Creating Earth Futures: AHRC Leadership Fellowship


On 1st March 2016 I started a new two year research project ‘Creating Earth Futures’, funded by the AHRC. The project is funded under the AHRC Leadership Fellowship Scheme and its full title is  Creating Earth Futures- Exploring GeoHumanities Approaches to Global Environmental Change. The project summary reads as follows:

A recent article in Nature: Climate Change (Castree et al. 2014) asked what kinds of Global Environmental Change research for what sorts of earth futures? In other words it queried the questions and methods the research community should use to develop the knowledge required to understand and face the challenges posed by ongoing and uncertain changes in the earth’s environmental systems. The piece notes challenges the science community face from Global Environmental Change (hereafter GEC) as both a complex research problem requiring multiple perspectives beyond those of science, and as a pressing issue that demands the gap between knowledge and action be closed. The solution its authors proposed was a more robust engagement with social science and humanities research perspectives. While they note that GEC research does recognise the value of interdisciplinarity, they find the current field to be based on limited conceptions of social science and to virtually ignore the humanities.

The aim of this fellowship is to investigate and promote the value of arts and humanities approaches to GEC research. It does so not only to assert the value of these approaches, but also as part of the wider advancement of the interdisciplinary field known as the GeoHumanities. GeoHumanities is not a new field, but recent years have seen a convergence of arts and humanities scholarship and practice with geography’s interdisciplinary concerns with environment, place and community. Key to current GeoHumanities work are creative research approaches that either produce art and/or use arts based research methods to generate ‘data’. This might include, for example, a geographer-artist generating sound maps to explore the effects of sea-level rise or the development of community-based participatory-writing and performance workshops to explore local flood experiences and questions of water and citizenship.

While not as established as the fields of Medical Humanities or Environmental Humanities, GeoHumanities is becoming an increasingly formalized research terrain through edited collections, a new journal and a series of events, research projects and centers. As yet however, it lacks the critical commentary and strategic reflection found within more established fields. In response, this fellowship is designed to advance the GeoHumanities at a crucial point in its evolution, and it will do so though a focus on the value of arts and humanities approaches, specifically creative research approaches, to GEC research.

The fellowship will be delivered through three work-packages of activities:

  • GeoHumanities Ethnographies: Ethnographic research on creative approaches to GEC, including projects in the global north and south and an artist residency instigated as part of the fellowship.
  • Networking GeoHumanities: An online forum and series of events designed to develop much-needed advocacy of creative approaches to GEC within and beyond that research community. This includes organising a series of early career collaborations to support the next generation of scholars and practitioners to develop new creative projects in this field.
  • GeoHumanities At Large: An exploration of audience engagement with creative approaches to GEC and public advocacy for these approaches.

Working with two project partners (an arts organisation engaged with GEC and a research networking organisation) and the Interdisciplinary Centre for GeoHumanities (based at RHUL) these activities will;

  1. generate intellectual leadership on the form and import of creative research approaches to GEC
  2. advocate for creative research approaches within and beyond the academy by creating spaces for dialogue
  3. respond to widespread calls for an evidence base around the effects of these projects on their publics.

Together these activities will shape research agendas in GEC and in the emerging interdisciplinary field of the GeoHumanities, and advocate for both beyond the academy.

Watch this space for ongoing updates about the project