 (2): 189–200, 2003.

Sörlin, Sverker & Erik Isberg: Synchronizing Earthly Timescales: Ice, Pollen, and the Making of Proto-Anthropocene Knowledge in the North Atlantic Region. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111 (3): 717-728, 2021.

Wolkovich, E. M., B. I. Cook, K. K. McLauchlan & T. J. Davies: Temporal ecology in the Anthropocene. NASA Publications, 165, 2014.


11 October

09:00 Coffee

09:30 Introduction to the course

10:00 Helge Jordheim: Temporalities of the Anthropocene

12:00 Student presentations

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Student presentations

15:30 Break

16:00 General discussion

17:00 End of first day

19:00 Dinner

12 October

09:00 Coffee

09:30 Thomas Hylland Eriksen: Standardisation and differentiation: Dialectics of globalisation

11:30 Break

12:00 Student presentations 

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Student presentations cont'd

15:00 Break

15:30 Student presentations cont'd and general discussion

17:00 Wrap-up of day 2

19:00 Dinner

13 October

09:00 Coffee

10:00 Student presentations

11:30 Break

12:00 Student presentations cont'd

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Student presentations cont'd

15:00 Guest lecture (online) by Genese Marie Sodikoff

16:00 Break

16:30 Final discussion

17:00 End of course

Published July 2, 2021 2:22 PM - Last modified Sep. 27, 2021 10:55 AM