School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Stirling Lecture

Veiled bride 1949 by Paul Stirling

The Stirling Lecture is held annually in honour of Professor Paul Stirling, founding Professor of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Kent. He is best known as the author of the classic ethnography, 'Turkish Village'. (The photograph above, showing a group of women escorting a veiled bride to her wedding, was taken on one of his earliest visits to Turkey in 1949.)

The lectures are open to all interested, both members of the public, as well as university staff and students.

Global Magic: Technologies of appropriation from Ancient Rome to Wall StreetStirling Lecture 2017/18

Speaker: Alf Hornborg, Professor of Human Ecology, Lund University
Topic: Global Magic: Technologies of appropriation from Ancient Rome to Wall Street
Date: Tuesday 7th November 2017, 18:30, Templeman Lecture Theatre

Discussions about global environmental crisis and increasing inequalities rarely attempt to rethink the relation between money and modern technology. The new economic and technological rationalities that accompanied the Industrial Revolution in the core of a world empire became framed in celebratory cultural categories – the growing “economy” and “technological progress” – that obscured the material asymmetries which made them feasible. The detachment of economics from considerations of the physical substance of trade was conducive to the detachment of engineering from considerations of the asymmetric structures of global resource flows. In other words, the purification of economics from Nature was connected to the purification of engineering from world Society. Neither field recognises that it merely addresses a restricted aspect of a socio-natural process. The effect of these two politically situated and misleadingly sequestered ways of perceiving 'development' was to permit the asymmetric resource flows of the British Empire to continue beyond the official end of colonialism, and to absolve capital accumulation from any connection to world poverty. 

Professor Alf HornborgTo this day, empirical revelations about ecologically unequal exchange or the political rationale of energy transitions tend not to contaminate our image of the nature of modern technology. Conversely, constructivist insights on so-called sociotechnical systems have not been in the least concerned with global metabolic asymmetries, or with the perspectives of recent world historians on the accumulation of industrial technology in 19th century Britain. An integrated perspective on the money-energy-technology complex illuminates how mainstream economics and engineering, in making asymmetric resource flows invisible, continue to permit core areas of the world-system to appropriate embodied human time and natural space from their global periphery. To identify the roles of monetary and technological fetishism in this exploitative world order, we need to understand that the biophysical metabolism of the world-system is itself a sociotechnical system.

Professor Hornborg's research interest is the cultural and political dimensions of human-environmental relations in past and present societies, particularly from the perspective of world-system analysis. A central ambition of his work has been to examine how specific cultural assumptions constrain human approaches to economics, technology, and ecology, and how such assumptions tend to serve as ideologies that reproduce social relations of power.

The published paper from the lecture can be viewed here and an audio recording of the presentation with slides can be found by clicking the image below.

Lecture recording

Previous Stirling Lectures

  • 2016/17
    Almost Human: recent discovery of two new fossil human species in South Africa
    Professor Lee Berger, Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 2015/16
    The summer of 'no' in Izmir: ethnographic reflections on the shifting relative location of Turkey.
    Professor Sarah Green, University of Helsinki
  • 2014/2015
    Where in the World are Values? On How People Learn Morality and Come to Seek the Good.
    Professor Joel Robbins, Sigrid Rausing Professor of Social Anthropology at Trintity College, Cambridge
  • 2013/2014
    Ageing, menopause and parenting - perspectives from human evolution
    Professor Phyllis C. Lee, University of Stirling
    View the video and slides from the lecture (will open in a new window/tab)
  • 2012/2013
    The Turkish Nation-State and the Chimera of Modernity
    Professor Chris Hann, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
  • 2011/2012
    Problems with borders: Changing idioms of freedom and bondage in UK sex work.
    Professor Sophie Day, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • 2010/2011
    Anthropology and the Meaning of Life: The Khomani San of the southern Kalahari
    Professor Hugh Brody, University of the Fraser Valley, Canada
  • 2009/2010
    Biological Relatives: Kinship after Embryo Culture
    Professor Sarah Franklin, London School of Economics
  • 2008/2009
    The Monogamous Brain and Its Implications
    Professor Robin Dunbar, Oxford University
  • 2007/2008
    Anthropology, History, Law: reconstituting family and inheritance in an Arab colonial diaspora
    Professor Michael Gilsenan, New York University
  • 2006/2007
    Fraud, Faction and the Anthropological Imagination
    Roy Ellen FBA, Professor of Anthropology and Human Ecology at the University of Kent
  • 2005/2006
    Anthropology in the Real World: the search for relevance
    Paul Sillitoe, Professor of Anthropology at Durham University
  • 2004/2005
    The Paradox of Low Fertility: an evolutionary & ecological perspective
    Ruth Mace, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at University College, London
  • 2003/2004
    Crises of Fraternity: Nationalism & Ethnicity in Post-Colonial Mozambique
    João de Pina-Cabral, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Lisbon
  • 2000/2001
    Risky Business: The Changing Landscapes of Anthropology
    Pat Caplan, Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths College
  • 1996/1997
    The Promise of Ethnographic Film
    Paul Henley, Professor of Visual Anthropology and Director of the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, Department of Social Anthropology, at the University of Manchester
  • 1994/1995
    The First Stirling Lecture
    Michael Fischer, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Director of the Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent


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Last Updated: 13/04/2018