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Dwelling in the Anthropocene: Reimagining University Learning Environments in Response to Social and Ecological Change

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2016

David Rousell*
School of Education, Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales, Australia
Address for correspondence: David Rousell, School of Education, Southern Cross University, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia. Email:


Over the last three decades, scientists have uncovered the extent of human impacts on the earth's operating systems with increasing clarity and precision. These findings have prompted scientific claims that we have transitioned out of the Holocene and into the Anthropocene epoch in the earth's geological history (Crutzen & Stoermer, 2000). At the same time, the traditional humanist underpinnings of the university have been eroded by the ongoing digitisation, massification, and decentralisation of higher education. This article argues that higher education has a crucial role to play in responding to the Anthropocene thesis, which at the same time provides a powerful impetus for reimagining the university through posthumanist concepts. In developing this analysis, conceptual distinctions are drawn between visions of hope and disaster, the local and the regional, dwelling and construction, and emplacement and displacement in the context of university learning environments. The learning environment is specifically addressed throughout as a fluid and transitional space for experimenting with concepts and practices that operate outside of humanist constructs and disciplinary boundaries. As the very idea of ‘the university campus’ threatens to become an anachronism, the author concludes with a speculative proposition for the reimagining of the university in the Anthropocene era.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2016 

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