Unit of Play

Established in 2012, The Unit of Play (UoP) is a transdisciplinary unit, based in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Its main activities are co-ordinating and developing a research focus within the Department through the hosting of conferences, reading groups, research projects, salons, seminars, workshops as well as supporting doctoral research. The research focus is oriented around the collaborative exploration and incubation of radically new ideas, practices, and proposals that cut across established disciplinary, theoretical, methodological, and thematic boundaries and concerns of the social sciences, arts and humanities.


UK Premier | Film Screening + Discussion

9th February 2023, 6-8.30pm
Cinema Room. Richard Hoggart Building.
Goldsmiths, University of London
Free. All Welcome.
Please register here. (Registration required due to limited capacity).

The MA Ecology, Culture & Society is delighted to invite you to the UK premier film screening and student-led discussion of COEXTINCTION, a documentary by Elena Jean and Gloria Pancrazi.

In an emotional action-packed journey, COEXTINCTION follows filmmakers Gloria Pancrazi and Elena Jean as they expose what it will take to save the last 73 Southern Resident orcas from extinction. Ultimately, their findings reveal how the orcas’ endangerment is fundamentally tied to the collapse of wild salmon populations and centuries of injustice against Indigenous peoples. It’s a story about coextinction.

COEXTINCTION unearths devastating faults in corrupt, oppressive systems at the root of the extinction crisis, follows a young orcas’ fight for survival, and reveals the true nature of our interconnectedness, where social and environmental justice intersect. It’s a global film with broad relevance, which amplifies Indigenous visions for change, and inspires bold action to save the orca and our collective future.

Elena Jean (Director, Producer, Executive Producer, Editor) is a Canadian documentary filmmaker based out of Tofino, within the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. She has filmed endangered species around the world with world-renowned organizations like Sea Legacy and Milkywire. Her passion is to tell stories about hope, ingenuity, wild beauty, and to show the interconnected patterns of extinction.

Gloria Pancrazi (Director, Producer, Executive Producer) is a Canadian documentary filmmaker. She has worked on environmental and Indigenous justice documentaries like The Country and Impossible to Contain. After witnessing first-hand the impending extinction of the Southern Resident orcas, she decided to take the matter into her own hands and create Coextinction, a documentary that would educate and inspire people worldwide to take action.

This event has been organised by Ella Papenfus (student MA Ecology, Culture & Society) with the support of Martin Savransky (convenor MA Ecology, Culture & Society and Unit of Play director).

The Emergence of Composite Ethnography: Collaborative Methods for the Anthropocene

Kregg Hetherington (Concordia)


Wednesday 30th Nov, 5-7pm | Goldsmiths Student Union Lounge (1st Floor) | Goldsmiths, University of London

All welcome! Registration required.

This presentation explores the emergence of a new style of collaborative research and experimental form which I refer to as “composite ethnography.” Using examples from the longstanding project at Concordia known as “Montreal Waterways”, I argue that this method is particularly helpful for understanding the delocalized material phenomena of the Anthropocene that are not easily available to the lone-wolf humanist researcher. But more than a necessary empirical practice, composite ethnography affords a different relationship to theory as well. In an era that continually undermines the received truths of classical social theory, and in a discipline that too often rewards the performative mastery of canonical texts, composite ethnography is a practice of “unstiffening theory” (Savransky 2021) that allows a suddenly lively planet to speak back to researchers in new and surprising ways.

Kregg Hetherington is an anthropologist at Concordia University in Montreal, where he carries out research on environment, infrastructure and the bureaucratic state. He is also director of the Concordia Ethnography Lab, which encourages interdisciplinary experimentation in comparative methodologies. His latest book, The Government of Beans: Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops (Duke 2020) recently won the Rachel Carson award from the Society for the Social Study of Science.

Out Now! After Progress

Available for purchase here.
Special issue available here.

After Progress, the latest Sociological Review Monograph, examines what it might take for us to learn to think and live after progress, “arguably the defining idea of modernity”, and one that the Monograph’s editors suggest that “we cannot live with but do not know how to live without”.

Published digitally today, with a print version forthcoming, the new monograph is Issue 70:2 in The Sociological Review Journal series. A broad-ranging collection of new scholarly writing helmed by guest editors Dr Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Dr Craig Lundy (London Metropolitan University), its 12 chapters feature the insights of a global, cross-disciplinary cohort of 14 academics including sociologists, political theorists, anthropologists, and science and technology scholars.

In the introduction to After Progress, the editors examine the notion of progress and how it is framed by “civilisational imagery of a boundless, linear, and upwards trajectory towards a future that, guided by reason and technology, will be ‘better’ than the present”, and observe that progress’ “promises and discontents still command global political imaginations, values, and policies to this day”. The contributions in this collection, they note, aim to reframe progress “not as one modern value among others but as the very mode of evaluation from which modern values are derived”.

Dr Savransky and Dr Lundy recently launched a website, also titled After Progress, that presents work associated with the project that informed the monograph. The website is home to the After Progress Digital Exhibition, which its creators note is the “result of a multiplicity of collective efforts to weave together collaborative and multimedia forms of storytelling that might help us envisage ways of living and dying well outside of the modern coordinates of progress, drawing inspiration from the After Progress symposium series held in 2019.”

The After Progress monograph will have its official launch on 8 July 2022 as part of the London Conference of Critical Thought 2022, which will be held over two days at Birkbeck, University of London.

After Progress table of contents

  • “After Progress: Experiments in the Revaluation of Values”, Martin Savransky and Craig Lundy
  • “Knowledge, Progress, and the Knowledge of Progress”, Sanjay Seth
  • “Governing Progress: from Cybernetic Homeostasis to Simondon’s Politics of Metastability”, Andrea Bardin and Marco Ferrari
  • “Toward a Complex Conception of Progress”, Craig Lundy
  • “Epidemiological Plots and the National Syndrome”, Lara Choksey
  • “Waiting for Tindaya: Modern Ruins and Indigenous Futures in Fuerteventura”, Isaac Marrero-Guillamón
  • “Tilting Relationalities: Exploring the World through Possible Futures of Agriculture”, Henrietta L. Moore and Juan Manuel Moreno
  • “Implicated by Scale: Anthropochemicals and the Experience of Ecology”, Dimitris Papadopoulos
  • “Re-animalising Wellbeing: Multispecies Justice After Development”, Krithika Srinivasan
  • “Ecological Uncivilisation: Precarious World-Making After Progress”, Martin Savransky
  • “Rifted Subjects, Fractured Earth: Progress as Learning to Live on a Self-Transforming Planet”, Nigel Clark and Bronislaw Szerszynski
  • “An Ecology of Trust: Consenting to a Pluralist Universe”, Didier Debaise and Isabelle Stengers

Pure Thought in the Physical System: Rough Metaphysics and the Earth

Pure Thought in the Physical System: Rough Metaphysics and the Earth

Peter Skafish (Institute of Speculative and Critical Inquiry)

24th March 2022, 4-6pm
Morocco Bound Bookshop
1A Morocco Street, London SE1 3HB
Free event. Registration required: here.
(NB– This will be an in-person only event).

The philosophical humanities and critical art practice began in the last years to imagine anthropology to be almost a model discipline due to its use of ethnographic fieldwork to investigate empirically ongoing events—climate change, resurgent fascism, war—in order better to assess them critically. As progressive as this seems, it has continued anthropology’s tendency to imagine both reality and insightful research into it as inherently non- or even anti- conceptual, which in turn has perpetuated a diffuse concept—that modern thought is universal—that anthropology once worked to displace. The extensive published works of an unlikely speculative thinker, a spirit medium and “rough metaphysician” by the name of Jane Roberts (and/or her cohort of alter personalities), raises a formidable challenge to the idea of non- or post-conceptual inquiry by raising the question, “Might everything foremost be thought?” Presenting a few fragments from her vast oeuvre, this talk probes the answer she offers in her considerations of “the physical system” of thought known to modernity as the Earth.

Peter Skafish is a cultural anthropologist who works between anthropology and philosophy on the question of what human thinking is, both in and outside modernity. He is currently developing and directing The Institute of Speculative and Critical Inquiry. In addition to his forthcoming book with the University of Minnesota Press, Rough Metaphysics: Speculative Thought in a Pluriversal Channel (An Anthropology of Concepts), he introduced the English translation of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s De Montaigne à Montaigne; is the co-editor of the volume Comparative Metaphysics: Ontology After Anthropology. He is also a translator, including of Catherine Malabou’s The Heidegger Change and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’ Cannibal Metaphysics.

After Progress Digital Exhibition

After 2 years of hard work, the After Progress digital exhibition has now launched!

A companion to the After Progress (2022) monograph, published by The Sociological Review, the After Progress Digital Exhibition is the result of a multiplicity of collective efforts to weave together collaborative and multimedia forms of storytelling that might help us envisage ways of living and dying well outside of the modern coordinates of progress, drawing inspiration from the “After Progress” symposium series held in 2019.

The notion of “progress” is arguably the defining idea of modernity: a civilisational imagery of a boundless, linear, and upwards trajectory towards a future that, guided by reason and technology, will be “better” than the present. It was this notion that placed techno-science at the heart of modern political culture, and it was the global unevenness of “progress” that imagined European imperialism as a civilising mission inflicted upon “backward” others for their own sake. The colonial, rationalistic, and ecocidal consequences of the story of “progress” have been laid bare, yet progress remains a ruling idea capable of governing our imaginations today. At the same time, the ruins of progress are teeming with divergent worlds and collective experiments whose stories upend modern dreams, cultivating plural value-ecologies of living and dying with others on Earth. How to intensify them? How to make them felt?

In 2020, amidst the profound upheavals brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the many public health responses to it, we issued an open call for storytelling proposals from groups and individuals from around the world, with stories that might help us envisage ways of living and dying well outside of the modern coordinates of progress. After over 175 initial proposals from every corner of the world (by artists, activists, academics, students, and many other people from different walks of life) and a long and collaborative process of development and curation, this exhibition of over 60 “stories” in a variety of genres, media, and styles, is one collective response to that call.

But it is also more than that. Composed collectively by contributors, curators, designers, and collaborators alike, all navigating and negotiating lockdowns and social distancing measures and a plethora of other restrictions on our modes of sociality, this exhibition is also a living archive, a testimony of what happened and what can still happen in the interstices of such distances, when we insist in spite of all on thinking and being together (apart). And because any “after” to progress necessarily calls for the plural, what one will find here is a veritable cornucopia of experiments in storytelling that are speculative, ethnographic, poetic, drawing on or reinventing any and every genre: SF, nature writing, poetry, aphorisms, brief dramas, short films, interactive webpages, letters and epistolary forms, fictional encyclopaedia entries, instructions, auditory compositions, and many more. They each raise and pursue their own questions and their own possibilities, thickening the present through the many disparate yet interlaced threads they weave in their divergences and tensions.

This exhibition has received generous funding from The Sociological Review Foundation, as well as other sources of support from the MA Ecology, Culture & Society and the Unit of Play, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Beyond Reason: Postcolonial Theory and the Social Sciences

		Beyond Reason: Postcolonial Theory and the Social Sciences image

Beyond Reason: Postcolonial Theory and the Social Sciences

A Roundtable

Tue 15th June, 5.30-7.30pm GMT
Zoom Event. All Welcome. Please register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/beyond-reason-postcolonial-theory-and-the-social-sciences-tickets-153684363067

In this bold and ambitious new book, Beyond Reason: Postcolonial Theory and the Social Sciences (Oxford University Press, 2021), Sanjay Seth maintains that while the knowledge disseminated by universities and mobilized by states to govern populations has been globally dominant for more than a century, it first emerged in the early modern period in Europe and subsequently became globalized through colonialism. Despite the historical and cultural specificity of its origins, modern Western knowledge was thought to have transcended its particularities such that, unlike pre-modern and non-Western knowledges, it was “universal,” or true for all times and places. Traversing many disciplines, and critically examining the work of a range of major contemporary thinkers, Seth argues that, while global in their impact, the social sciences do not and cannot transcend the Western historical and cultural circumstances in which they emerged.

If the social sciences are not explained and validated simply by the fact that they are “true,” it becomes possible to ask what purpose they serve, what it is that they “do.” It also requires asking what ways of understanding the world they facilitate and what they disallow. Beyond Reason proceeds to anatomize the disciplines of history and political science to ask what representations and relations with the past and with politics these academic disciplines enable, and what ways of understanding and engaging the world they foreclose.

In this roundtable, international scholars come together to discuss some of the many provocative questions raised by Seth’s book, and engage in conversation with the author.


Humeira Iqtidar | Department of Political Economy, King’s College (London)

Branwen Gruffydd Jones | School of Law and Politics, Cardiff University

José Manuel Viegas Neves | Department of History, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Sanjay Seth | Department of Politics & International Relations, Goldsmiths, University of London

chaired by

Martin Savransky | Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London