Rooted Witnesses: trees as archaeological matter in Palestine
Areej Ashhab (RA)
Trees are intergenerational plants, living as long as humans and many much longer, constituting records of past events and devices responding to present conditions. In the context of Palestine, trees have been weaponised by the Zionist project, altering natural and cultural landscapes based on the manufactured image of a desolate land. On the other hand, ancient trees have remained as the only survivors of wiped-out Palestinian villages, witnessing the continuous changes to the land. In Palestine, where land is at the centre of a political struggle and histories of land uses have a contemporary urgency, could trees help reconstruct a landscape that has been largely altered? This project traces scars and erasures in the Palestinian landscape using trees as archaeological matter and as non-human agents with which it re-narrates lost practices. It weaves between biology, oral history and language to help turn trees into material and mythical story-telling devices, reclaiming land as relational rather than a property ready for colonial extraction.
This project takes its place in the aftermath of Kosovo’s latest ‘energy crisis’ by zooming in on what has become its epicentre, the border city and municipality of Mitrovica. Mapping these various phenomena as well as the evolution of mining in Kosovo from mineralogical to crypto, this research aims to consider recent events within Mark Alizart’s “cryptoanarchism”, and to formulate “a more direct conception of politics in Kosovo” (Hamza and Žižek). In Mitrovica, where NATO-led (KFOR) forces persist in “building bridges” (both figuratively and literally) whilst militarizing “peacekeeping processes”, I will prompt the question: what now is K-FOR?
Proposing a New Symbol for Tamil Resistance
Sri Lanka is one of the world's most militarised regions, with one soldier for every two civilians in the Tamil North-East. With over 100,000 people abducted by the state, Sri Lanka has the second-highest number of enforced disappearances in the world. Draconian laws like the Prevention of Terrorism Act make legal the continued detention, torture, and disappearances of minorities, activists, journalists, and political dissenters. In the wake of such pervasive violence, how can we learn from weeds, specifically, the Mimosa Pudica and its entanglement with the militarization of Tamil Eelam? How can we trace the plant’s growth in armed soil as it intertwines with the remains of a genocide? This work is an offering to the generations of women engaged in the violent struggle for self-determination. To those who remained, enduring the pulling of weeds, the deadening of senses, and the systematic eradication of Tamil life.
In the Forest Shadows: simulations in Swedish forestry
Jacob Bertilsson (RA)
This project investigates ways in which knowledge about commercial use and conservation of forests in Sweden is communicated to land owners and the public. This involves looking into the increased digitisation of forests and the interfaces that these digital landscapes generate. Practically, the research also includes collaborations with ecologists to visualise the effects different forestry practices has on biodiversity; currently focusing on the damages clearcuts compared to methods of selective logging have on mycorrhizal communities in the soil. While the project supports the transition away from clear-cut practices in favour of so called ‘closer to nature forestry’ it also question conventional ideas of both nature and proximity.
Dead Ends, Lost Means: The supply chain of seafarer abandonment
Jacob Bolton (RA)
Throughout the ongoing ‘supply chain crisis’, cargo ship companies have been making record profits. For carriers, break points in the supply chain are not errors but opportunities for accelerating accumulation. This project seeks to understand how supply chain breakdown is an integral operation of logistical capitalism, and uncover the ways that breakdown is instrumentalised for profit. To do so I look at the rise in seafarer abandonment, in which cargo ship crews are left for months or even years, unpaid, without food or water, without visas to leave the port and return to their families, their workplace now a floating prison. Through mapping the exploded geography of abandonment, I attempt to understand how spaces of exception are produced by leveraging various legal loopholes and economic structures. Finally, through problematising ‘the line’ in supply chain studies, I attempt to demonstrate how supply systems operate more like webs or topological spaces.
Peter Brooks (FA)
The three counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys have been labelled the chicken capital of the EU, with the highest concentration of poultry farming on the continent. In parallel, there have been stark warnings that the River Wye, which flows through two of the counties, is on the verge of ecological collapse, with the blame pointed towards intensive broiler chicken meat and egg production. Chicken Shit is an investigation into the metabolic and ecological rifts generated along the supply chain: cuts of cheap chicken lack nutrition while the waterbodies and fields of the River Wye catchment suffer from nutrient overload. The project explores the degradation of the chicken’s body and its species-being, as it labours to grow ever quicker to feed the pockets of agri-business, in particular the multinational Cargill. The chicken is housed as a monoculture, straightened into a single-use exchange-value machine under the monocultural ontology of capitalism that pursues only profit.
Future Nature: The Molecular Frontier of Biocapital
Gabriella Demczuk (RA)
Synthetic biology promises solutions to the threat of global food security created by human induced climate change by using the genetic material of living matter to engineer new and improved climate-resilient crops. A hybrid of private enterprise and academia forms the biotechnology industry in which profit seeking projects reconfigure organisms into laborers, accumulating wealth in the form of biocapitalism. To transfer the biological product to the marketplace, intellectual property rights are obtained through patenting, a legal tool that converts living beings into machines of invention by qualifying its utility and novelty. Seeing the patent as a framework for investigation, I trace the assemblage of industry, government, and academia that co-constitute genetic property for biocapital. Through this, we start to understand how economic and political regimes form as new knowledges of biology open spaces for resource extraction, a historical practice that now operates at the molecular frontier.
Digital Reproduction of Dispossession: examining the reflection of the national museum as a ‘colonial crime scene’ in digital collections
This research centres the premise of the national museum as a ‘colonial crime scene’ to speculatively map the often opaque and anonymised architecture of online collections, databases and digital representations of cultural objects acquired through historically violent or contested means. In what way does increasing digitisation of plundered objects held in national collections reflect and maintain ongoing dispossession, wealth management and colonial extraction? In analysing the British Museum and associated collections alongside tech such as Google Arts & Culture as case studies, the aim is to ‘unbox’ the structures of power scaffolding the digital collection. Delimiting the digital ‘cordons’ which transpose the traditional barriers of a physical museum into digital space troubles the idea of digitisation as a neutral act that increases accessibility and helps interrogate the extent to which it is used to deflect concrete demands for the physical return of cultural objects.
Fragmented Access: the abortion landscape after Roe v. Wade
Lisa Maillard (RA)
After many states in the U.S. have been continuously infringing reproductive freedom over the past decades, Roe v. Wade is now on the brink of being overthrown, which would result in up to 26 states partially or completely banning abortion. This results in a complex and fragmented geography of access creating a divide between those who can afford reproductive autonomy and those who cannot. My entry point into this is accessibility, understood as a spatial, temporal, and economical condition. While my practical work shows the unequal geographies of access that people seeking an abortion will have to navigate if/when these bans become reality, my dissertation will explore the broader context and mechanisms of these impending bans. The project will map out how changes in the law reinforce pre-existing systems of inequality and oppression on the basis of gender, class, and racetogether with the societal and economic implications forced reproduction will have on precarious subjectivities.
James Moss (RA)
The project is an exploration into sites of new urban commoning practices, and the shared negative affects that austerity policy has had across such spaces, as well as the strategies of resistance and disruption that can be developed in solidarity with one another and in opposition of this erosive environment. The aim is to track how this ideological project has created a network of policies that have had disastrous affects on the creation of subjectivities and spaces, demonstrating financilisation as a corrupt class-situated project that hopes to concretise the power of the capitalist class. This exploration is enacted through event-organisation, workshopping methodologies, historical documentation and spatial investigations within a range of spaces that intends to activate and demonstrate the links of resistant solidarity in these new commoning spaces of civic, social, cultural and pedagogical practice, that each raise disruptive and healing spaces within this corrosive environment of financialised localism.
Gentrification Sounding: walking together, Extreme Listening and the right to research.
Ginevra Ailie Naldini(RA)
The research starts with Deptford Town Hall as material witness of Goldsmiths’ colonial past and contemporary forms of civilian counter-power. As the history of spatial domination reproduces itself in contemporary forms of urban imperialism, slow and violent processes of gentrification, Goldsmith's tentacular influence has absorbed most of the spaces where the creation of social practices and self-governance strongly relied on such as the church, the school, or the public baths. How can collective research practices such as walking and listening together breach through the university’s material and epistemological gates, creating learning practices that overflow the privatization of education and of the public spaces onto which such institutions exercise their power? How can we hold them accountable for the disruption of livelihoods while producing locally relevant alternatives?
Sabotage in datafied workspace
Júlia Nueno Guitart (RA)
The project researches information asymmetry and capitalization of data assets in delivery platforms by thinking through the concept of sabotage as a means to challenge property rights, loss of autonomy and imposition of control. Can the extraction and capitalization of data be disassembled, and devaluated to be repurposed and increase solidarity and organization amongst workers? The project proposes a practical approach to data rights and data-based struggles with the development Sabot, a crowd-sourced app developed in conversation with delivery workers and members of the International Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union. Instead of data being used to individualise performance and feed the optimisation of the platform’s algorithm, Sabot proposes to use data to build on workers’ leverage, to improve working conditions and driver’s capacity to organise challenging the mechanisms of value extraction enabled by platform economy and to reframe information use in labour processes.
Police Killings in Brazil
The Brazilian police force is officially responsible for more than six thousand deaths yearly. These numbers and the uncountable unreported victims have left thousands of people grieving the loss of their loved ones. Frequent executions take place primarily in economically dispossessed areas and are enabled by a systematic judicial procedure that legitimises killing on the grounds of self-defence; under the guise of a “war on drugs”, security forces implement deadly social and/or political control practices, particularly targeting the Black youth living in the favelas and peripheries. This research project considers Brazil’s historical and political context to reflect upon staggering levels of police violence and impunity. Through reconstructing and examining incidents with and for the victimized, the project navigates seemingly disparate occurrences to detect and expose processes, networks, tactics, and actors that create the conditions for murder.
Ailo Ribas (RA)
Weeds, like wastelands, are the fruits of human activity. They are as much constructed politically and linguistically as they are physically and genetically. They are the ugly, the out-of-place, the toxic, the dirty, and the unwanted. Plants, like people and land, slip in and out of weediness. In order to reframe weediness as a strategy for earthly survival the project develops in conversation with the community of and around the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve to emphasise the important work we do to care for the reserve, but also the ways in which its more-than-human residents take care of us emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically, this living archive is not only a pedagogical tool for sharing knowledge and stories, but also one for helping to protect the site from potential future redevelopment.
Damp Capital: Housing conditions as accumulative dispossession
Elara Shurety (RA)
This research examines the dampness condition within London’s social housing to understand how housing conditions function as a means, and agent, of accumulative dispossession. While 2021 saw dampness in social housing become a national talking point following a scandal caused by the circulation of select extreme cases, it continues to be treated as a singular and discrete issue. At most, it has been formulated as the product of state-sanctioned neglect. In this research, I aim to position these damp conditions as one part of a concerted assault on the very provision of social housing in the first place. Building from in-depth case studies and first-hand testimony, I unpack the different modes, levels, and speeds at which dampness as accumulative dispossession might occur, to demonstrate how dampness has functioned as a means to dislocate the urban poor.
A City on the Blockchain: On Crypto’s recent fascination for Land_Territory
Finn Steffens (RA)
After the attempt to escape state power in digital spaces, recently many projects in the crypto and blockchain realm return to land and territory as the focus of their activity with the aim of performing “physical-world governance experiments'' that challenge current conceptions of societal organisation. Here, the abstraction of land as an asset for speculation is also linked to the abstraction of citizenship as a commodified good. After buying into the project by purchasing a CitizenNFT, CityDAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation) promises to provide the framework to encounter like-minded people, build new networks, and achieve economic prosperity: As the citizen is becoming a user, the city is becoming a platform. Crossing disciplinary boundaries between digital anthropology, critical urbanism, and political theory, this research investigates these projects as the expansion of the platform economy to a general principle of organisation that advances the privatisation of urban and social spaces.
Every year, more than seven-hundred obsolete ships – owned by and operated for the benefit of entities in developed countries – are sent to breaking yards in developing countries. Shipbreaking is a very heavy industry that exposes workers and the environment to many risks as vessels either contain or have incorporated a wide range of toxic materials throughout their lifetime. The shipbreaking industry, a byproduct of the globalized economy, operates on the basis of a series of speculations, loosened legal frameworks and opaque monitoring systems that essentially outsource liabilities. This investigation focuses on one of the largest shipbreaking yards in the world – Aliaga, near the Aegean port of Izmir in western Turkey following the trails of a series of ships from their birth to the end-of-life voyage, and traces the latent effects of toxicity released into the environment and the human bodies during the breaking process of these ships.