The department’s research topics are chosen for their potential to provide impulses for re-theorizing the dynamics of paired concepts that have been foundational for anthropological thinking, such as nature-culture and society-technology. Through multiple yet interrelated interventions, proponents of feminist phenomenology, science and technology studies, and new materialism have identified the paradoxes that organise entanglements of life and opened them up for analysis. Humans appear simultaneously as powerful agents driving change and as victims of processes beyond their control. For example, collectively, though unequally, humans, among others, are now suffering from climate change, while as participants in capitalism they have contributed to the advent of the new geological time of the Anthropocene. Intimate technologies such as biometric scanners or genetic testing are human inventions that recast notions of well-being and belonging and alter the meaning of life itself. Large-scale engineering “solutions” open up new frontiers for science and create effects beyond what humans could have imagined to be possible. These are only some examples of contested innovations that push human activity in the direction of change. Such developments confront us with problems that are inherently political and demand analysis in such terms.
Initially, three groups will work on the interrelated topics of ecological transformations, techno-optimism, and well-being.