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Recent findings in epigenetic and neuroscience research demonstrate that the earliest periods of life, from conception to two years, are critical ‘windows’ in development. Interventions in this period may have lasting effects for the individual. Significantly, some of these seem also to have partially heritable effects. The First Thousand Days of Life’ is therefore fast becoming a field of inquiry with direct implications for policy. The emergent field both synergises a range of disciplines in the bio- and social sciences and develops new sites of humanitarian intervention, re-framing current debates about population, well-being and ‘the best interests of the child’ in newly biological ways. As these findings are taken up in policy and practice, we are witnessing the making of a social object with material effects.


Our research, based in the Anthropology section of the Humanities Faculty at the University of Cape Town, South Africa has three foci.  Formations of Life develops the philosophical grounding to consider how life (material, social and emotional) takes form under given conditions. Genes, Technologies, Genealogies explores the relations of life and technology. Nutrition and Food Security explores the social relations and bodily experiences around nourishment.

We are funded by the A.W. Mellon Foundation.