School of Geography

A Chicken or a Nexus: assembling a geography of the Anthropocene

Wednesday 11th November 2020 (13:00-14:00)
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With Benjamin Coles, Leicester University.

All seminars online. Please contact for the link. Subject to change.

Part of the Environment and Society Seminar Series.


Over the last 70 years or so, the intersection and coordination of key material, technological, political, economic and socio-cultural relations have made chicken meat the dominant source of (meat) protein worldwide. Chicken’s pre-eminence as a food source comes with fundamental changes to its skeletal, genetic and geochemical structure that have increased both individual growth rate and population size. Consequently, the modern broiler has emerged as a distinctive morphotype that cannot survive without human intervention. Tracking along with other signals of the ‘Great Acceleration’, and blurring human/more-than-human/non-human boundaries, the broiler chicken has become a key indicator for the Anthropocene (Bennett et al 2018). Much of contemporary Science and Social-Science research on the Anthropocene focuses on identifying such origins, markers, and implications of the Anthropocene. However, whilst the Anthropocene may be a useful metaphor to describe the range of interrelatedness visible within this current time period, this paper contends that Anthropocene itself remains conceptually and methodologically vague, and thus geographically ambiguous.

Through the lens of the ‘Anthropocene Chicken’ this paper locates the geographies of the Anthropocene within the material-technologic, political-economic and sociocultural nexus that gave rise to the modern broiler chicken. In three cuts, it develops and employs a nexus approach that identifies, traces and excavates the ‘flows that matter’ (Walker and Coles in review) to the chicken’s evolution and its geographies. In developing nexus thinking to understand these Geographies of the Anthropocene, this paper argues that such an approach provides a conceptual and methodological basis through which to develop a geography for the Anthropocene.

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