Sander Van LeeuwSander van der Leeuw, a professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, of which he is the founder, will be a visiting professor at Géographie-cités in June 2022.

A medieval archaeologist and historian by training, Sander van der Leeuw is a specialist in society-environment interactions and a pioneer in the application of complex adaptive systems to socio-environmental challenges. After teaching at the Universities of Leyden (1972-1976), Amsterdam (1976-1985), Cambridge (1985-1995) and Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) (1995-2004), he is currently Foundation Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and Director of the ASU-SFI Center for Complex Biosocial Adaptive Systems at Arizona State University.

Sander van der Leeuw’s lecture programme

Friday 3 June 2022

Solutions cause problems – the example of the Western Netherlands

from 11 am to 1 pm
EHESS, room BS1-28
54 Boulevard Raspail.

The aim is to give an account of the long duration of the emergence of the Dutch landscape over the last millennium. Sander van der Leeuw will show how the Dutch battle against water has been the driving force behind many developments that have created the environmental, spatial, social and political structuring of the country, and stimulated technical and economic innovations. This can be understood in particular by adopting a ‘complex systems’ approach.
This lecture will be presented as part of the seminar Environmental History: Debates and Research in Progress by Raphaël Moreira, Alice Ingold, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, Sebastian Grevsmühl and Fabien Locher,

Distance learning session:

Friday 10 June 2022

Past and Future Social Sustainability: Undoing Unintended Consequences for the Survival of the Earth

from 10:30 to 12:30
Condorcet Campus
Centre des colloques, room 3.007

This conference, entitled after S. van der Leeuw’s book published by Cambridge University Press in 2020, will develop a perspective on the evolution of societies from the Paleolithic to the present day, emphasizing the role of information as a structuring and destructuring element of societies over the long term. Sander van der Leeuw will also introduce his ‘complex systems’ approach and will conclude with a discussion on the challenges posed to our societies by the information processing revolution.

This lecture will be given in the framework of Sandrine Robert’s seminar: “Resilience, collapse and transition of socio-ecological systems: the contribution of the long term”, in partnership with the Landscape Commission of the International Union of Pre- and Protohistoric Sciences (IUSPP).

Session accessible via distance learning:

Friday 17 June 2022

Are cities resilient?

from 10:30 to 12:30
Condorcet Campus
Research-South building, room 1.122, 1st floor

In this lecture, Sander van der Leeuw develops the hypothesis that the growth of urban systems will not continue, as many researchers postulate, until the point where 80% of the world’s population resides in cities. In this proposal he will show how the current pandemic, but also the evolution of the IT and energy transitions and global warming play an important role in the future evolution of urban systems.
This lecture will be given as part of the seminar of the EHGO team of the UMR Géographie-cités

Session available in remote mode:

Friday 24 June 2022

Transforming the lessons of the past into lessons for the future: the case of Maya archaeology

from 10:30 to 12:30
Max Weber House
University of Paris Ouest Nanterre
Seminar room n°2
200 avenue de la République 92000 Nanterre,

Taking the case of Mayan societies as an example, Sander van der Leeuw will show how archaeology traditionally studies the origins of contemporary or recent phenomena from an “ex post” point of view, whereas in reality societies change and innovate from the past to the present. He will propose to develop an “a priori” (“ex ante”) view that profoundly changes the interpretation of the past.
This conference will be given as part of a study day organised by the Settlement systems over time working group of the LabEx Dynamiques Territoriales et Spatiales (DynamiTe), and will be open to the whole LabEx. It is organised in partnership with the Landscape Commission of the IUSPP and with the EUR ARCHAL (Archaeology in the present: global challenges in the light of the past, University of Paris I) and the UMR Arscan Nanterre.

Session available on Zoom:

To obtain login details: sandrine.robert ( at )

The conference on 24 June will be followed in the afternoon by an exchange with Sander van der Leeuw, to whom doctoral students may present their current work in the fields of archaeology, geography and anthropology. This meeting will take place at the Maison de l’Archéologie et de l’Ethnologie, 21 allée de l’Université, Nanterre, boardroom, from 2 to 5.30 pm.
For interested students, please send an email to sandrine.robert ( at )