Research Roundup #1

Introducing our new regular feature: the Research Roundup, Seeing the Woods’ quarterly listing of recent publications in the environmental humanities by staff and fellows at the Rachel Carson Center.

Without further ado, here is the first batch…

Academic Journal Articles

This special issue of AEER is dedicated to memories, commemoration practices, and representations of Chernobyl. The idea for the issue was born during the final conference of the international research project “Politics and Society after Chernobyl” in Potsdam, Germany, in April 2011. The conference took place barely a month after the tsunami and the following nuclear accidents in Japan and just a few weeks before the 25th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Continue reading…

In the context of ecological destruction and the emergence of numerous eco-spiritualities the challenge for Christian theology is to address the question: Where does the Spirit, who liberates nature, take place today? This is addressed in three sections: In a first section pneumatology is revisioned as ecological soteriology while the Spirit is portrayed as a giver and liberator of life. In a second section it is suggested that the doctrine of the Spirit may be reinterpreted in the context of the spatial turn of theology in terms of faith in the Spirit’s inhabitation. The third and concluding section offers an argument for an ecological pneumatology in synergy with animism, an approach which investigates the critical potentials of resisting and overcoming the fetishism of late modern capitalism.

Little doubt remains about the influence of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in changing the consciousness of not just Americans, but citizens around the world, regarding the relationship between human beings and the natural world. Less has been done about the specific ways Carson’s book inspired individual activists to continue challenging pesticide policy within the United States in the decades after the book’s publication. The stories of three western women fighting the use of Agent Orange herbicides – the phenoxy herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T – illustrate the influence and mixed success of environmental activism after Silent Spring.

A growing body of scholarship has begun exploring twentieth-century American foreign and domestic Cold War policies and chemical pesticides, a major tool used in the modernization efforts that composed part of those policies. In DDT and the American Century, David Kinkela examines one chemical pesticide, DDT, and its uses both internationally and in the United States within the agricultural and public health arenas.

Focusing on a stretch of the Danube between Upper and Lower Austria, environmental change and its perception over 300 years feature in this article based on the examination of topographical views. These pictorial sources are  considered not merely as illustrations but discussed as material to be used for the study of environmental history. This is a plea for a regressive methodological procedure, as topographical views give a momentary picture of such highly dynamic environments in a typical mode of perception and pictorial presentation. Account has to be taken of the interest of producer/artist and of buyer/recipient, and iconographical traditions are important for the way once real landscapes are represented. The important contribution of the study of topographical views to environmental history, understood as the common history of nature and society, can be shown. Read the full article (in German).

This article intends to show how oceanographic expeditions redefined and popularized the tropics as a space of postcolonial science and western European imagination in equal measure. From the 1950s to the 1970s oceanography was not merely a field of scientific endeavour. Popular figures like Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Hans Hass sailed the seven seas and produced documentary films. Marine animals, and the up and coming discipline of animal behavioural science, were crucial to popular perceptions of the tropics. By understanding science and perception as interconnected practices that structured the contact of European individuals with the oceanic environment, this article focuses on the continuity and discontinuity of colonial culture in these endeavours. For example, the new science of animal behaviour was structured by older, colonial visions of paradise, the practices aboard the research vessels could be linked to pirate adventures, and the representation of tropical surroundings likewise linked to the tradition of ethnographical films. Methodologically, a multilayered concept of knowledge that combines imagination and science is crucial: knowledge is not only the information gained through the observation of marine fauna, but rather an interpretative pattern by which people perceive the world and make sense of their own existence within a given environment. The aim of this article is to sketch tropicality from an oceanic perspective: colonial stereotypes of the seas are a way of producing new meanings for non-European environments during the time of decolonization and served as backdrop for conservation measures in the oceanic realm. Read the full article (in French).

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The essay is concerned with the ways in which contemporary science fiction films explore the future subjectivities and societies that may result from radical ecological changes, looking at two pertinent examples from two different national traditions: John Hillcoat’s 2009 film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Road (2006), and one of the very few German-Swiss science fiction films with an environmental theme, Tim Fehlbaum’s Hell (2011). It is particularly interested in the relationship between the films’ imagined ecological spaces and the actions of the protagonists of each film on the one hand, and in the relationship between these futuristic diegetic spaces and the contemporary real-life ecological spaces that “play” them on the other hand. Together with the performances of the human actors and the tension and suspense built by the narratives, it argues, the spectacle and insinuated agency of these ecological spaces are centrally responsible for the films’ emotional force and for their ability to engage viewers in stories of global ecocide and human survival.

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This essay follows recent work in environmental history to explore the history of recycling in physical sciences in Britain and North America since the seventeenth century. The term ‘recycling’ is here used broadly to refer to a variety of practices that extended the life of material resources for doing science in the early modern period. These included practices associated with maintenance, repair, exchange and the adaptation or reuse of material culture. The essay argues that such practices were common in early modern science, and informed experimental spaces and techniques and the ideas that they generated. The essay considers some of the varied motivations that led to such practices, and concludes by examining the endurance of recycling in science since the end of the eighteenth century, particularly in recent efforts to create sustainable scientific research practices.

Edited Special Journal Issues

Prologue: Although technical equipment has been a part of the daily life of humanssince the Stone Age, the history of everyday technology (HET) has emerged only recently as a subdiscipline within the history of technology (HoT).It has been influenced by so many other disciplines that we can describe it as the centre of a multidisciplinary junction. Even though HET is at an early stage and has yet to establish itself as a major field of research, everyday technology has been the focus of historians for a long time. Mechanization Takes Command, a book by the Swiss historian of architecture, Sigfried Giedion,is a classic in the field. Continue reading…

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Popular Media Articles


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This book explores the environmental history of the British military through a comparative framework of five key sites in England and Wales. The military presence at these places, it is claimed, has protected them from more damaging land uses such as intensive agriculture, urban sprawl and industrial development. The book examines such claims and explores how and why the military has embraced nature conservation policies. The ‘greening’ of the MOD and ‘khaki conservation’ are critically examined in an historical context. The emergence of the training landscapes as protected spaces is contrasted with calls for greater access, and at times, public pressure for their release. The volume draws to attention the environmental impact of preparations for war, and brings sites of training to the fore alongside better known military landscapes like battlefields and conflict zones. Each chapter is based in a single site, giving prominence to local meanings and landscape character but allowing the overarching themes to connect throughout, tracing an environmental history of the UK Defence Estates that is firmly grounded in the British countryside.

Wie muss Wissenschaft sich verändern, wenn sie Prinzipien wie Vorsorge und Nachhaltigkeit ernst nehmen und substanzielle Beiträge zu deren Umsetzung liefern möchte? Was kann Wissenschaft zu einer vorsorgenden Gesellschaft beitragen und welche Rolle kann sie in der fundamentalen Transformation einer nachhaltigen Entwicklung einnehmen?

In diesem Band zeigen Autorinnen und Autoren aus einem breiten Spektrum verschiedener Wissenschaften vor dem Hintergrund ihrer Erfahrungen, wie sich das Selbstverständnis von Wissenschaft, die Bedingungen wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens und die wissenschaftliche Praxis verändern müssen, damit Wissenschaft wünschenswerte Veränderungsprozesse in der Gesellschaft unterstützen kann.

The fisheries have had a profound influence on the development of human societies in the North Atlantic region. Assuming countless forms over the ages, fishing activity has ranged across the vast expanse of an ocean that comprises a myriad of complex, dynamic and fragile ecosystems. In these diverse waters, an array of species has sustained the subsistence fishing of indigenous populations, the labour-intensive fisheries of medieval and early modern societies, and the highly capitalised industries of the contemporary world.

Amidst this diversity, several common themes can be discerned. The fisheries have contributed significantly to human dietary requirements, generated income for those engaged in the catching, processing and marketing of fish products, and encouraged fishers – and their techniques, beliefs and cultures – to migrate to new lands in search of better catches and markets.

Written by experts in the field, this book explores such themes to provide a pioneering region-wide appraisal of the scale, character and significance of the North Atlantic fisheries from the 1850s to the early twenty-first century.

National Parks are one of the most important and successful institutions in global environmentalism. Since their first designation in the United States in the 1860s and 1870s they have become a global phenomenon. The development of this multitude of ecological as well as political systems cannot be understood as a simple reaction to mounting environmental problems, nor can it be explained by the spread of environmental sensibilities. Shifting the focus from the usual emphasis on the National Parks in the United States, this volume adopts an historical and transnational perspective on the global geography of protected areas and its changes over time. It focuses especially on the actors, networks, mechanisms, arenas, and institutions responsible for the global spread of the National Park and the associated utilization and mobilization of asymmetrical relationships of power and knowledge and makes a benchmark contribution to scholarly discussions of globalization and the emergence of both global environmental institutions and governance.

Want to purchase this book? Here’s a voucher for a 50% discount, valid until 27 January 2013.

  • American Environments: Climate–Cultures–Catastrophe
    Edited by Christof Mauch and Sylvia Mayer; includes contributions from the following Fellows: Laurence Culver, Heike Egner, Andrew C. Isenberg, Alexa Weik von Mossner, Sherry Johnson, and Gordon Winder (Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012)

This volume focuses on environmental knowledge production in the United States by taking as starting points the impact of natural catastrophes and of public debates on climate change and environmental threats. Individual chapters address the social, political, economic, ecological, as well as cultural effects of natural catastrophes. At stake are issues such as disaster management and politics, disaster as spectacle, and the popular imagination of catastrophe. In bringing together historians and geographers, literary and cultural studies scholars, political scientists, anthropologists, and scientists from the United States and Europe, this volume demonstrates that the human experience and imagination of environment have played a truly important role in American culture.

This edition provides an important insight into the dark areas between Victorian science, medicine and religion. The Victorian obsession with science in all its forms might seem at odds with an interest in the occult, but to the Victorians their quest was to prove the existence of the supernatural through the application of scientific principles. Their emphasis was firmly on proof rather than faith and led to the emergence of psychical research as a discipline.

The rare reset source material in this collection is organized thematically and spans the period from initial mesmeric experiments at the beginning of the nineteenth century to the decline of the Society for Psychical Research in the 1920s. It includes a wide range of print and manuscript sources which illustrate the range of the debate and the opposing viewpoints, while a full editorial apparatus allows a nuanced reading of the texts. The set is a significant addition to the growing material on Victorian spiritualism and will be of interest to scholars researching the history of science and medicine, parapsychology and Victorian studies.

The Companion to Global Environmental History offers multiple points of entry into the history and historiography of this dynamic and fast-growing field, providing an essential road map to past interpretations, current controversies, and future developments for specialists and newcomers alike. Combining temporal, geographic, thematic, and contextual approaches from prehistory to the present day, it explores environmental thought and action in a cultural, intellectual, and political context around the world. This resource is relevant to a number of areas of study, including history, environmental studies, geography, anthropology, and archaeology.

The Companion to Global Environmental History offers multiple points of entry into the history and historiography of this dynamic and fast-growing field, providing an essential road map to past interpretations, current controversies, and future developments for specialists and newcomers alike. Combining temporal, geographic, thematic, and contextual approaches from prehistory to the present day, it explores environmental thought and action in a cultural, intellectual, and political context around the world. This resource is relevant to a number of areas of study, including history, environmental studies, geography, anthropology, and archaeology.

In the spring of 1676, Nathaniel Bacon, a hotheaded young newcomer to Virginia, led a revolt against the colony’s Indian policies. Bacon’s Rebellion turned into a civil war within Virginia–and a war of extermination against the colony’s Indian allies–that lasted into the following winter, sending shock waves throughout the British colonies and into England itself.

James Rice offers a colorfully detailed account of the rebellion, revealing how Piscataways, English planters, slave traders, Susquehannocks, colonial officials, plunderers and intriguers were all pulled into an escalating conflict whose outcome, month by month, remained uncertain. In Rice’s rich narrative, the lead characters come to life: the powerful, charismatic Governor Berkeley, the sorrowful Susquehannock warrior Monges, the wiley Indian trader and tobacco planter William Byrd, the regal Pamunkey chieftain Cockacoeske, and the rebel leader himself, Nathaniel Bacon. The dark, slender Bacon, born into a prominent family, soon earned a reputation in America as imperious, ambitious, and arrogant. But the colonial leaders did not foresee how rash and headstrong Nathaniel Bacon could be, nor how adept he would prove to be at both inciting colonists and alienating Indians. As the tense drama unfolds, it becomes apparent that the struggle between Governor Berkeley and the impetuous Bacon is nothing less than a battle over the soul of America. Bacon died in the midst of the uprising and Governor Berkeley shortly afterwards, but the profoundly important issues at the heart of the rebellion took another generation to resolve.

The late seventeenth century was a pivotal moment in American history, full of upheavals and far-flung conspiracies. Tales From a Revolution brilliantly captures the swirling rumors and central events of Bacon’s Rebellion and its aftermath, weaving them into a dramatic tale that is part of the founding story of America.

The authors in this volume make a case for LTSER’s potential in providing insights, knowledge and experience necessary for a sustainability transition. This expertly edited selection of contributions from Europe and North America reviews the development of LTSER since its inception and assesses its current state, which has evolved to recognize the value of formulating solutions to the host of ecological threats we face. Through many case studies, this book gives the reader a greater sense of where we are and what still needs to be done to engage in and make meaning from long-term, place-based and cross-disciplinary engagements with socio-ecological systems.

Book Chapters

Book description: Christians seeking to “save the planet” have to relate “reation” with “salvation” in a way that does justice to both themes. This volume explores the ways in which this task is approached in a wide range of recent theological movements. It includes 15 chapters with 87 sections by 54 authors from all over the world. On this basis this volume provides a barometer of contemporary theological movements.

Book description: The Companion to Global Environmental History offers multiple points of entry into the history and historiography of this dynamic and fast-growing field, to provide an essential road map to past developments, current controversies, and future developments for specialists and newcomers alike.

Book description: From Morocco to Iran and the Black Sea to the Red, Water on Sand rewrites the history of the Middle East and North Africa from the Little Ice Age to the Cold War era. As the first holistic environmental history of the region, it shows the intimate connections between peoples and environments and how these relationships shaped political, economic, and social history in startling and unforeseen ways. Nearly all political powers in the region based their rule on the management and control of natural resources, and nearly all individuals were in constant communion with the natural world. To grasp how these multiple histories were central to the pasts of the Middle East and North Africa, the chapters in this book evidence the power of environmental history to open up new avenues of scholarly inquiry.

Book description: For thousands of years, in the myths and folktales of people around the world, animals have spoken in human tongues. Western and non-Western literary and folkloric traditions are filled with both speaking animals, some of whom even narrate or write their own autobiographies. Animals speak, famously, in children’s stories and in cartoons and films, and today, social networking sites and blogs are both sites in which animals—primarily pets—write about their daily lives and interests. Speaking for Animals is a compilation of chapters written from a variety of disciplines that attempts to get a handle on this cross cultural and longstanding tradition of animal speaking and writing. It looks at speaking animals in literature, religious texts, poetry, social networking sites, comic books, and in animal welfare materials and even library catalogs, and addresses not just the “whys” of speaking animals, but the implications, for the animals and for ourselves.

Exploring competing perceptions of wilderness, and disputes over places said to be wilderness, opens an illuminating window into environmental history. Understanding such cultural evolution requires special attention to religion. My analysis begins with some generalizations about the idea of wilderness in the Occidental world and then focuses on the history of the nexus of wilderness and religion in North America from European contact to the first Earth Day in 1970. This history demonstrates how deeply the idea of wilderness and wilderness-related spirituality are related to nature conservation movements in U.S. culture. It also reveals how the idea of wilderness and the rationale for protecting it has shifted since the Darwinian revolution, from the preservation of natural beauty and its various spiritual values, to the notion that biological diversity is intrinsically valuable and sacred, and thus, worthy of reverence and defense. Continue reading…

Book description: Indigenous Knowledge and the Environment offers comparative and transnational insights that disturb romantic views of unchanging indigenous knowledges in harmony with the environment. The result is a book that informs and complicates how indigenous knowledges can and should relate to environmental policy-making.

3 Comments on “Research Roundup #1

  1. Pingback: Research Roundup #2 | Seeing the Woods

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