Gutorm Gjessing Lecture 2018: Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen

We are pleased to announce Thomas Hylland Eriksen as our first speaker for the Gutorm Gjessing Lecture Series, with the lecture "Cooling down the overheated Anthropocene - Lessons from anthropology and cultural history".

Portrait of Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Thomas Hylland Eriksen. Foto: Ram Gupta

Thomas Hylland Eriksen is a long time professor at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. He is an internationally recognised anthropologist and a politically engaged scholar very much in the spirit of Gjessing.

He will present the following lecture: 

Cooling down the overheated Anthropocene - Lessons from anthropology and cultural history

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The world is overheated, global civilization has painted itself into a corner and negotiates an uncomfortable double-bind between growth imperatives and an urgent need for sustainable solutions.

Gutorm Gjessing would have applauded this statement. If anything, he was an engaged scholar. Among his very wide-ranging writings, he produced some scathing and prescient criticisms of the world society he saw emerging in the postwar decades: it was increasingly unequal, it obliterated alternative recipes for living, and it destroyed the environment. He was ahead of his time in identifying the crises of the economy, identity and the environment in a globalising world.

It is widely, if not universally, agreed today that these challenges urgently need to be taken seriously in research, political mobilisation and policy making. With a focus on the crisis of climate and the environment, the question asked in this intervention is simply in what ways the kind of knowledge produced in anthropology and cultural history can contribute to the kind of enlightenment which is needed.

Should we learn from past mistakes and successes, seek the necessary insights from the few remaining small-scale societies, or instead insist that modernity has to solve its contradictions through its own means, whether that means some kind of global government or technological solutions?

Whatever the answer, it is my contention that our kind of knowledge has the potential to be a game-changer in this field of paramount importance.

The lecture was live streamed at, please see above for link to the recording.

The lecture has been published in Museum of Cultural History Working Papers series as No. 1/2018.

Following the lecture there will be light refreshments and the opportunity to continue the conversation in a more informal setting.

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Published May 5, 2018 2:03 PM - Last modified Oct. 15, 2020 8:45 AM