Professor Caitlin DeSilvey
Professor of Cultural Geography
Environment and Sustainability Institute 1.36
Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK
I am a geographer whose research explores the cultural significance of change and transformation, with a particular focus on heritage ecologies and climate futures. I’ve worked with artists, archaeologists, environmental scientists and heritage practitioners on a range of interdisciplinary projects, supported by funding from UK research councils (AHRC, EPSRC, NERC), the Royal Geographical Society, the Norwegian Research Council and the European Social Fund. Although much of my research is about how things (and places) fall apart, I am also interested in practices of repair and maintenance that hold things together.
My monograph, Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving (UMP 2017), received the 2018 Historic Preservation Book Prize. Recent publications include After Discourse: Things, Affects, Ethics (Routledge 2020), an edited collection stemming from a 2016-17 fellowship at the Centre for Advanced Study in Olso, and Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices (UCL 2020), a co-authored volume arising from work on the Heritage Futures research project.
I am Associate Director for Transdisciplinary Research in the Environment and Sustainability Institute, where I coordinate the ESI Creative Exchange Programme. I am also Co-Director of Global Engagement for the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, an academic lead on the National Trust/University of Exeter research partnership and an affiliate of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.
2005 PhD Cultural Geography (Open University)
2001 MSc Cultural Geography (University of Edinburgh)
1994 BA Religious Studies and Environmental Studies (Yale University)
2020-present Professor, University of Exeter
2015-2019 Associate Professor, University of Exeter
2012-2015 Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter
2007-2011 Lecturer, University of Exeter
Research group links
My main research interest involves exploring how cultural value and significance can be generated by working with ecological processes of change and transformation, rather than working against them, particularly in heritage contexts. This focus on process, rather than preservation, has been articulated through collaborative development of a series of novel concepts, including ‘curated decay’ and 'adaptive release'. My research has shown how, in certain sites, accommodation of material transformation can produce new opportunities for engagement, interpretation and care. Current projects extend and apply these ideas through collaborations with heritage practitioners and policy-makers, museum conservators and conservation architects.
My research (and my PhD supervision) also touches on a range of related themes beyond this core focus, including: narratives of climate and environmental change; materiality and memory; transdisciplinary methdologies and epistemological equity; post-industrial ecologies and aesthetics; locative media and landscape; waste and value; micro-sustainable practices of repair and reuse; digital storytelling and interactive documentary practices.
- External scholar, Relics of Nature: An Archaelogy of Natural Heritage in the High North (Norwegian Research Council, PI Þóra Pétursdóttir)
- Collaborator and advisor, Some Interesting Apples project (with William Arnold and James Fergusson)
- Lead supervisor, Archaeological Loss and Coastal Change (AHRC CDP with Historic England)
Mentoring and advisory roles
- Specialist Advisor, National Trust Historic Environment Advsiory Group/ National Trust Specialist Advisory Network.
- Member, Bord Ertach Kernow - Change Working Group, Cornwall Council.
- Steering group member, Sustainable Development and Resilience of UK Coastal Communities (ROCC) (UKRI, PI Louisa Evans).
- Advisory group member, Aqueous Territory: Learning from Louisiana's Colonial Histories and Watery Extremes (AHRC International Research Network, PI Camille Mathieu)
- Mentor, Renewing Relations: Indigenous Heritage Rights and (Re)conciliation in Northwest Coast Canada (AHRC, PI Bryony Onciul).
- Advisory group member, AALERT 4DM (UKRI/NERC Landscape Decisions Programme, PI Eirini Saratsi)
- Principal investigator, Landscape Futures and the Challenge of Change (with the National Trust and Historic England) (AHRC/NERC Landscape Decisions Impact and Engagement Grant) (2020-2022)
- Collaborator and advisor, The Living Room, University of Copenhagen Medical Museion (2020-2022)
- External scholar, Unruly Heritage: An Archaeology of the Anthropocene (Norwegian Research Council) (2017-2021)
- Co-investigator, Repair Acts (AHRC International Research Network Grant) (2019)
- Co-investigator, Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage (AHRC Care for the Future Large Grant) (2015-2020)
- Co-investigator, Drought Risk and You (RCUK Droughts and Water Scarcity Programme)
- Fellow, Centre for Advanced Study, Oslo, in After Discourse: Things, Archaeology, and Heritage in the 21st Century research group (2016-17)
- Principal investigator, Small is Beautiful? Visual and Material Cultures of Making and Mending and Celebration of Repair (2010-2012)
- GEO1401B - Approaches to Geographical Knowledge
- GEO2454 - Waste and Society
- GEO3508 - One Year Study Abroad
Supervision / Group
During term time students can book a slot on this Sharepoint worksheet to meet with me during my scheduled office hours.