Nature and environmental change – University of Copenhagen

Department of Anthropology > Research > Researcher groups > Nature and environment...

Since anthropology’s infancy, it has been recognized that nature and natural resources are at the base of human livelihood. The founding fathers in early 20th century went at great length to present the gardens, the rivers, the oceans, or the pastoral lands that shaped and sustained social life in particular places. This fell into the background over the next generations, centring their efforts at understanding social life as such, and relegating nature and its affordances to being just a backdrop to social life.

In the 21st century this has again changed considerably. Recognizing the immense impact of humans upon the general living conditions on the Earth for all kinds of species, a concerted effort has been made to analyse the ways in which nature and society are implicated in each other. With this dichotomy destabilized, anthropologists are now seeking to understand how ‘environments’ are constantly being (re-) defined in opposition to changing social worlds – as that which people must temporarily seek keep still, to assess their potential for resources or threats.

The researcher group on Nature and Environmental Change seeks to understand the dynamics of environments in this sense, seeing it as a global field of concern with deep social, material, economic and political implications on a variety of scales.

 Research projects in the group comprise a wide variety of topics:

  • The political and moral economy of conflicts over land in Africa;
  • The greening of the city of Copenhagen;
  • Cyclones in North Australia;
  • Landscape and its hidden forces on Bornholm;
  • Technologies of water governance in Peru;
  • Living resources in the High Arctic;
  • Flooding in Central Europe;
  • Climate change and social resilience.


Teaching Activities

The group organizes general courses in Anthropology and the Environment and Natural Resources in Anthropological Perspective, and contributes to other courses related to environmental change, global development, and social responses to climate change.