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The Project

Refiguring conservation in/for ‘the Anthropocene’: the global lives of the orangutan (GLO) was a research project (Jan 2018-Sept 2023) funded by the European Research Council (Starting Grant no. 758494). It was led by Dr Liana Chua (Principal Investigator), who is currently Tunku Abdul Rahman University Associate Professor in Malay World Studies at the University of Cambridge. She worked with postdocs Dr Viola Schreer, Dr Hannah Fair, Dr Sophia Hornbacher-Schoenleber, and PhD student Anna Stępień.

GLO puts socio-cultural anthropology to work in increasingly interdisciplinary conversations about multispecies relations and the Anthropocene. It draws on two distinctive anthropological strengths – in-depth ethnography and multiply-scaled comparison – to flesh out the big, sometimes abstract, questions raised by global conservation debates and policies. Using multi-sited ethnography, it explores how contemporary conservation is responding to the challenges posed by the Anthropocene – a term that encapsulates the overwhelming, transformative impact of human activity on the planet.

Taking the global nexus of orangutan conservation as its ethnographic focus, GLO has two large objectives:

contemporary conservation

1. To examine if and how contemporary conservation is being scaled up and re(con)figured in and for the Anthropocene

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2. To cut the Anthropocene down to size by exploring how it is experienced, conceptualized, contested or indeed refused across multiple conservation settings.

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Our project approaches orangutan conservation as a sprawling, uneven terrain across which the rapidly evolving relationship between conservation and the Anthropocene is being played out. In the process, we aim to

  • Develop a synchronic, multi-sited approach to the ethnographic analysis of global conservation.
  • Build up an ethnographic picture of how one global conservation nexus is being reshaped by and reshaping the Anthropocene.
  • Explore new analytics for grasping the mutually transformative relation between conservation and the Anthropocene, provisionally: planetary perspectives, thresholds, proximities and in/commensurability.
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