What is heat? Measuring heat and mapping heat stress – an anthropological account.

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Deakin Anthropology Seminar Series – Dr Catherine Trundle: “What is heat? Measuring heat and mapping heat stress – an anthropological account.”


In a warming world our ability to understand, categorise and identify patterns of heat becomes more pressing. But what is heat, and how are the thresholds between healthy and comfortable heat, and dangerous, uncomfortable heat constituted? In this talk I’ll explore the metrics used globally, nationally, and locally to determine heat stress and the risks heat poses to human health. Heat, I will argue, emerges as a variegated object—and one of increasing political and social attention—through a wide range of epistemic practices. These range from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) metrics for communicating certainty in climate science, to the WBGT (wet-bulb globe temperature) index, from hospital admission statistics in the Northern Territory, to global thermal comfort metrics. They include the Victorian heatwave warning system, WorkSafe Victoria workplace protocols, the thermal imaging of streets in Inner Melbourne, and maps of canopy scarcity in Melbourne’s western suburbs. Heat, I will argue, is becoming both more certain and more knowable. At the same time, these diverse metrics open and foreclose opportunities to understand the social and political causes of extreme heat, people’s varied vulnerabilities and experiences of heat, and the social and political responses we might imagine for living in a warming world.


Catherine is a medical anthropologist and senior lecturer in Public Health at La Trobe University. Her research explores environmental health, the ethics of responsibility and care in health contexts, and climate change and health.


Our speaker will be presenting in-person at Deakin Waterfront: AD1.122 in the Sally Walker building or you can join us via Zoom:


Meeting ID: 844 3620 0390  | for the password please email ciara.barker@deakin.edu.au 

To RSVP for in-person attendance, please email ciara.barker@deakin.edu.au.

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7 September 2023
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm AEST
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Deakin Waterfront
1 Gheringhap Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3220 Australia
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