Environment and Perception

Environment and Perception

How do people perceive their environments? How do these ways of perceiving shape real and imagined landscapes? What sorts of relations do people establish with the non-human inhabitants of their lived worlds, above all with other animals? Anthropology at Aberdeen is internationally renowned for its distinctive approach to these questions. This approach is founded on the idea that environments and landscapes are never complete but continually coming into being, along with their inhabitants, in creative processes of life, growth and movement. Our research has touched on contested issues of environmental conservation and landscape heritage, on the phenomenology of weather and atmosphere, on human relations with both domestic and non-domestic animals, including dogs, birds of prey and fish, on the nature and acquisition of craft skills with materials such as wood, clay and animal skins, and on the nature of creativity itself. This has led us into interdisciplinary collaborations with archaeology, art, architecture and design.

Loch Gruinart
Loch Gruinart, Islay, Scotland (Photo: Andrew Whitehouse)

Book series

Since 2008, much of our work in this area has been showcased in a series of volumes, Anthropological Studies of Creativity and Perception, published by Routledge, with titles ranging from Ways of Walking and Design Anthropology to Making and Growing and Exploring Atmospheres Ethnographically. Nine volumes have been published so far, and several more are on the way.


Knowing From the Inside: Anthropology, Art, Architecture and Design, Tim Ingold, Jo Vergunst, Jen Clarke, Marc Higgin, Griet Scheldeman, Caroline Gatt, Rachel Harkness, Elizabeth Hodson, Christine Moderbacher, Francesca Marin, Enrico Marcore, Judith Winter. Funded by an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (2013-18), this project seeks to forge a new synthesis at the confluence of anthropology, art, architecture and design, founded on the relation between perception, creativity and skill.

Solid Fluids in the Anthropocene: A transdisciplinary inquiry into the archaeological anthropology of materials, Cris Simonetti, Tim Ingold. Funded by the British Academy (2015-18), this project focuses on ice and concrete, and the ways these materials – traditionally placed at the opposite ends of history – are caught in ongoing histories of environmental change. The project brings together anthropologists and archaeologists in Scotland with expertise in the study of the circumpolar North, and in Chile, a country rich in glaciers in which modern development underpinned by concrete infrastructures faces chronic seismic instability.


Environment and perception have always been prominent in our teaching programmes in anthropology at Aberdeen.  At undergraduate level environmental themes are introduced in both level one and level two. In level four the innovative course 'More than Human’ investigates new approaches and ideas in cross-species and human-environment relations, while ‘Anthropology and Landscape’ provides both hands-on and theoretical insights into environmental perception and experience.  Our taught postgraduate People and Environment MSc programme provides both a general grounding in environmental anthropology and a chance to explore a range of themes in the field.