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The world/s at the ends of the city.
Explorations in urban and environmental anthropology
30 April 2019
Institut für Europäische Ethnologie
In this talk Dr. Rachel Harkness shall trace the progress of a series of interrelated and collaborative projects carried out with colleagues over the last few years. These are projects considering concrete, the material, and the Anthropocene, the current geological epoch in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change. Recounting the creative (and perhaps not conventionally anthropological) ways in which they explored their topic of concern and shared it with audiences, the story will move to work of her own that takes inspiration from ecological builders with whom she has worked ethnographically. This work is rather more speculative and, taking into account the huge environmental cost of cement and concrete production and use, considers what lies or might lie beyond concrete. Picking-up on the themes and phrasings of this seminar series, she returns in this more recent work to eco-builders’ ideas of how materials sustain and impede forms of life and also to the idea that concrete, as we know it, must end. Taking license from her current art school context, then, she plays with fictions of futures with different materialities, and the ways in which they might allow for different ways of building and dwelling in our environment-world.
Dr Rachel Harkness is interested in how people make manifest their (eco-)designs for living. She mostly works ethnographically in the UK and USA with makers, and for the last decade her creative and anthropological research has centred upon the topics of building, making and materials, learning-through-doing, the senses, and importantly, on environmental values and action. Recently she has been collaborating with colleagues internationally on projects considering the materiality of concrete in our time of ecological crisis, and has been building with eco-builders in Scotland and making art installations inspired by their practices. Rachel is a Lecturer in Design Ecologies at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Art, where she combines teaching contextual and critical studies of art and design with courses on social and ecological design.